Dangers of insecure networks

Insecure networksWe all know that we should keep our computers and networks free of hacker attacks, but why? Just what is it that hackers want when they attack insecure networks?

To understand that we first have to understand what a hacker normally does when he infects your computer with a virus. Infected computers allow hackers to do lots of no-good things such as:

  • Use your computer to send SPAM. Everyone knows that receiving SPAM is a problem, but have you ever thought about where it’s sent from? Not from a spammers computer, once they’re found out they’ll be put on a blacklist and won’t be able to email again. SPAM is generally sent from the computers of unsuspecting people who’ve been infected with a virus.
  • Perform a Denial of Service attack. Would you like to crash a competing website’s servers by flooding it with more traffic and requests than it can handle? You can’t do this from your computer, but if you control hundreds of thousands of infected machines, this attack becomes easy.
  • Key Logging. This is an attack where a virus watches everything that you type on your keyboard and relays it to a hacker somewhere remotely. Not so interesting if you’re writing an email to your mom, but VERY interesting if you’re entering account information into your bank’s site or typing in your credit card numbers to but something online.
  • Privacy issues and identity theft. Once a hacker can control your computer, he can see pretty much everything.

An infected computer is dangerous to use. However, when hackers attack routers and networks, every computer in the home becomes dangerous. This is because these attacks:

  • Allow hackers to take control of your DNS system. This is the system which tells your computer how to get to the sites that you want to go to. When you type www.google.com into your browser, ¬†DNS gives your computer the “directions” for how to get there. Once a hacker controls DNS, he can do many bad things:
    • Direct your computer to places which will infect it with viruses.
    • Take you to sites that only look like the ones you want to use. They’re really sites controlled by the hacker where he can serve you any information that he wants.
  • Routers are also computers, so all of the attacks that can happen to computers can also happen to routers.

A compromised router is very dangerous because hackers can use them to infect all of the computers on the network. What’s worse is that once you determine that your computer is infected, you’ll spend time and/or money restoring it to a healthy state. But if the router remains compromised, it’s only a matter of time until your computer gets re-infected. And you’ll never know why…