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How old is your internet router? Warning that old routers are vulnerable to hacking

A recent study conducted by the consumer watchdog Which? has revealed that millions of people are using outdated routers that could pose serious security risks. More than two-thirds of routers provided by the UK’s biggest internet service providers had issues that could pose a threat to your online security.

Reno Charlton
· 3 min read

According to the results of a recent study carried out by Which?, millions of internet users across the UK could be using outdated routers at home. The consumer watchdog estimates around six million people connect to the internet via a router that has not been updated since 2018. This includes models provided by some of the major internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, including Virgin Media, Sky, and EE.

13 different routers, all of which had been provided to customers, were assessed by the consumer watchdog. As many of the models were outdated, those using them will have missed vital security enhancements that could help reduce the risk of hacking.

A range of issues discovered

After looking at the various routers, Which? researchers revealed they had found a range of issues that could result in an increased risk of security breaches for users. One of the critical problems highlighted was the weakness of default router passwords which cybercriminals could easily hack. This could lead to users experiencing issues with online safety and security.

Researchers also found that many routers did not have the necessary firmware updates to ensure an acceptable level of security and performance. Among those found to be lacking when it came to updates were some of the routers from Sky, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk. On the upside, several routers from BT were found to be secure and protected.

Following the research, Kate Bevan from Which? said, "Internet service providers should be much clearer about how many customers are using outdated routers and encourage people to update devices that pose security risks."

The results of the research mirror previous research carried out by Pen Test Partners. Security consultant Ken Munro said his company had been trying to encourage one of the ISPs to deal with a serious security issue, but that little had been done despite the problem being reported over a year ago.

Some of the ISPs have responded to the results of the study with negativity. Virgin Media refused to accept the findings and claimed that 90% of its customers used the latest modem models. TalkTalk said the routers Which? had looked at in the study were only used by a tiny number of customers.

Government set to make changes

Given the risks that these outdated routers pose when it comes to security, the government plans to make some changes to legislation relating to smart devices. One of the changes will be to ban the use of pre-set default passwords on devices.

In addition, manufacturers will have to provide customers with details of how long their devices will continue to receive security updates as part of the government overhaul. They will also need to provide customers with clear contact information to report any problems and weaknesses. 

Reno Charlton

Reno Charlton

Reno Charlton has been writing since 2003. She has worked with a diverse client base around the world, across a variety of subjects and industry areas, specialising in lifestyle and health & wellbeing niches. In addition to her online work, Reno is also a published author and has written several children's books and short stories.