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Can Wifi Have a Virus?

Man hacks personal info through Wi-Fi.

The answer, unfortunately, is yes, it can and there have been prevalent Wifi viruses in the past. In fact, there are still many hackers who are creating new kinds of wifi viruses every day to attempt to steal your information or compromise your devices and the information stored on them.

This article will teach you how to stay safe from wifi viruses by teaching you how they work and how to protect yourself from them through your wifi network and devices.

How Can WiFi Get a Virus?

Hacker accessing Wi-Fi password.

Cheap routers have poor security, with some using usernames and passwords like admin and password. They’re also easily attacked by hackers. Hackers can easily get into an unsecured WiFi network and infect every device connected to the network with viruses.

The simple solution to secure your router is to reset it (by holding down an easily-accessible button for 10 seconds) and then change its name and password. If you’re particularly security-minded, you can also update your firmware to its latest version. 

This is why many people choose to invest in their own wireless router. These are often more secure than those offered by ISPs because they can’t be infected or modified by anyone but you.

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Examples of WiFi Viruses

System hacked warning on computer.

There are three major classes of security threats for Internet-connected routers: Malware, Botnets, and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. 

Malware is bad software designed to steal your personal information or damage your computer.

Botnets are collections of computers infected with malicious software that operate under remote control. 

DoS attacks work to overwhelm a network in order to crash it entirely.

VPNFilter

The botnet attack VPNFilter put hundreds of thousands of routers at risk in May 2018. VPNFilter is an advanced piece of malware, capable of spying on users, hijacking web traffic, blocking websites, and stealing data. 

It was designed to target small office and home office (SOHO) routers from Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, TP-Link, and QNAP—though experts believe other manufacturers could be affected as well. 

Experts believe that VPNFilter has been around since 2016—and possibly as far back as 2014—but Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group only discovered it in May 2018 when Ukrainian officials called them about an outbreak affecting devices belonging to a local ISP. Researchers say there are three stages of infection for VPNFilter: 

The first stage is used to infect a device, which then downloads and installs stage two and three components. 
Stage two includes multiple modules, including a packet sniffer for spying on traffic, and a relay module that can launch attacks against other devices connected to infected routers. 
Stage three includes modules designed to perform multiple functions, including C&C communications, file collection, process manipulation, and device management. 

VPNFilter is so dangerous because it can render routers unusable or even brick them entirely by deleting critical files required for their operation. The malware also uses strong encryption to prevent detection by network administrators while it steals login credentials or intercepts traffic from popular websites like Facebook or Twitter.

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Switcher Trojan

Switcher Trojans give intruders complete access to your router and all connected devices (stealing passwords, messages, data). 

They work by impersonating a popular app. Once you download the fake app, it switches your DNS server on your phone to a malicious one that lets hackers see everything you do.

It may also enable hackers to use your device as part of a botnet or relay attacks from other computers. While anti-virus software will stop traditional viruses from gaining access to your wifi network, it won’t protect you against these Trojans. 

DoS Attack

DDoS attack concept with faceless hooded hacker.

Ever since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, security researchers and hackers alike have been devising creative new ways to own unsuspecting users’ devices. Among these attacks are Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

A DoS attack floods a target network with requests, effectively blocking its access to network resources and stopping it from functioning properly. These attacks can be used to shut down websites and prevent people from logging in or accessing important files and other data stored on network servers. 

How Can I Tell if My Wifi is Infected?

Man holding a tablet with virus alert warning.

The Address of Your DNS Server Address is Changed

If your DNS server address is unrecognizable, it’s possible that a hacker has hijacked your DNS server and changed your IP address to another location—possibly even another country! 

One way to check is by opening your router settings and checking to see if it matches up with what you believe it should be. This will usually give you some indication of whether or not something has happened on your local network.

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There are Unrecognized Programs on Your Device

A hacker can also install a piece of software to keep tabs on you and steal your login credentials. Viruses that target phones can also be installed via wifi. 

You might not even be able to tell because there may be so many folders and files on your computer that have strange names that may be important to your system, or may be a virus.

You are Automatically Sent to Websites You Didn’t Want to Visit

Have you ever been to Google and then been automatically redirected to some other website that you didn’t want to visit? Chances are your router has been compromised by malware. 

A hacked router can redirect your search queries, monitor your activity online, and even reveal any information you send over an unsecured connection. Even if you’ve never changed any of your router’s default settings, it could be at risk. 

Your Device is Running Slower Than Usual

If you notice your device seems to be running slower than usual, that could mean you’ve picked up some malware. Malware is essentially any software installed on your device that can steal information or monitor what you do. 

It can get into devices by convincing users to click on malicious links or files in emails, text messages, social media posts, and so on. There are even ways it can get onto devices through unprotected public wifi networks.

You’re Getting Messages from Fake Antivirus Apps You Didn’t Install

Scammers are using all sorts of methods to get you to install fake antivirus apps, including pop-ups and unsolicited messages from seemingly legitimate sources like your computer manufacturer or software company. 

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The scary part is that these messages don’t just appear in random places on the web—they appear where you most likely expect them to be: your operating system, web browsers, and even the websites of tech support companies. This means that if something looks off about an app store message or popup notification, it probably is.

You’re Suddenly Denied Access to Certain Services

Hackers looking to gain access to data or inject malware into files will change your passwords, steal your cookies and other information, or otherwise mess with what you’re working on. This type of interference doesn’t happen often, but it’s still worth worrying about. 

You’ll know if someone has hacked into your network because you suddenly don’t have access to some services anymore (email or other servers may suddenly stop working). You might even see strange errors when trying to connect.

Tips to Stay Protected

Woman protecting her laptop from virus.

Hackers can tap into wireless routers to easily launch man-in-the-middle attacks against unsuspecting users. Once compromised, cybercriminals can sniff out valuable information like passwords and bank account details from sensitive emails and other transmissions. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to ensure you’re secure:

  • Always update your firmware if it’s available for your device and your router.
  • Use strong encryption when accessing private data.
  • Use a strong password for your WiFi.
  • Use a password that is different from any on your computer or phone.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links sent to your email or that you see online.