Toss routers with hardcoded passwords, expert says

Computer cables connected to a router 84517144
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A Chinese manufacturer's routers that contain a hardcoded password that can be used to open a 'backdoor' should be thrown away and replaced with more reputable gear, experts say

Sometimes it is best to toss security-challenged technology, and that's the recommendation experts are giving to small businesses using a flawed router from a China-based manufacturer.

Trend Micro reported this week that routers sold under the brand name of Netcore in China and Netis outside of the country contained a "backdoor" that could be easily accessed by a hacker to monitor Internet traffic.

[Many home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse, researchers say]

The door is an open UDP port, 53413, which can be queried through the router's externally accessible IP address. The key is a password hardcoded into the devices' firmware.

All the devices appeared to use the same password, Trend Micro researcher Tim Yeh wrote. A scan of the Internet revealed more than 2 million IP addresses with the open port.

Most of the routers were in China, the rest were in South Korea, Taiwan, Israel and the United States.

Because there is no fix from the manufacturer or a workaround from security pros, experts say any small business using the routers should replace them.

"There is no defense against it from a consumer or small business perspective," Robert Miller, senior consultant at SecureState, said.

Andrew Ginter, vice president of industrial security at Waterfall Security, agreed, saying "it looks like replacing the router is the only option to deal with this vulnerability."

"If the vendor posts a solution, or if some other hacker looks into it and posts a workaround for the problem, that would give people other options," he said. "(However), that hasn't happened yet and it might never happen."

Large companies have expensive technology to monitor for unusual Internet traffic and firewalls that enforce whitelists of approved websites, Miller said. Such tools are not an option for small organizations.

[Home routers: Broken windows to the world]

"Most small businesses don't have an IT department that has the experience to deploy something like that," Miller said.

In general, small businesses should stick with routers from well-known vendors, such as Juniper Networks, Netgear and Cisco, Miller said. Such organizations have the resources to test the components they buy for security problems.

This story, "Toss routers with hardcoded passwords, expert says" was originally published by CSO.

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