Categories
Security

Hackers are hijacking Wi-Fi routers with zuoRAT malware

As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about, a new report finds hackers are targeting home Wi-Fi routers to gain access to all your connected devices.

The report comes from Black Lotus Lab, a security division of Lumen Technologies. The report details several observed real-world attacks on small home/home office (SOHO) routers since 2020 when millions of people began working from home at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.

According to Black Lotus Lab, the attackers use Remote Access Trojans (RATs) to hijack a home’s router. The trojans use a new malware strain called zuoRAT to gain access and then deploy inside the router. Once deployed, the RATs allow attackers to upload and download files to all the connected devices on the home or office network.

“The rapid shift to remote work in spring of 2020 presented a fresh opportunity for threat actors to subvert traditional defense-in-depth protections by targeting the weakest points of the new network perimeter — small office/home office (SOHO) routers.” Lumen Technologies said in a blog post. “Actors can leverage SOHO router access to maintain a low-detection presence on the target network.”

ZuoRAT is resistant to attempts to sandbox it for further study. It attempts to contact several public servers when it first deploys. If it doesn’t receive any response, it assumes it has been sandboxed and deletes itself.

The malware is incredibly sophisticated, and Lumen Technologies believes it may originate from a nation-state actor, not rogue hackers. This means a government with a lot of resources could be targeting SOHO routers in North America and Europe.

ZuoRAT gains remote access to SOHO routers. It is constantly scanning networks for vulnerable routers and attacks if one is located.

Once the trojans are in, there’s no limit to the damage they can do. So far, they’ve been content with stealing data — personal identifiable information (PII), financial information, and normally secure business or corporate information. However, the ability is there for threat actors to deploy other malware once they’ve gained access.

Blue Lotus Lab was able to trace one of the zuoRAT viruses to servers in China. Other than that, little is known about the origins of the malware.

Most common household routers seem to be vulnerable, including Cisco, Netgear, and ASUS.  The best way to protect against a zuoRAT infection is to regularly reboot your home router. The virus cannot survive a reboot, which wipes the router and restores it to its factory settings.

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Computing

How to find a Wi-Fi password on Mac

Need to review your Wi-Fi password on a Mac? It happens to all of us. Sometimes you need to check up on a Wi-Fi password to share it with a friend, or you want to make sure that your security habits are up to standard with a strong password. With today’s plentiful autofill logins, it may have been a long time since you even thought about your Wi-Fi login info, or you may need to retrieve a past Wi-Fi password you used at a certain location but cannot retrieve right now.

Don’t worry – even if you don’t remember your password or aren’t quite sure where you wrote it down, you can still find it using MacOS.

Find your Wi-Fi password using MacOS Keychain Access

Macs have a useful app called Keychain Access, which helps safely store the passwords that you’ve been using on MacOS for a moment just like this. The easiest way to find your Wi-Fi password is to check Keychain Access and see what it has to say. Here’s how to find and navigate this app.

Step 1: Select the Magnifying glass in the top right of your MacOS home screen to open up Spotlight search. Type in “keychain,” and the option to choose Keychain Access should appear. Select it.

Step 2: When the Keychain Access app opens, look at the menu on the left side. Check that you are in the System section. Now check the tabs on the top, and select Passwords to continue.

Step 3: You should now see a list of the passwords your system has accumulated over time, primarily Wi-Fi networks it has connected with in the past. Keep in mind that this list is synced up with your other Apple devices like your iPhone, so there’s a good chance that you’ll see a whole lot of Wi-Fi network passwords here, including those from your friends’ homes, your favorite cafes, recent business trips, and so on

Finding Your Wi-Fi in Keychain Access.

Step 4: Locate the Wi-Fi network you have in mind. If you don’t quite remember the full name of your current Wi-Fi network, you can hop over to the Wi-Fi signal icon in the upper-right corner of your MacOS screen and select it to see what you are currently connected to. You can also see the date for the last time the Wi-Fi login was modified. Select the network you want.

Step 5: A new window will open, showing the details of this Wi-Fi network. Look at the bottom of the window, and you’ll see an option to Show password. Check this to enable the function.

Show Password in Keychain Access.

Step 6: You’ll now need to enter your administrator login password to see the Wi-Fi password. If this is your personal Mac, this shouldn’t be a problem — your normal login should work. If you don’t have admin access, you won’t be able to see the password, so this method won’t work with work devices.

Step 7: With admin access granted, you’ll now see the Wi-Fi password for the network you chose. Note that this window also allows you to change the password to what you want and select Save changes afterward. This is useful if you want to improve the security of your Wi-Fi account, or if one of your favorite haunts recently changed their Wi-Fi and you want to make sure your Apple devices stay current to log in automatically.

Remember, if you use a Wi-Fi app to manage your router, you will also be able to find your personal Wi-Fi password there. If you want an alternative to Keychain Access that will keep your passwords safe, you may want to choose a password manager to help you keep track of everything.

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Computing

Best Long-Range Wi-Fi Routers for 2021

While there are many routers capable of delivering fast speeds and the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology, some homes or small offices are simply too large to cover. In general, a whole-home mesh networking solution will be able to blanket larger spaces with a reliable, speedy Wi-Fi signal, but for those who don’t want to install satellite receivers and nodes, having a robust Wi-Fi router will also do the trick. These are some of the best long-range Wi-Fi and mesh Wi-Fi systems that can cover homes in varying sizes from 5,000 to even 8,000 square feet.

Best long-range Wi-Fi routers

Netgear Nighthawk RAX200

Why you should buy this: The Nighthawk RAX200 boasts a unique router design, Wi-Fi 6 support, and speeds up to 10.8Gbps with a coverage area of up to 2,500 square feet.

Who’s it for: Gamers, streamers, and home users who don’t want to compromise on speed.

Why we picked the Netgear Nighthawk RAX200:

Whereas traditional routers use unsightly antennas to help extend coverage to your home, Netgear’s futuristic take on the humble Wi-Fi hub is based on the wings of a jet. The design isn’t as minimalist as some of the home mesh network systems — a few of which are also on this list — but the Nighthawk RAX200 isn’t overly aggressive with its design like the octopus-like designs of some of the best gaming routers.

To cover properties as large as 2,500 square feet, the Nighthawk RAX200 relies on eight antennas concealed in the wing-shaped design, and signals are broadcasted on the 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz bands. With MU-MIMO and beamforming support, the company claims that you’ll get speeds up to 10.8Gbps. As advertised, that’s 4x more capacity and 40% more data throughput, which means that active homes can stream multiple 4K video feeds, game, and browse the web at the same time no matter where you are in the home.

Keeping things running smoothly is a quad-core processor under the hood. Though you likely would not experience any drop in coverage with the Nighthawk RAX200, gamers and streamers can also opt for a more stable wired connection through the built-in Ethernet ports.

Netgear Orbi 5G Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System NBK752

Netgear's Orbi 5G broadcasts your mobile broadband connection over Wi-Fi 6.

Why you should buy this: Netgear’s latest Orbi 5G allows you to connect directly to a 5G network in areas where there isn’t DSL, fiber, or cable service, and you can connect multiple satellites together to build an expansive mesh network.

Who’s it for: Rural residents who need access to fast mobile broadband or anyone who wants access to 5G Internet for failover.

Why we picked the Netgear Orbi 5G Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System NBK752:

Though the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 Mesh System resembles many of the company’s previous Orbi designs, this latest router comes with a clever new trick. In addition to being able to hook up this system to your existing DSL, cable, or fiber modem to use as a whole-home mesh network, you can also pop in a nano SIM card and use your favorite wireless carrier’s 5G network. This makes it the perfect solution for rural residents and small businesses who may not have access to fast wired broadband access as well as anyone else who wants a failover network in case your regular Internet goes out.

Currently, Netgear states that the AT&T and T-Mobile networks are supported, and the company will add support for Verizon’s 5G network soon. While the Orbi 5G sounds more like a mobile hotspot than a home router, you’re getting all the latest features, including tri-band Wi-Fi 6 support, up to 5,000 square feet of coverage, and speeds of up to 4.2Gbps for up to 40 devices to connect. The company admits that its router stands taller than competing mesh network products, but the bulk is to house all the antennas to improve coverage and signal performance. Just add an Orbi satellite to eliminate dead zones or expand coverage by another 2,500 square feet, and manage the mesh network with Netgear’s dedicated Orbi app on iPhone and Android smartphones. The biggest downside with this solution is finding a compatible mobile broadband plan that’s affordable enough to take advantage of Orbi’s latest features.

Linksys Velop MX12600

Linksys Velop AX4200 router and satellites.
Linksys

Why you should buy this: Linksys’ Velop MX12600 can blanket properties as large as 8,000 square feet with Wi-Fi 6 coverage and allows up to 120 devices to connect.

Who’s it for: Residents of large homes who need their Wi-Fi signal to travel further.

Why we picked the Linksys Velop MX12600:

Linksys’ Velop MX12600 is another mesh networking solution with three nodes that can stretch your Internet connection over properties as large as 8,100 square feet. Highlights of this mesh networking system include Apple’s HomeKit support for smart home connectivity, Wi-Fi 6 on-board, and the ability to connect more than 120 devices simultaneously, making it the ideal hub for large IoT-enabled homes. The compact square-shaped tower with its white-clad design helps the nodes fit in with your home decor.

Linksys claims that the whole-home mesh network is capable of delivering 4x more capacity and 3.5x faster speeds compared to older Wi-Fi 5 systems. The Velop is capable of speeds up to 4.2Gbps, making it perfectly suited for bandwidth-intensive tasks, like multiple 4K streaming, downloading large files, and gaming. A convenient app makes setup easy and gives you access to features like guest network access as well as establishing device priority to ensure buffer-free, lag-free streaming.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

Asus ROG Rapture is a solid gaming router.

Why you should buy this: The Asus ROG Rapture delivers speedy performance, comes with Wi-Fi 6 support, and has adaptive QoS to prioritize gaming traffic.

Who’s it for: Gamers who need speedy traffic in larger homes.

Why we picked the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000:

The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is one of the best Wi-Fi routers around and has been a beloved choice for gamers for good reason. In addition to supporting Wi-Fi 6, the ROG Rapture comes equipped with adaptive QoS, which helps prioritize gaming traffic during periods of congestion, and a dedicated 2.5Gbps gaming port, ensuring that gamers never suffer from dropped frames due to home network speeds. What makes the ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 a solid pick is that this router, with its eight antennas, can cover homes as large as 5,000 square feet with its beamforming tech.

Asus promises speeds as fast as 11,000Mbps with this router, and OFDM support means that a single channel can transmit data from several devices at the same time, making it speedy and efficient. VPN Fusion technology intelligently routes traffic from your computer, tablet, and smartphone through a VPN while keeping your gaming traffic connected directly for latency-free connectivity. The router also supports Asus’s Auro RGB lighting, making it a perfect complement to gamers with other compatible ROG devices and components.

TP-Link Archer AX6600

Why you should buy this: TP-Link’s Archer AX6600 is an affordable alternative to Asus’ pricier router while still delivering all of the gaming-centric features over Wi-Fi 6.

Who’s it for: Gamers on a tight budget who don’t want to compromise on speed and performance.

Why we picked the TP-Link Archer AX6600:

Gamers who want all the advanced features of the ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 on our list but don’t want to pay Asus’ premium price tag will find lots to love with TP-Link’s more affordable alternative. Like its ROG counterpart, the TP-Link Archer AX6600 is designed for gamers. Features such as QoS support, eight dedicated beamforming antennas, and support for tri-band frequencies show that this is a router that’s been thoughtfully designed for gamers.

All this adds up to having robust Wi-Fi 6 coverage with speeds that top out at 4.8Gbps. For even larger spaces, you can add range extenders to form a mesh Wi-Fi network with the company’s OneMesh solution. TP-Link didn’t give a rating for the Archer AX6600’s coverage area, but the prior model is capable of blanketing spaces up to 3,500 square feet, while the company’s mesh Deco AX 6600 can blanket up to 6,000 square feet.

Where the Archer AX6600 excels is in the number of advanced features covered under the company’s HomeCare security suite. Unlike competing products, HomeCare doesn’t require a recurring monthly subscription, making the Archer even more affordable in the long run. You get enhanced parental controls with sophisticated traffic filtering, anti-malware support, and more.

Eero 6

Eero 6 Wi-Fi Mesh Router
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Amazon’s Eero 6 brings Wi-Fi 6 coverage to homes in a compact, attractive design with an intuitive app, automatic software updates, and plenty of controls.

Who’s it for: Home users needing a no-fuss home mesh network that delivers Wi-Fi 6 performance.

Why we picked the Eero 6:

Arguably the first company that brought the idea of mesh networks into the homes of consumers, Amazon’s Eero 6 maintains the company’s philosophy in creating an easy-to-use product in a compact design that’s made to blend in with your home. Though the simplicity makes the Eero 6 extremely attractive to general home users — the companion smartphone apps makes setup easy and updates are seamlessly delivered during off-peak times — the limited number of Ethernet ports on the main router and lack of ports on the satellite nodes may frustrate advanced users, those with smart home bridges, and gamers who may want a dedicated wired connection to their console or PC rig.

Where the Eero 6 excels is that it can blanket homes up to 5,000 square feet with a multi-unit package consisting of a main router and two satellite add-ons. Surprisingly, the more premium offering with three routers instead of satellites covers a slightly smaller 4,500-square-foot living space. The Eero 6 comes with advanced features like OFDMA technology to reduce and avoid congestion, beamforming antennas, dual-band support, and the company’s proprietary TrueMesh technology to avoid disruptions. Eero promises speeds up to 500Mbps on the Eero 6 mesh system, and the router comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home to connect compatible IoT devices. Users with faster connections will want to upgrade to the slightly pricier Eero Pro 6, which is more suited for gigabit connections.

Asus AX6000 RT-AX88U

The Asus AX6000 RT-AX88U is a more affordable and less aggressive gaming router.

Why you should buy this: The Asus AX6000 FT-AX88U delivers speeds up to 2.3x faster than an 802.11ac router using its 4×4 dual-band antennas.

Who’s it for: Home users who need Wi-Fi 6 speeds but don’t want the ostentatious designs of a dedicated gaming router.

Why we picked the Asus AX6000 RT-AX88U:

While the Asus AX6000 RT-AX88U is a router made for gamers, it comes with a less aggressive design, making it the perfect addition to any household. With four antennas instead of the usual eight on premium gaming routers, the RT-AX88U’s design is considered to be more discrete, and the router’s black-clad body with gold accents attracts less attention than the black and red designs on gaming-forward solutions. Still, this Wi-Fi 6 router packs quite the punch, delivering speeds up to 6000Mbps, which is up to 2.3 times faster than a typical Wi-Fi 5 router, according to Asus. For gamers, the router’s built-in tech allows you to maintain a fast connection with little latency, and ping times have been reduced by as much as 75% with tech like adaptive QoS to help prioritize traffic.

Beamforming antennas, AiMesh technology to create a whole-home mesh network, security controls, and plenty of gigabit Ethernet ports round out the list of features that make this router so attractive. The RT-AX88U can blanket homes up to 5,000 square feet, ensuring that you have even the most remote rooms in your house blanketed with Wi-Fi signal for gaming, 4K streaming, or casual web browsing. It’s a powerful router that comes at an affordable price. For even larger homes, you can connect additional Asus routers to form your own mesh network.

Google Nest Wi-Fi

Google's Nest Wi-Fi incorporates a built-in smart speaker.

Why you should buy this: Google’s Nest Wi-Fi mesh system incorporates a built-in smart speaker and can blanket homes up to 7,000 square feet in size.

Who’s it for: Home users who want a compact, aesthetically pleasing mesh system that’s non-obtrusive and reliable.

Why we picked the Google Nest Wi-Fi:

You’ll be partially correct if you mistook Google’s latest Nest Wi-Fi for a smart speaker. The compact cylinders — roughly the same size as Apple’s HomePod mini speakers — is just as capable of playing music and answering queries as it is at broadcasting Wi-Fi signals to cover your entire home. As a mesh networking system, coverage depends on how many receivers you have, and you can blanket homes as large as 7,000 square feet with a Nest Wi-Fi router and three additional nodes spread across your home. Google recommends keeping five access points at most to any home to reduce interference.

Google’s setup process is just as simple as the competing Eero system made by Amazon, and the best part about the Nest Wi-Fi is that by bundling in smart speakers, you can eliminate the clutter and cost of having separate devices here. Sadly, though, its features fall somewhat short of all the other products on our list, as it is limited to dual-band Wi-Fi 5 signals rather than the latest Wi-Fi 6 tech. In general, this will work fine with most American households, and you generally won’t benefit from speed promises from Wi-Fi 6 unless your broadband plan is fast enough anyway. Speeds top out at 2.2Gbps when connected directly to the router or 1.2Gbps when connected to the satellite nodes, so the system will work with homes with up to gigabit cable or fiber connections.

Long-range Wi-Fi router buying guide and FAQs

Should I invest in a mesh network?

There are plenty of advantages to getting a mesh network, and many routers on our list allow you to pair an additional router from the same manufacturer to create your own smart mesh home network. A mesh network achieves a similar purpose of blanketing a larger living space by allowing you to seamlessly hop between the satellite nodes without having to switch between different network names and passwords. Choosing a node can also help in more difficult situations where a single Wi-Fi router’s signal may be hampered by thick walls or metal doors.

What should I look for when choosing a long-range router?

Most manufacturers advertise coverage in terms of square feet. You’ll want to choose one with a coverage area that’s as large or larger than your living space to ensure that your home will be covered from corner to corner. Our list contains routers with coverage from 5,000 to 8,000 square feet, and you can even go farther by adding satellite mesh nodes.

That said, there are other factors that can affect Wi-Fi coverage. Hiding a router behind a shelf or behind an entertainment center can weaken the signal that’s being broadcast. Signals may not be able to easily penetrate thick walls, concrete, or metal, so keep that in mind as well. If your home is constructed with brick and concrete, a whole-home mesh system that’s expandable may be a better option.

Do I need Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E coverage right now?

Wi-Fi 6 is also known as the 802.11ax standard. In general, most American homes won’t benefit from any promised speed boosts from Wi-Fi 6 unless you have gigabit or faster Internet. The new protocol, however, provides benefits that may not be tangible or as visible, like lower latency for gaming, allowing more devices to connect for IoT-filled homes, and improved security. Be sure to check the speed of your broadband plan with your ISP to see if it will be covered with your router. If your ISP speeds are faster than what’s advertised by your router, you won’t be getting the maximum benefits from your plan. In general, choose a router that provides faster speeds than your ISP to future-proof your investment.

I am not a gamer. Should I buy a gaming router?

If you don’t mind the gaming-forward aggressive aesthetics of a gaming router, opting for a router made for gamers can provide you with plenty of tangible benefits. First, gaming routers tend to optimize and prioritize traffic for games and videos. If you stream a lot, you can benefit from this adaptive QoS feature that’s found on many gaming routers, especially if you have a larger household with a congested network. This way, you’ll experience less buffering.

Is it complicated to set up a new network when I upgrade to one of these long-range Wi-Fi routers?

Historically, the user interface to access the settings on a router required a bit of technical knowledge. Many of these routers, especially the mesh networking systems, now come with a simple, easy-to-use app to adjust the settings, create guest networks, and change the security protocols used. Some routers come with parental controls built-in, and enhanced security features can be obtained through an optional subscription package.

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Computing

Netgear’s $1,500 Wi-Fi 6E Orbi Promised Uncompromised Speed

Netgear’s latest Orbi is a mesh Wi-Fi 6E network that claims to deliver some impressive-sounding speeds. This Wi-Fi 6E mesh router comes with a quad-band design and a new 6GHz band — you just need a home or office broadband plan that can deliver the speeds to take advantage of the Orbi’s features.

That promises speeds double what is achievable on the conventional 5GHz band found on most routers and whole-home mesh systems today. This means that the Orbi can reach a theoretical speed of 10.8Gbps.

The router will allow devices to connect on the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz bands, and there is a dedicated band to allow the routers and satellites to communicate with each other. Each band has 4 x 4 MIMO support. The biggest downside with this tech-loaded design is that compared to competing systems, Netgear’s Orbi is larger and more obtrusive. The router comes with 12 high-performance internal antennas and high-power amplifiers, Netgear said.

To truly take advantage of the quad-band Orbi, you’ll need a multi-gigabit internet package at home. For most homes, however, buying this mesh system is more about future-proofing rather than maxing out speeds. There are also a very limited number of devices that make use of Wi-Fi 6E connections — Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone is one example.

The new 6GHz band is better for handling crowded and congested environments as well, so you’ll experience little to no performance drop if your home is packed with devices trying to access and connect at the same time. This latest quad-band Orbi is really designed for connected homes, though it doesn’t boast connected home protocols, like Thread, Z-Wave or Zigbee. Instead, it’s built for large numbers of Wi-Fi-connected home devices.

The device comes with up to seven 160MHz channels, a 10G Ethernet port, a 2.5G Ethernet port, and three 1G Ethernet ports. The built-in Ethernet ports bring a lot of versatility for gamers and streamers, especially if the router and modem are located in a different room than the television, console, or PC gaming rig.

The Netgear Orbit Wi-Fi 6E mesh system in the interior of a house.

Like other mesh systems, the router’s controls and settings are accessible through Netgear’s Orbi app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. You can create four unique Wi-Fi networks, the company said. This way, you can keep things secure.

For a complete mesh experience, Netgear is selling various bundles consisting of the main router and satellite units that can blanket up to a 9,000-square-foot space. For maximum coverage, you’ll want the $1,499 pack that comes with a router and two satellites. Each satellite costs $599 if you need even more coverage.

Pre-orders start today, and the quad-band Orbi will ship in time for the holiday season. If you don’t want to spend that much money on a mesh network, be sure to check out some great alternatives from our selection of top-rated Wi-Fi 6 routers and mesh systems. In terms of Wi-Fi 6E support, the closest competitor to this Orbi is Linksys’ Atlas Max 6E, which comes in a three-pack for $1,199.

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Computing

How to Change Your Router’s Wi-Fi Password

A router Wi-Fi password should hit the sweet spot between being secure enough to offer protection, and being easy enough to remember and share with family or friends. To help stay safe and keep out unwanted guests, a good Wi-Fi password should include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and ideally, special characters too.

If it’s time for a quick update to your old Wi-Fi password, our guide will show you just how to do it.

Note: There are two important passwords connected to your router. The first, and the one we are discussing here, is the Wi-Fi password that you and your guests use to log onto your Wi-Fi network. The second is an administrative password that you use to log in when changing router settings or updating your router — the default login for this password is usually on the back of your router (though you should change it too, for security reasons).

Step 1: Find and sign in to your router app

Routers today typically offer management options through an app that can be used to control settings and change your Wi-Fi password. Make sure you have the correct router app downloaded on your device, and sign in to it using your administrative password if necessary.

Router apps will naturally differ when it comes to user interfaces, so your individual steps may vary slightly from what we will go over here. In this case, we are using Netgear’s Nighthawk app as an example of what to do. If you are using a different app, look for similar language and options and it should be clear what to do.

Step 2: Select Wi-Fi Settings

The Nighthawk app showing Wi-Fi settings.

After you have signed in, the app will detect your router and connected devices, which may take a minute. It will then take you to the home screen, where you will see a variety of categories. Scroll down here until you see Wi-Fi Settings. Select this.

Step 3: Choose your Wi-Fi network

The Nighthawk app showing present Wi-Fi bands.

Now you will choose the Wi-Fi network that you want to change. The Nighthawk app, for example, allows you to choose between different Wi-Fi bands if you want. Unless you are setting up more complex access options, you probably want to set the same password for every Wi-Fi band, so you should change each in turn if necessary. Select your standard 2.4Ghz band to begin.

Important note: If you are using Netgear’s Nighthawk app, you will see an option to enable Smart Connect, which is automation software for your Wi-Fi network. If Smart Connect is enabled, you must disable it to access your Wi-Fi bands and make changes. This process will take several minutes.

Step 4: Select your Wi-Fi password and change it

The Nighthawk app showing the option to change Wi-Fi password.

You will now see the name of this specific Wi-Fi band and its current password below. Simply select the password and type in a new one to make the change. In the Nighthawk app, you’ll notice a small eye-shaped icon to the right, something most apps should offer. Selecting this will allow you to see the characters of your Wi-Fi password, which is very useful when you are typing a new one.

When finished, select Save to complete the change. Now that you have a new Wi-Fi password, you’ll want to do two important things: First, make a note of it in your password manager or a similar safe space. Second, make sure you update all your smart devices, smart TVs, mobile devices, game consoles, and anything else on your Wi-Fi network with the new password.

Don’t have a router app?

Text on the back of a router showing the access website and default password.

Older routers may not support access to an app for quick management. In this case, you can log into your router settings webpage to make changes. You can usually find this page by inputting the default local IP address for the router, which may be printed on the router — although we have a guide to help you find it no matter what. You will also need to log in with your administrative password to change settings.

Once logged in, look for options like Wireless Settings or Wireless Security. Here you will find options to adjust your encryption (WPA3 or WPA2 are recommended here) and change your password. Type in the new password and save your changes to make it go into effect.

Setting up your Wi-Fi for the first time?

Your default wireless password should also be printed on the back of the router for easy access. If you are using an app to set up, you may not need to worry about logging in at all, just recognizing the default name of your Wi-Fi network so the app can connect to it during setup, which will prompt you to change both the Wi-Fi name and the password to something personalized.

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Computing

What Is Wi-Fi 6? A Look at This Wireless Networking Standard

If your current Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough to support your growing number of devices, you might be on the lookout for a better solution. Perhaps you’re experiencing frequent connection errors, slowdowns, and other technical difficulties. Wi-Fi 6 can offer a faster, more reliable connection.

We’ll talk more about this next-generation standard in Wi-Fi technology, tell you what it has to offer, and give you tips on determining what devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6.

The dawn of generational Wi-Fi labels

The Wi-Fi Alliance is the organization in charge of deciding, developing, and designating Wi-Fi standards. As devices become more complex and internet connections evolve, the process of delivering wireless connections also changes. That means that Wi-Fi standards — the technical specifications that manufacturers use to create Wi-Fi — need to be periodically updated so that new technology can flourish and everything can remain compatible. So far, so good.

But the awkward naming of Wi-Fi standards has become a real annoyance for the average person who tries to figure out what those little letters at the end mean. The Wi-Fi Alliance is aware of this, which is why they announced a new way to label Wi-Fi standards by referring to the number of the generation. This will apply to the latest Wi-Fi 6/6E and be retroactive, applying to older standards. For example:

  • 802.11n (2009) = Wi-Fi 4
  • 802.11ac (2014) = Wi-Fi 5
  • 802.11ax (newly released) = Wi-Fi 6/6E

Easier, isn’t it? This will cause a period of confusion where some products are labeled with the old code, and some are just called Wi-Fi 4 or Wi-Fi 5 when it means the same thing. This should be resolved in time as older product labeling is phased out and everyone gets used to the new, friendly names when doing research.

What the Wi-Fi 6/6E standards bring

Now that we’ve covered the naming issue, you’re probably wondering just what Wi-Fi 6/6E brings to the table. Why was another update required? There are a lot of new Wi-Fi technologies on the rise, and Wi-Fi 6 helps standardize them. Here are the important new pieces and what they mean for your wireless network.

Intel

First off is lower latency. Reduced latency means that there are shorter or no delay times as data is sent (very similar to ping rate and other such measurements). Everyone wants low latency connections because it improves load times and helps avoid disconnects and other issues. Wi-Fi 6 lowers latency compared to older Wi-Fi standards, using more advanced technology like OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access). Basically, it’s better at packing data into a signal.

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 will also be faster. By offering full support for technologies like MU-MIMO, connection quality will vastly improve for compatible mobile devices, which should also speed up content delivery. Even if you don’t upgrade your internet speed, such improvements can improve your Wi-Fi data speed anyway, so you get more information faster. How much faster? Digital Trends tested a Wi-Fi 6 laptop and router in late December of 2019 and found a more than 60% increase in speed.

Believe it or not, Wi-Fi 6E promises to be even faster than Wi-Fi 6! While Wi-Fi 6 devices make use of the brand new 6GHz radio band, 6E devices offer “14 additional 80 MHz channels and [seven] additional 160 MHz channels,” according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. More impressively, these channels are designed to not overlap in order to reduce latency and improve congestion issues when using a device around multiple networks.

It also means fewer dead zones, thanks to some expanded beamforming capabilities. Beamforming is the trick your router uses to focus signals on a particular device, especially if it looks like that device is having trouble with a connection. The new standard expands the range of beamforming and improves its capabilities, making dead zones in your house even less likely.

Lastly, Wi-Fi 6 means better battery life. There’s a term called “TWT” or target wake time, a new technology that Wi-Fi 6 embraces. This helps connected devices customize when and how they “wake up” to receive Wi-Fi data signals. It makes it much easier for devices to “sleep” while waiting for the next necessary Wi-Fi transmission (this does not mean your device is turned off, just the parts used for Wi-Fi). In turn, this can save a significant amount of battery life for devices, which should make everyone happy.

Watch for the Wi-Fi 6/6E label

Table of various Wi-Fi logos that denote different generations of network connection.

So, how do you know if a router, phone, or other device works with the new 802.11ax standard? First, look for the phrase “Wi-Fi 6/6E” on the packaging, advertisements, labels, and so on. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance has also suggested using icons to show the Wi-Fi generation. These icons look like Wi-Fi signals with a circled number within the signal. Watch for these icons as well when picking out the right device.

Buying a Wi-Fi 6/6E device

Netgear Nighthawk AX8, a Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Wi-Fi Alliance launched its Wi-Fi 6E certification program on January 7, ahead of CES 2021 and coinciding with the official release of Wi-Fi 6/6E. CES 2021 introduced some impressive-looking Wi-Fi 6/6E routers and mesh routers from various well-known manufacturers, including Netgear, TP-Link, Arris, and Linksys, as well as a USB adapter from D-Link to add Wi-Fi 6 directly to your laptop. If you go shopping for a new router, you should check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi 6 routers. 

Mobile devices that are currently compatible with Wi-Fi 6 include products such as the iPhone 12, the Samsung Galaxy S10, and the OnePlus 8.

Laptops that support Wi-Fi 6 include the Dell XPS 13, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, and the Asus Chromebook Flip c436.

Editors’ Choice




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Vilo’s mesh Wi-Fi router is dirt cheap ($20) and stupidly simple

Routers are pretty boring to write about, but every once in a while I’ll make an exception, as is the case with the new Vilo mesh Wi-Fi system.

Why? Because it’s dirt cheap and stupidly simple to set up — and I mean that in the best way possible.

Each access point costs $20 bucks ($28 with shipping), and each individual unit is rated for coverage up to 1,500 square feet. The company sells the units individually, or as a 3-pack of units ($69 with shipping) that are automatically paired with one another. Each unit is identical, so you don’t have to worry about picking a ‘main’ unit to connect to your modem.

With a disclaimer that I haven’t put the system through extensive long-term testing yet, I can tell you the basics: it took me less than five minutes to go from unboxing to having a working wifi-network with three mesh units. The additional units automatically connected to my new network, even after I changed the network name. I have not had any network issues since.

This isn’t a full review, but honestly, that’s all I really need from a router. I’m not doing anything crazy on it, I just need an internet connection that supports 4K streaming and the occasional gaming experience without a hiccup. That was the case here.

Despite the low price, it was the easiest setup process of any router system I’ve used, including the far more expensive Google Nest Wifi (that includes a voice assistant, but for this price you could just get add a Google Home Mini to the Vilo system and still save money).

I also appreciate that despite being fairly compact, each unit has three gigabit Ethernet ports ( though one is used to connect to your modem on the main unit), making it easy to have a ‘semi-wired’ connection should you want to connect your desktop via Ethernet or want an extra layer of reliability during an important meeting. Other features notable features accessible through the app include:

  • Parental controls
  • Guest networks (which can be made temporary)
  • New connection alerts
  • Data usage reports

They’re all very simple to use and set up.

Look, this isn’t a mesh system you get if you want the latest and greatest technology or a laundry list of features. It’s using Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac) as opposed to Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, (802.11ax), so you’re limited to a ‘measly’ theoretical top speed of 867 Mbps (realistically more like half of that).

You might want a faster router if you’re on Gigabit internet or additional futureproofing, but for the vast majority of people, the newer standard is overkill. Vilo is also stuck on good old WPA2 security protocol instead of the fancier WPA3 protocol, but again, WPA2 is just fine for most people.

I suspect those limitations are far from dealbreakers for most people. Unless you have unique performance requirements — or something breaks during my extended testing — I’m more than happy to recommend the Vilo system. It’s cheap, and it just works. What else do you really need?

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Psst, network names including ‘%’ can brick your iPhone’s Wi-Fi

Are you on your iPhone? And can you see an alluring public Wi-Fi network with loads of percentage symbols in the title? DON’T JOIN IT, PAL! OH GOD NO.

Why? Well, Carl Schou — a security researcher based in Denmark — has unearthed a zero day that can scramble the Wi-Fi on iPhones or other iOS devices. Here’s what he posted:

According to Schou, joining this network knocked out his iPhone‘s Wi-Fi. He tried resetting network settings and force restarting the device, but nothing worked until he manually edited the iPhone backup.

This experience may not be universal though. When this was shared on Reddit, some users on the site joined a network with this name without any difficulties.

What’s worrying is that this issue with the percentage symbol in Wi-Fi networks names isn’t new. Schou himself reported a similar issue a few weeks back where joining a network called “%p%s%s%s%s%n” on the iPhone disabled Wi-Fi:

The reason percentage symbols are causing an issue with the iPhone‘s Wi-Fi is down to the C computer programming language. The “%” symbol is a C string format specifier. It’s likely that the name of the network is triggering a string format process on the iPhone and that’s crashing the Wi-Fi functionality.

If you’d like more technical detail, this piece on The Register breaks down what likely happened with the “%p%s%s%s%s%n” network mentioned above. We can assume something similar’s going on with the “%secretclub%power” name.

I will say it’s surprising that Apple hasn’t done anything to fix this yet. Even though this issue doesn’t seem dangerous, it is embarrassing.

So here’s the question: What can you, an iPhone user, do to avoid having your Wi-Fi tanked by a mysterious network?

Well, it’s quite simple: don’t join any random ass public networks. And be especially wary of any that have percentage symbols in their name.

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Researcher finds certain network names can disable Wi-Fi on iPhones

A security researcher has found that certain Wi-Fi networks with the percent symbol (%) in their names can disable Wi-Fi on iPhones and other iOS devices. Carl Schou tweeted that if an iPhone comes within range of a network named %secretclub%power, the device won’t be able to use Wi-Fi or any related features, and even after resetting network settings, the bug may continue to render Wi-Fi on the device unusable.

A few weeks ago, Schou and his not-for-profit group, Secret Club, which reverse-engineers software for research purposes, found that if an iPhone connected to a network with the SSiD name %p%s%s%s%s%n it would cause a bug in iOS’ networking stack that would disable its Wi-Fi, and system networking features like AirDrop would become unusable.

9to5 Mac offered a possible explanation for the weird bug:

the ‘%[character]’ syntax is commonly used in programming languages to format variables into an output string. In C, the ‘%n’ specifier means to save the number of characters written into the format string out to a variable passed to the string format function. The Wi-Fi subsystem probably passes the Wi-Fi network name (SSID) unsanitized to some internal library that is performing string formatting, which in turn causes an arbitrary memory write and buffer overflow. This will lead to memory corruption and the iOS watchdog will kill the process, hence effectively disabling Wi-Fi for the user.

We’ve reached out to Apple to see if it’s working on a fix, and will update if we hear back from them. But as 9to5 Mac notes, the bug can likely be avoided by not connecting to Wi-Fi networks with percent symbols in their names.



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iPhone WiFi bug has an even more severe variant

A rather worrying report broke out two weeks ago regarding a strange bug that afflicted iPhones, causing them to be unable to connect to any WiFi access point when triggered. Fortunately, the bug had a simple though inconvenient fix and could be easily avoided by not connecting to wireless networks with symbols in their names. It turns out there is another iPhone bug with almost similar characteristics, except that it is almost impossible to avoid and harder to fix as well.

The original vulnerability involved WiFi access points or APs that used the percent sign (‘%’) in their names. In many programming languages, this symbol is used to denote that the character following it is meant to be a command rather than a letter to be displayed. Somewhere in iOS code, this may break the platform’s ability to connect to any WiFi network completely. Fortunately, simply resetting the phone’s network settings puts things back to normal.

That original bug could only be triggered if the user tries to connect to such a WiFi network, something that most should avoid in the first place, even without this bug. Unfortunately, this second exploit doesn’t even need any user interaction. According to the same security researcher who publicly disclosed the first bug, even being within range of a network named “%secretclub%power” is enough to lose all WiFi functionality and the ability to connect to WiFi networks.

The iPhone can still be fixed, but it isn’t as simple as resetting network settings. One has to either reset the phone entirely or restore from a backup if one is available. One can actually still try to back up their iPhone while in this state, but they must also manually edit the backup’s network list to remove the offending AP name.

The first iPhone WiFi bug was more of a nuisance that awaits careless users. This second, however, is a severe security bug that can be exploited by anyone with control over a WiFi router or hotspot. So far, Apple has remained silent on the matter, but this new bug could push it to at least acknowledge it and promise a fix soon.

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