Hackers Attacking Routers In Greater Numbers

Hacking routers isn't as widespread as hacking servers, but poor security practices with routers could change that.
Slapdash router security may become a major point of attack, warns the government-funded security watchdog group, CERT/CC. According to Kevin J. Houle, leader of the CERT/CC Incident Response Team, if attacks target routers, which largely help drive network traffic, the impact on Internet performance could be substantial.

Houle explains that, although the tactic of hacking routers hasn't become widespread, it's the beginning of a new phenomenon. "We're getting reports of routers being compromised by intruders, routers being deployed and compromised with weak or default passwords, and the availability of public resources helping to instruct novices how to exploit router security weaknesses," he says.

Although hackers have yet to publish automated tools that would enable hackers to commandeer multiple routers into a distributed denial-of-service attack, Houle says that such tools are possible, and he wouldn't be surprised to see them surface in the future.

"The main message here is to educate security professionals that their routers may become a primary target in future attacks, potentially choking their network traffic. They need to watch routers just as closely as they watch their network and servers," Houle advises.

As with securing servers, security administrators need to turn off any functions or services not needed by the router, select difficult-to-guess passwords, and encrypt communications used to manage or change router settings over the Internet.