The computer and the router are located inches apart in my study.

An Ethernet cable connects the router to the roof antenna.

The antenna talks to the ISP, 5 km distant.

I know from experience a hacker can access the router with ease.

The question is, can the hacker access traffic anywhere along the route between the antenna and the ISP?


Short Answer Yes.

Long Answer It really depends on the technology being used to talk to the ISP if it's 802.11a/b/g/n it's super easy and won't be expensive and doesn't require specialized RF knowledge. If it's some other type of RF the attacker would have to have a special antenna, software and some extra knowledge but it's not impossible by any means. If they sniff your traffic they will only see unencrypted traffic unless they were to setup a MITM scenario. If that were the case any time you would visit a site using SSL (https) you will get a big red browser warning.


  • Get your ISP to run some cable to you (not likely)
  • Go to another ISP (meh)
  • Use a VPN service. This will encrypt all of your traffic up to the VPN providers server. Just google "VPN Providers" you can usually find one that less than $50 for an entire year.

Other things to worry about

  • If you're using a wireless router monitor your connections daily make sure no one has broken in. Even with WPA2 it's not impossible to hack and most newer routers have WPS for "Convenience" and that it is, for attackers too because there's a big backdoor built into it.

  • Attacks from the internet. Keep your router updated, check your logs and connections regularly.

  • Thanks Psudeo. "unless they were to setup a MITM scenario. If that were the case any time you would visit a site using SSL (https) you will get a big red browser warning". Can you elaborate on that? – Edwardo Jul 12 '13 at 14:43
  • "If you're using a wireless router monitor your connections daily make sure no one has broken in". Tools? – Edwardo Jul 12 '13 at 14:58
  • @Edwardo MitM = "Man in the Middle" - essentially an attack where the attacker sets up his system so that it appears to you that it is i.e. your bank's website, while appearing to the bank's website to be you. He will have tricked your computer & the bank's server into sending all traffic through his system and performing the encryption with keys he has access to. However, unless he has compromised your computer, this will likely cause your browser to generate warnings about the authenticity of the bank's website. – Iszi Jul 12 '13 at 14:58
  • @Edwardo Iszi gave a good description of man in the middle. I'll add mine too. The attacker tricks your device into thinking that the attackers device is the ISP then tricks the ISP's device into thinking the attackers device is your device and all traffic will flow through the attacker. Because the attacker wants to access more than just routing data he needs you to accept a self signed certificate so he can decrypt the traffic. When you accept that cert (most people do just blindly accept it) he can see everything. – Four_0h_Three Jul 12 '13 at 15:30
  • @Edwardo for monitoring your connection there is usually a management interface on the router. You can usually open a browser and put the IP address of the router in the address bar to get to it. I'm assuming you haven't done that already, I would strongly suggest doing that and changing the administrator password. Once you're in and have the password changed just explore the different options on the router and see what you can see. – Four_0h_Three Jul 12 '13 at 15:33

They can access the contents of the transmission as they are transmitted if they can get an appropriate type of radio where there is signal. For wifi or wimax, it wouldn't be very directional and thus wouldn't be too hard to pick up, even with a fairly directional antenna. For microwave, it's pretty direct line of site, but would still be able to be picked up if they can get in-between the transmitters.

If the data is encrypted in transit (which it should be) though, then the damage from this may be rather limited. Most cable and fiber optic connections use passive fiber splitting and aren't significantly more secure than wireless since the signal from the central office is shared with numerous customers and only a simple filter in the cable modem keeps the traffic from being delivered unless they are employing encryption on the transfer.

The big thing would be to ask your ISP if they use encryption between your location and their main office. Obviously if you are using your own nested encryption (such as HTTPS) then you are protected by that regardless. A VPN would also protect you across the link if they don't encrypt the link.

  • does the ISP do their own encryption, or encryption via my router. Which? – Edwardo Jul 12 '13 at 18:33
  • For the link, the ISP would have to do the encryption because they would need to be able to decrypt it on their end. If they don't, you could use a VPN that would allow you to encrypt it on your computer or at your router and then it would be decrypted at the VPN exit node. – AJ Henderson Jul 12 '13 at 18:36

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