Wi-Fi routers have become ubiquitous in American businesses as a means of providing wireless Internet access. Many companies simply tuck their routers in a corner and forget about it, unless and until there is an issue with the wireless network.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking can lead the potential for cyber attacks. A new study by the nonprofit group The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research has revealed that many of these routers have security flaws that hackers can take advantage of because owners fail to keep firmware updated.

New study reveals most wifi routers have security flaws.

According to this report, the flaw comes from the routers being “inadequately updated for known security flaws”. This easily remedied security hole affects 83 percent of routers currently in use in homes and businesses and could potentially result in theft of money or confidential data.

Of the 186 different models of routers that were tested, 28 percent were found to have “high risk” or “critical” issues with security. This is especially true of Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected to the Internet that we may easily overlook when examining our security posture: TVs, smart appliances, etc.

Unfortunately, the report also pointed out that most of those flaws can be exploited by someone with very little knowledge or skill, so the hackers don’t even have to be highly trained. The average router contained about 36 high-risk vulnerabilities and 12 critical ones. Over 32,000 specific security issues with those routers that were tested.

The Internet of Things presents a particular problem for security.

Many problems come from the routers’ software (which is open-source) dealing with IoT.  This has been found by researchers to leave “pathways” in the hardware that can be manipulated by hackers. Because of the open-source nature of the software, there is also not a central source or hub that can “push out” notifications about security issues or new threats. This means that owners do not get regular notifications to update patches, and they only do after something goes drastically wrong, such as with a data breach, and at that point it is too late. In almost every case, the owner has to be in the know about updates. In fact, the study identified over 32,000 specific security issues with those routers that were tested.

Second high-profile warning: Consumers must take action.

This is the second high-profile warning regarding wireless routers to come out this year. The first, in May, was a warning issued by the FBI saying that the routers had been used by Russian hackers to gain access to hundreds of thousands of computers in the US. The FBI recommended routers be reset and firmware updated to fix the flaw.

At home and in the workplace, we are highly dependent on wireless Internet technology, so wireless router security will continue to be a big deal.

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