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December 8, 2014

UK home Wi-Fi cyber security is weak and open to abuse

Multiple connected devices mean wireless router hacking vulnerabilities are opening up home networks

By CBR Staff Writer

Three out of four internet-connected households in the UK are at risk of getting attacked through their wireless router.

"Unsecured routers create an easy entry point for hackers to attack millions of home networks in the UK," said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of security firm Avast. "Our research revealed that the vast majority of home routers in the UK aren’t secure. If a router is not properly secured, cybercriminals can easily gain access to an individual’s personal information, including financial information, user names and passwords, photos, and browsing history."

Avast found that more than half of all routers are poorly protected by default or common, easily hacked password combinations such as admin/admin or admin/password, or even admin/<no-password>. Surveying more than 2,000 households in the UK, it found that an additional 23% of consumers use their address, name, phone number, street name, or other easily guessed terms as their passwords.

One of the biggest risks on any Wi-Fi network is DNS hijacking. Malware is used to exploit vulnerabilities in a user’s unprotected router and surreptitiously redirects the user from a known site, such as a bank website, to a fake site that looks just like the real thing. When the user logs in, thieves capture the user’s login credentials and then use them to access the real site.

"Today’s router security situation is very reminiscent of PCs in the 1990s, with lax attitudes towards security combined with new vulnerabilities being discovered every day creating an easily exploitable environment. The main difference is people have much more personal information stored on their devices today than they did back then. Consumers need strong yet simple-to-use tools that can prevent attacks before they happen," said Steckler.

According to the survey, less than half of British people strongly believe their home network is secure and 15% of respondents reported that they have fallen victim to hackers. Survey respondents reported that the consequences of a breach could be severe, and reported that they are most concerned about their bank or financial information being stolen (43%), losing their personal information (32%), getting their photos hacked (11%), and having their browsing history stolen (11%).

To address these issues, Avast recently introduced Avast 2015, which includes the world’s first Home Network Security Solution that protects users from home network threats including DNS hijacking and weak passwords. Avast 2015 is available in free and paid versions at www.avast.com.

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More statistics from Avast’s survey among 2,000 households in the UK:

The Internet of Things is present in British households:

– 88% of wired households in the UK have six or more devices connected to a Wi-Fi network
– In addition to PCs and laptops, users have mobile devices (28%), printers and scanners (17%), smart TVs (12%), and DVD or Blu-ray players (4%) connected to their Wi-Fi networks

People are afraid of spies in their neighborhood, but some like to spy:

– Avast report found 74% of respondents would be extremely uncomfortable if they found out a neighbor or uninvited guest were secretly logging onto their personal home Wi-Fi network
– 8% reported that they have themselves used a neighbor’s Wi-Fi network without the neighbor’s knowledge or permission

Despite concerns, people aren’t good at protecting themselves:

– 15% of respondents don’t know if they use a solution to protect their home network and 9% are certain they don’t use one
– 19% of respondents use the same username and password for their router as they do for their password-protected websites
– 37% use the default password on their router and another 12% aren’t sure if they use the default password
– Only 37% take steps beyond using a basic firewall to protect their network

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