Most routers ship from the manufacturer with a default password built-in. The password is easy to guess and may be omitted entirely to give easy first access to the router settings after purchasing it.
A router password isn't the same as a Wi-Fi password. The former is the password needed to access the router settings, while a password used for Wi-Fi is what guests need to access the internet from your house.
The Default Password Is Well-Known
It's recommended to change the password after you get in the first time. If you don't change the password to your router, then anyone with access to it can change its settings and even lock you out.
This is a similar idea to a lock on your house. If someone buys your house but never changes out the locks, your keys will always have access to their home. The same is true with your router: if you never change the key or password, anyone with knowledge of the password will be able to access your router.
New routers typically come with a default admin password that's easy to guess and remember. Default router passwords are written in manuals so that if you have trouble setting up your router, you can refer to the product manual to find the default password.
We compiled these default router passwords here by manufacturer: Cisco, Linksys, NETGEAR, D-Link.
Hackers Can Access the Network in Seconds
The router password is well-known and easy to access and is therefore designed to be changed. If the password isn't changed, an attacker or a curious individual who comes within the signal range of an unsecured router can log in to it. Once inside, they can change the password to whatever they choose, locking you out of the router and effectively hijacking the network.
The signal reach of a router is limited, but in many cases extends outside a home, into the street, and possibly into the homes of neighbors. Thieves may be unlikely to visit your neighborhood just to hijack a home network, but curious teens living next door might try.
Leaving your network open to anyone because you didn't change the default password is asking for trouble. At best, invaders could change your Wi-Fi password or set up alternate DNS server settings. Worse case, they ultimately access your computer files, use your internet connection for illegal purposes, and introduce viruses and other types of malware into your network, affecting its computers and devices.
Change the Default Router Password
To improve the security of your Wi-Fi network, change the administrative password on your router, preferably after installing the unit. You'll need to log in to the router console with its current password, locate the settings to change the router password, then choose a new strong password.
If you have the option to change the administrator username (some models don't support this setting), change it, too. The username is half of the credentials necessary for access, and there's no reason to make a hacker's job easier.
Changing the default router password to a weak one like 123456 doesn't help much. Choose a strong password that's difficult to guess and hasn't been used recently.
To maintain home network security for the long term, change the administrative password periodically. Some experts recommend changing the password to the router every 30 to 90 days. Planning password changes on a set schedule could help to make it a routine practice. It's also a good practice for generally managing passwords on the internet.
If you tend to forget passwords, especially those you use infrequently (and you probably won't be logging into your router very often except to change the password or make a new Wi-Fi password), write it down in a safe place—not next to your computer—or in a free password manager.