Wi-Fi not in use: Should I turn off router?

Many users fail to change the default password for their router, which gives hackers a chance to gain access.
Many users fail to change the default password for their router, which gives hackers a chance to gain access.ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

Reader Joyce Ng wrote in to ask for technical advice.

She said she had read that the Internet of Things means connected gadgets can be hacked, and added: "Wouldn't it be safer to turn off the router when I do not need the Wi-Fi?"

But her research has turned up conflicting information about whether it is okay to turn off the router - some said doing so would confuse the transmitter at the broadband supplier, while others said it was fine.

Tech writer Lester Hio cleared up the confusion.

It is fine to turn off a router when no one needs to use the Wi-Fi network. It just poses an inconvenience to users who want immediate access to the Internet, because they will have to wait a few minutes for the router to re-establish a connection with the modem and start transmitting the Wi-Fi signal.

Most modern routers will remember the settings that they were left on when they were powered off, so you will not have to set them up from scratch again.

The best way to protect a router from malicious software is not to turn it off when it is not in use, but to secure it with a strong password... using a strong password - which should ideally contain a mix of letters, numbers and symbols - will protect your router far better than turning it off and switching it back on with a default password that can be cracked easily.

There is also a difference between turning off a router but still leaving the power cable plugged in with the main switch on, and totally cutting off power to the router, for instance by turning off the main switch.

Totally disconnecting a router from power could cause it to reset, which means the next time it is re-connected and turned on, it will need to be set up again.

The best way to protect a router from malicious software is not to turn it off when it is not in use, but to secure it with a strong password.

Hackers can work very quickly and they will just strike when your router is turned on and unsecured, so turning it off does not mean your router is safe.

Hackers usually gain access to routers by attempting to log into them using the default user name and password, which many users do not change.

Hence, using a strong password - which should ideally contain a mix of letters, numbers and symbols - will protect your router far better than turning it off and switching it back on with a default password that can be cracked easily.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Wi-Fi not in use: Should I turn off router?'. Print Edition | Subscribe