Consumer Reports finds important differences in ability of routers to safeguard consumers from hackers

Yonkers, NY — Consumer Reports (CR), the nonprofit organization, today announced the first privacy and security ratings since the launch of the Digital Lab, a major initiative to expand CR’s work on privacy, digital security and emerging issues in digital consumer protection. CR tested 29 routers and found important differences in how routers – even those from the same brand – protect consumers.

Consumer Reports technician Eddie Carl tests a wireless router.

“Routers serve as the gateway to all the connected devices in our homes, which makes them a target for bad actors looking to compromise a network and steal personal data,” said Robert Richter, head of privacy and security testing at Consumer Reports. “That’s why CR’s evaluation of router privacy and security is so important. Consumers should know where they might be vulnerable, and how they can protect themselves.”

While a handful of routers build in important safeguards, others lack basic security protections, including allowing for weak passwords that wouldn’t be accepted by many websites. Of the 29 routers CR tested, eleven let you use passwords that are too short or simple such as “12345678.”

In addition, 20 routers don’t protect against multiple failed login attempts, which means a determined hacker could try passwords over and over until breaking in. Eleven do not support automatic firmware updates or notify people when it’s time to update the firmware, forcing consumers to check for and implement updates to protect against the latest malware.

“Many of the problems we found were simple but meaningful, and they should be easy to fix,” said Richter.

CR announced the launch of the Digital Lab in June, thanks to $6 million in initial funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies. The Lab will scale CR’s product testing, research, reporting, and advocacy efforts to address some of the most critical issues of the digital age. By expanding the testing of smart products, apps, and other digital services, the Lab will ultimately investigate data collection across every category of products and services that CR evaluates and serve as the hub for CR’s efforts to improve connected devices and advocate for strong consumer protections.