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How To Tell If Your Wi-Fi Is Hacked (And How To Fix It)

Your Wi-Fi may be prone to hacking if you're still using your router's default credentials, haven't updated its firmware, or have remote management on.

Your Wi-Fi may be prone to hacking if you're still using your router's default credentials, haven't updated its firmware, or have remote management on.

Illustration of a vertical Wi-Fi icon and its shadow; hidden between is a bandit peeking through

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      Can Your Wi-Fi Get Hacked?

      Approximately one in 16 internet-connected home Wi-Fi routers can be remotely accessed by attackers using the manufacturer's default admin password [*].

      If you're still using your router's default credentials, haven't updated its firmware, have remote management, Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), or Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) enabled, your home network could be at risk.

      Hackers can commandeer your router, spy on your Wi-Fi connection, and even eavesdrop on your conversations. With little work, scammers can gain access to personal information such as your credit card details or compromise your social media and online banking accounts.

      While Wi-Fi hacking isn’t as common as ransomware or other types of social engineering attacks, it’s still a menacing threat.


      How Can My Home Wi-Fi Be Hacked?

      Scammers have numerous ways of hacking your Wi-Fi network, including:

      • Brute-force hacking your Wi-Fi password: Hackers can try hundreds of different password combinations to gain access to your password-protected router’s internal settings. If your Wi-Fi password is cracked, hackers can change the password and lock you out of your home Wi-Fi.
      • Using the manufacturer’s default password: Wi-Fi hackers can use the manufacturer’s default admin password to gain access to your router and change its settings. That’s why you should always change your router’s default password. Also create a unique SSID (wireless network name). Never use the default SSID.
      • Exploiting an unpatched firmware vulnerability: Cybercriminals can exploit an unpatched firmware vulnerability to access the router’s internal settings. In June 2023, Asus issued urgent firmware updates for its Wi-Fi routers to defend against known remote code execution attacks. One of the most severe vulnerabilities — CVE-2018-1160 — dates back to 2018 and had a CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) severity rating of 9.8 out of 10 [*].
      • Domain Name Server (DNS) hijacking: A hacker can conduct a DNS hijacking attack by breaking into your router and changing the DNS settings so that it redirects your traffic to harmful phishing websites.


      What Can Scammers Do If They Hack Your Wi-Fi?

      If someone hacks your Wi-Fi, they can monitor all of your unencrypted traffic. This means they can spy on data sent across your network from all of your devices, including personal information like your name, address, and even financial information.

      In other words, they have all the information necessary to steal your identity and commit fraud.

      At the same time, they can also download harmful files to your network and infect devices with malware similar to VPNFilter or Hiatus. In the past, compromised routers were turned into SOCKS5 VPN proxy servers [*].

      But that’s not all.

      Once your Wi-Fi network is hacked, scammers can gain remote access to any connected device with porous security settings — even thermostats.

      A security vulnerability in the Bosch BCC100 thermostat enabled attackers on the same network to replace its firmware with a rogue version. These compromised thermostats can then be used as part of a larger network of compromised devices designed to steal data [*].

      Sometimes home router hacks may not target the homeowner, but create a chain of nodes between the main infections and real command and control.

      For example, last year, firmware implants meant for TP-Link routers were found to create a chain of infected devices that obscured the hacker's endpoints [*].

      📚 Related: Was Your IP Address Hacked? Here's How To Tell

      Here’s How To Know If Your Wi-Fi Is Hacked

      • Slow internet speed: If you notice that your internet is much slower than usual this may indicate that there is an intruder with access to your network. More users on your network mean less bandwidth for browsing, apps, and videos.
      • Unfamiliar devices or IP addresses detected: Attackers may try to connect to your network with unfamiliar devices. If you think someone is snooping on your activity, you can log in to your router’s IP address in your web browser and review the list of connected devices.
      • Your Wi-Fi password changed: Cyberattackers will change your login credentials shortly after breaking into your router to stop you from changing the settings and protecting yourself. If you can’t log in with your own credentials, this indicates that your Wi-Fi router has likely been hacked.
      • Unusual software on your devices: If you notice software or applications installed on your devices that you didn’t authorize, this can be another telltale sign that a cyber attacker has taken control of your Wi-Fi network.
      • Strange activity in your browser: If you try to visit a website or online service and are automatically rerouted to a different site, scammers may have compromised your router and changed its Domain Name System (DNS) settings.
      • You receive a ransomware message: Scammers may have found sensitive information, data, or photos that they’ll use to extort you for money. If you receive a ransomware message, it could be the result of a hacked Wi-Fi network.

      What To Do If Your Wi-Fi Was Hacked

      A hacked Wi-Fi network can lead to even more debilitating consequences — such as identity theft, fraud, and account hacking. As soon as you see the signs that your router has been hacked, act quickly to shut down scammers.

      Here’s what you can do:

      Factory reset your router

      If you believe your router has been compromised, perform a hard factory reset to return the router to its out-of-the-box factory settings.

      (Note that this is different from using the normal reset button). A factory reset or full reboot can help remove certain strains of malware and ransomware and reset all existing configurations (including any malicious changes).

      Change your Wi-Fi network password

      The next thing you should do is change your admin password (and SSID). Changing your network admin password will mean that a hacker won’t be able to use your old credentials to log in again, and it will stop them from eavesdropping or changing your router settings.

      Avoid weak passwords that hackers can guess, like "password" or "password123."

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      Disable remote administration

      If you haven’t already deactivated remote administration on your router, it may allow anyone not directly connected to your Wi-Fi to access your router's web interface.

      Should you need an open port for Remote Administration, it's recommended that you limit it by source IP address or source IP network [*].

      📚 Related: Have I Been Hacked? How To Recognize & Recover From a Hack

      Scan devices for malware

      After breaching a network, attackers will often attempt to install malware on devices. It’s a good idea to use reputable antivirus software to scan your devices for malware so that you can remove any malicious installs they’ve left in their wake.

      Regularly check your credit report and bank statements

      Scammers are almost always after your financial accounts. Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as errant charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize.

      An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud.

      Consider identity theft monitoring

      If you’re certain that your online privacy has been violated, consider an identity theft monitoring solution that includes data breach monitoring and credit monitoring.

      This way, if a criminal attempts to use your personal information to commit identity theft, or if your sensitive data is found on the Dark Web, you'll be alerted and given the chance to act fast, before irreparable damage is done.

      Here’s what you get with Aura:

      • Award-winning identity theft protection. Aura monitors your most sensitive information — from your Social Security number (SSN) to your credit card details — across the Dark Web, public records, and more. If anyone tries to use your identity or if your details are compromised, you’ll be notified in near real-time and get the support you need to shut down scammers.
      • Three-bureau credit monitoring. Aura has direct connections with the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If scammers use your stolen details to take out loans or open accounts in your name, you’ll be covered by the industry’s fastest and most reliable fraud alerts.
      • AI-powered digital security tools. Aura protects your devices and data with comprehensive digital security tools, including antivirus software, a military-grade VPN, secure password manager, Safe Browsing tools, AI spam call protection for your phone, and more.
      • 24/7 access to White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists. If you have questions or become a victim of fraud, Aura’s team of trained specialists is available night and day to help you.
      • $1 million in identity theft insurance. If the worst should happen, every adult member on an Aura plan is covered for up to $1 million of eligible losses due to identity theft — including lost wages, lawyer fees, childcare, and more.

      How To Prevent Wi-Fi Hacking

      1. Change your router's admin credentials. If you get a new router, change the network name (SSID) and password that came with it. This prevents an attacker from looking up the default admin password and SSID. When changing the password, select a strong password with a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
      2. Update your router’s firmware. Routers have vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit if they’re not patched. Installing firmware updates will ensure that there are no vulnerabilities that attackers can capitalize upon to break into the device and eavesdrop on your activity.
      3. Deactivate remote administration. Many routers come with a remote administration feature, allowing access to the router’s admin settings through a web browser. Out of an abundance of caution, it’s a good idea to deactivate this setting, as it will prevent hackers from exploiting an unsecured connection to your router. You can also set up a guest network that doesn’t have administrative privileges.
      4. Protect your network with a secure VPN. Another simple way to protect your information from attackers is to use a VPN to encrypt your traffic.
      5. Disable your router’s WPS setting. Hackers often scan local areas for networks that support WPS. Scanning for configured WPS is easy and guessing router PINs after the fact only takes 5,500 attempts for tools like Reaver [*, *]. Disabling the WPS setting or purchasing a router without it is recommended.
      6. Enable WPA2 encryption. If your router has Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security protocol, such as WPA2, you can use this setting to encrypt your activity with AES encrypting. WPA2 encryption is always preferred against WEP encryption — the former would take the longest to crack [*]. An extra layer of protection in addition to WPA2 encryption is MAC address filtering, a practice by which your router is configured only to allow a pre-approved list of devices join the Wi-Fi network [*].
      7. Use ethernet instead of Wi-Fi. By default, an ethernet (wired) connection is more secure than Wi-Fi, simply because you would need physical access to join that network.
      8. Use antivirus software. Installing antivirus software on your devices is crucial. Even if an attacker breaches your router, they won’t be able to deploy malware or viruses onto your devices.

      📚 Related: Is Hotel Wi-Fi Safe? How To Secure Your Devices When Traveling

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      Can Someone Hack Your Phone Through Wi-Fi?

      Unfortunately yes, your phone can also be hacked via Wi-Fi; especially public networks.

      Hackers know how to hack into your phone (especially over public Wi-Fi networks) like any other physical device, regardless of whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android phone.

      For example, in a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM), hackers impersonate a free, popular Wi-Fi network. Using high-powered antenna and other hacking equipment, they can force you to join the evil twin access point.

      Connecting devices will be unable to distinguish between the legitimate network and the evil twin network.

      Ready for ironclad Wi-Fi protection? Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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