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Reminder: change the default password on your home router, before a hacker does

This rule applies to any password-protected device you buy

Photo © Rawpixel - Fotolia
Here's a piece of home-computer-security advice which sounds too insultingly obvious to mention: when you buy a password-protected wireless-controlled anything, you need to assign it a new custom password right away. Otherwise, your new device can easily be hacked by anybody who knows its factory-set default password.

As obvious as this recommendation sounds, astonishing numbers of people continue to ignore it. There are even voyeurism websites devoted to streaming camera footage from unprotected personal IP (Internet protocol) cameras, of the sort found in wireless home baby monitors, or even laptop or computer webcams.

It's especially important to set a strong password on your home wireless Internet router, or else hackers will find it ridiculously easy to steal your online banking information and any other sensitive data you send over your home connection.

This week, security blogger Brian Krebs reported a new scam which so far seems limited to home Internet users in Brazil but could come to the United States with ridiculous ease, because the scammers operate by takling control of home wireless routers whose owners never changed their factory-set default passwords:

Sunnyvale, Calif. based security firm Proofpoint said it recently detected a four-week spam campaign sent to a small number of organizations and targeting primarily Brazilian Internet users. The emails were made to look like they were sent by Brazil’s largest Internet service provider, alerting recipients about an unpaid bill. In reality, the missives contained a link designed to hack that same ISP’s router equipment.

What makes such security threats especially dangerous is that they can completely bypass ordinary computer-security tools, such as antivirus protection.

Did you change the default password on your router when you first installed it? As Krebs said, “If you don’t know whether you’ve changed the default administrative credentials for your wired or wireless router, you probably haven’t.”

If you visit RouterPasswords.com and type in the make and model of your router, you will learn its default password. If you do need to change yours, remember as always to give it its own unique password, rather than use the same one across multiple accounts.

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