Computers are Everywhere, Security Awareness Is Even More Critical
With the cost of computers dropping we are seeing them in places most people don't recognize. It is totally amazing the computing power that's been built into the $35 Raspberry Pi and they are also in our cars, TVs and many other products that could never afford to be "smart" before. One of the most common devices that people don't see as computers is their router. Most organizations now have several routers to make it more convenient to access the Internet. Although they don't look much like computers, they are.
OpenConcept is a web development shop and doesn't offer security advice on maintaining desktops or smart phones, nevertheless it's important to stay up with security updates of your devices operating system and applications and assume that most of our clients know this. Routers however are just that little box in the corner that people just have to reset from time to time when there is a problem accessing the Internet. People don't think of it as a computer and most people don't upgrade it on a regular basis.
There is no way for us to verify this, but I'd assume that most web traffic goes through a home or business router before it connects to the ISP. If nobody is responsible for updating it, it is a point of weakness which can compromise user privacy and the security for the whole system.
There have been a few news items about this recently, particularly related to the exploit in some older D-Link routers. This problem may not be limited to D-Link and allows for DNS Hijacking which would allow subverting the resolution of Domain Name System (DNS) queries so that the domains you think you are browsing to aren't on the servers you think they are. In order to securely access our servers, you need to ensure that the computers you are using (including routers) are keeping up with security releases.
There are tips on how to do this for your home and office router available online. Installing new firmware isn't that time consuming, but it is a bit nerve racking the first time you do it. Just remember, that if there is a problem with the upgrade, most routers are pretty cheap and so the risk is fairly low. There are some tips here on how to tighten the security around your router and it is important to remember that the defaults that come with the device probably are biased to convenience rather than security.
If you have a device that is connected to the Internet, it is either important to learn how to secure it or to find someone who will.
About The Author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.