Security researchers have reported on a major wireless security vulnerability that affects all Wi-Fi routers. This security flaw, called KRACK, allows someone on your network to read information that would otherwise be encrypted. This allows an attacker to steal your personal or sensitive information. While the scope of this attack is massive, affecting all Wi-Fi devices, steps can be taken to protect yourself.
Firmware … yawn.
Writing about technology can be very exciting. Every day there are new innovations and cool gadgets to play with. However, there’s one topic in tech that’s generally pretty boring. Firmware. Please don’t stop reading! I’ll make it quick.
Firmware (called that because it sits between hardware and software), is the code that lets your gadgets work. When you turn on a device, it’s the firmware that provides the instructions it needs to run. It’s in every piece of tech you use. I was having transmission problems with my car recently. The first thing the dealer did was update the firmware on the transmission controller to see if that resolved the problem.
Don’t Forget Your Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi routers are the ultimate set-up-and-forget devices. Once you set it up and you’re able to connect to the Internet, you never think about it again. The problem is that these wireless access points (WAPs) are the easiest way for someone to attack your network. These devices are also the major component that determines how fast and stable your network is.
Firmware … yay!
The fix to KRACK, and a lot of other security vulnerabilities, is firmware. The manufactures of these devices can update the firmware to fix bugs or improve performance. Just like updating Windows, firmware updates help keep your Wi-Fi router secure.
Because KRACK is such a widespread vulnerability, a lot of companies are quickly updating their device firmware. This creates a perfect opportunity to not only protect yourself against KRACK attacks, but make all of your WAPs current.
Cisco has already released updates to their popular Meraki line of wireless access points (WAPs). I checked the Netgear R6300 I use at my office, and it had a firmware update as well.
Important For Both Business and Home Networks
If you are a business or corporate user, ask your IT team right away to check all of your wireless access points, and perform any available firmware updates. They usually only take a few moments. If you’re a business that allows public access to your Wi-Fi network, your IT team should be doing regular reviews of that hardware to ensure that it’s still secure.
If you’re a home user, you probably don’t even know where your Wi-Fi router is, never mind how to update the firmware. The process is generally not that difficult. Your router has an IP address, which is probably listed on the bottom of the device. You can browse to that IP address in your web browser, and log in with the admin username and password. These may either be the defaults, which are also listed on the device, or hopefully they were changed when the unit was installed and written down somewhere.
Many Routers Make Updating Easy
I checked my own Netgear unit. After I logged in, there was a message telling me that a firmware update was available. I clicked the link, and confirmed that I wanted to perform the update. After about a minute, the WAP rebooted, and everything was up-to-date.
If you log into your device, you’ll either see a similar message, or you may need to find a menu option. It’ll probably say something like “firmware update” or “update device”. Keep in mind that the WAP will need to reboot, so your wireless devices will be knocked off-line for a few moments.
If your device is too old to receive a firmware update, or the manufacturer just isn’t releasing one, it’s time to replace that WAP with a new one. Since this vulnerability was just announced, it’ll take a little while for units to hit the stores without this flaw. Good home routers can be purchased for under $100. Make one of your goals for 2018 to upgrade your wireless network, to help keep your Wi-Fi network fast and secure in the new year.
In future blogs, we’ll discuss other ways to keep your wireless network secure. If you have questions, or suggestions for future topics, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on your favorite social network.