Most modems today come as gateways (modem-router combos). So when talking about a hacked modem, we might as well look at a hacked router/gateway.
There have been cases of hackers modifying cable modems to enable free internet access, and people with such skills can also get into your router for malicious reasons.
So how can you tell if someone has access to your networking device? Let’s find out!
Table of Contents
- How Does a Modem Get Hacked?
- Dangers of Router Hacking
- How To Tell if a Hacker Has Access to Your Router
- Wrap Up
How Does a Modem Get Hacked?
Separate modems, standalone routers, or gateways get hacked in either of these two ways.
If You’ve Enabled Remote Management
As the name suggests, remote management enables you to access and control your router remotely via the internet.
Activating this feature opens up your device to access by you and hackers.
If There Are Network Vulnerabilities
Router vulnerabilities, such as outdated firmware and weak passwords, make it easy for hackers to access your network.
And one of the easiest ways for hackers to access your system is if you haven’t changed the default login credentials.
A hacker entering the default login credentials to access a modem
Dangers of Router Hacking
Once hackers get access to your modem, router, or gateway, they can do the following.
Steal Your Data
A hacker can easily steal your emails, passwords, and private messages in messaging and social media applications.
In most cases, hackers access this data when you enter it into websites with unencrypted connections.
So don’t input sensitive data in websites with HTTP connections. HTTPS is more secure.
Spy On Your Network Traffic
In addition to stealing your data, hackers can monitor all the data flowing through the modem.
And they can use packet sniffers to track the traffic flowing to and from your phone, PC, video game console, and intelligent devices in real time.
Hog Your Bandwidth
Hackers using your network to stream movies or play online games consume your bandwidth.
So you’ll experience slower speeds than usual, which can be annoying and frustrating.
A hacker typing code to access a secret organization’s system
Access Illegal Content
People with unlawful access to your wireless network can taint your clean internet history by visiting illegal websites and uploading/downloading illegal content & media.
Even worse, the hacker can go to the dark web and carry out criminal activities under your name, which will get you in trouble.
One of the primary reasons for a router hack is to access the device’s DNS settings to change where the internet traffic will go.
DNS attacks reroute the internet traffic to websites the hacker wants, creating pharming attacks that trick you into submitting personal data to malicious websites.
Different network components, including DNS servers
A DNS attack gives the cybercriminal power to direct you anywhere, including websites where you can download malware to your computer.
Carry Out DDoS and Malware Attacks
Attackers can use your router as one component in a DDoS attack (botnet). DDoS attacks involve using multiple hacked devices to target a website or another network.
And instead of installing malware on one device, they can install it into the router, opening a backdoor to your entire network for future spying and attacks.
A DDoS message on a computer screen
Map Your Wi-Fi Network
A cybercriminal connected to your router can view all devices linked to the network.
This information can give the attacker access to devices like IoT/smart home devices to plan additional hacks in the future.
Most people don’t secure their smart home devices, making them the most vulnerable.
How To Tell if a Hacker Has Access to Your Router
One or more of these signs indicates you might have a hacked modem or router.
The Admin Login Credentials Don’t Work
If you are sure about the modem’s admin credentials and they don’t work, there’s a high chance a hacker gained access to the device and locked you out.
This attack usually occurs if you don’t change the default credentials because hackers know the default passwords for most popular routers.
The solution is to restore the device to factory settings, then customize the admin username and password immediately.
However, firmware settings issues can also interfere with the login process. So if the network does not have anomalies, it might not be a hack.
The solution is to do a factory reset or firmware update.
A slow internet connection doesn’t always mean a modem/router hack. But if you notice slow speeds and other router hacking signs, a cybercriminal might be in your system consuming your bandwidth.
Hacking can slow internet connection speeds in the following ways.
- Botnet (DDoS)
- Remote device connection
- Malware distribution to other networks
An anonymous hacker engaging in cryptojacking
Unknown IP Addresses Appear in your Network
If you manage to log into the gateway’s web interface and notice unrecognized devices, it is most likely a cybercriminal.
Gateways create a network with private IP addresses beginning with the first three numbers in its default gateway, which usually is 192.168.0.
Any public IP address in the list won’t begin with the three numbers in the default gateway because it is from an outside network.
So if you notice a public IP address in the connected device list, eliminate it immediately, change the network password, then deactivate the remote access feature.
All Browsers Lead to the Same Website
This sign usually implies a change in DNS settings.
DNS is a system that matches numerical IP addresses to web domains, and hackers change DNS settings to direct internet traffic to a malicious DNS server.
This server will direct your traffic to specific websites to steal your data (pharming attack).
So all your internet browsers will lead to the same website.
Once you notice this issue, log into the router and change the DNS settings. Also, remember to reset the admin password to lock out the attacker.
While at it, scan all connected devices using antivirus software to ensure they are clean.
A phishing attack concept (using a fake website to steal login credentials)
Suspicious Software in your Devices
If you notice strange software you didn’t download, a hacker might have planted it there.
It could be fake antivirus software, browser toolbars, or programs generating pop-ups randomly.
And once installed in one device, the virus spreads to all other devices in the network.
So uninstall the software first, then run antivirus software on all network devices. Also, factory reset or update the router’s firmware.
Ransom demands and messages are sure indicators of a hacked modem/router.
Usually, attackers use this malicious attack to withhold your data or lock you out of the device in exchange for money.
They then inform you of the hack via a popup, instant message, email, or text. If the attackers have gained access to critical information, report the case.
Otherwise, factory reset the router and use a complex password that is not easy to guess.
A hacker asking for ransom instead of leaking sensitive information
Suspicious Activity on your Device
Advanced router hackers can gain access to network-connected devices. In such a case, you might notice cursor movements on your computer screen, meaning the attacker can open any file or log into any account on your system if you store passwords in your browser or OS.
The solution is to disconnect the gateway from the ISP cable (or the router from the modem if separate), then press the reset button to go back to factory settings and get the hacker out of the system.
Also, you might have to reset every connected device.
In conclusion, cybercriminals have several incentives to hack your modem, router, or gateway, and they won’t hesitate to do so if you leave your network vulnerable.
So always keep your network secure and watch out for the signs above. That’s it for now.
Comment below if you’ve experienced a hacked modem, router, or gateway. We’d like to know how you handled the situation or provide assistance if the issue persists.