10 May 2019

Cyber criminals want your personal data (and your money)

For cyber criminals to get their hands on your money, they first need your personal data. So, we recently commissioned a study to highlight the ways that they can get to it. We discovered that routers may be the forgotten heroes of Wi-Fi security.

Why it’s important to change your router password

Did you know that your router can be hacked? Some 17% of the 2,000 people we polled didn’t know that fraudsters can hack into Wi-Fi routers to spy and steal information. Nearly half didn’t know how to change their router password. It’s important to find out how – it’s much easier for criminals to hack a weak password than a strong one.

Here’s just some of things cyber criminals can do if they hack your router:

  • Redirect you to malicious websites, such as phishing pages or malware downloads
  • Destroy your router and prevent it from working
  • Force weak encryption or prevent use of encryption completely (this is the technology that muddles your data so that it can’t be read by others online)
  • Use your router to hide traces of their criminal attempts to hack or attack others

Matt Rowe, our Director of Cyber Security on the forgotten heroes of wifi security:

"Routers play a vital yet unglamorous role in the vast majority of homes up and down the country, as they sit behind televisions, in cupboards and generally hidden from sight. But we also appear to be taking them for granted when it comes to security.

This means that for many of us, we are putting our data and finances at risk by failing to change and update passwords and run updates."

Why 4G is your best bet when you’re out and about

Nearly three quarters of the people in our study use public Wi-Fi and we can understand why. But while public Wi-Fi may be convenient, it’s much more easily hacked than your Wi-Fi at home, or the 4G network.

It’s important to avoid using public Wi-Fi for things that put your money or your personal data at risk. For example, if you need to check your account in your app or online banking. Or if you want to look at your emails.

A common way for fraudsters to get you to part with cash is by posing as someone you know. Imagine you have emails from a builder about work on your house. A fraudster could send an email to you as your builder. Only this email contains an invoice with the fraudster’s bank details. You send the money as you’re expecting that invoice. It’s only later that you discover that the money went to a fraudster.

This doesn’t mean you can only check your balance or your emails at home. Simply stick to 4G for these things when you’re out and about.

Here’s what our Director of Cyber security Matt Rowe, has to say on this matter:

“We lead increasingly busy lives and we demand access to the internet at all times, meaning we will often look to use public Wi-Fi.

However, this is far more easily spoofed or hacked by cyber criminals and, if you access your personal information, including your bank accounts, you could potentially be opening the door to them getting access to your personal data and money.

Cyber criminals will always go for the easy target, so protect yourself to avoid becoming a criminal’s next payday.”

Our top three tips for keeping your data safe:

  • Change your router password: While the password you get with the router may look random, it isn’t. Go online to the router provider's website and change the password to a complex one.
  • Run firmware patches regularly: Just like you update your smart phone or laptop, you need to update your router. Companies detect new threats all the time and regularly running updates will offer you the best protection. Ask your router provider if you’re not sure how.
  • Don’t access sensitive information through public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi is unencrypted and therefore easier for cyber criminals to access. Avoid accessing banking details or emails and where possible use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

For more information on thwarting cyber criminals, see our fraud awareness hub.

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