Tips for Securing Your Home Router
Seemingly minor and easily overlooked settings can still have profound security implications. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your wired or wireless home router — and by extension, your network — is as secure as possible.
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So you're tired of having to make sure that the computer that
is running your sharing software is up so that the kids can
game and IM to their hearts' delight. Or maybe you've
just gotten a broadband connection and have heard about these
little boxes that can help you to share your connection with
speed and ease.
At any rate, you've come to the right place to learn about
and select a Hardware Router, so let's get started!
Do I Choose?
First of all, why should you be considering a Hardware Router
when there are plenty of good software sharing programs for
less (or no!) money? Consider the following:
Higher throughput than most software + computer
solutions (especially Windows based)
Doesn't require a computer to be running
to allow access for other computers.
Reliable and runs without much, if any attention,
once you set it up.
Doesn't contain any files or software that
can be harmed, stolen, copied, deleted, etc.
Higher cost than using part of an existing
Still requires configuration.
May not support VPN or tunneling at all,
or may have only limited support.
May not support the applications that you
So you've read the list and your mind is still made up... you
want a router! Not long ago, you wouldn't have had much
choice for affordable Hardware routers. However, today
there are many choices under $200, and you
can frequently find good products under $100
via special offers and rebates.
Like any other product, the less expensive the price, the fewer
the features. If your needs are simple, you may be very
happy with the least expensive choices. Other factors,
however, can move you up the price scale.
What follows are some points to keep in mind when selecting
a router. Read them through and go to the Product
Guide. The Guide has a summary of specifications,
links to the manufacturer's Web site, links to our
Product Reviews, and links to our Opinion
feature. You can also get a side-by-side comparison of
up to four products. Or if you want to try to take the easy
way out, you can see what we recommend if you go
here. But you'll probably be happier with your
selection if you do your homework... so keep reading!
But I don't have a broadband
Even if you don't have a broadband
connection, sharing your dial up or ISDN Internet
connection can still be worth it! You won't
get lightning-fast page load speeds, but simple
web-browsing, emailing and instant messaging uses
the Internet connection intermittently. During
the time when you're reading a web page or email
that you just downloaded, someone else can be using
A number of broadband routers have
a serial connector on the WAN (Internet) side of
the router, where you can connect a dial up modem
or ISDN TA. You can find them in the Product
Guide by just clicking
Switch, or roll-your-own
One of the first choices you'll need to make is whether to look
for a router with a built in hub or switch.
If you have a busy LAN with heavy traffic between some of your
computers, you might be better off using a switch to connect your
LAN computers, instead of a hub. The switch will isolate
the busier network connections from the less busy ones and not
slow down computers trying to connect to the Internet.
Whether you add a switch or hub to your router, or buy a router
with either built-in, is just a matter of convenience and cost.
You can always add one if your otherwise perfect choice doesn't
have one. See this
page for the how-to!
If your BSP (Broadband Service Provider) uses either no authentication
method (not likely) or locks your service to the MAC address of
the Ethernet adapter in your computer (like MediaOne/RR),
you can use most any router. All routers provide some way
for you to find the WAN port MAC address that you'll need to give
your ISP when you install the router. Many routers now also
let you "clone" or set a MAC address and substitute
it for the factory-assigned WAN MAC address. If you're using
one of these products, you won't even have to call your BSP (Broadband
Service Provider) to give them the address. You just set
the WAN MAC address to be the same as the MAC address of the NIC
(Network Interface Card) that's on the computer that your broadband
service was connected to when it was installed.
If you are a RoadRunner customer and are using a Login
program, check with your BSP to see whether they use TAS
authentication. If they do, your router will need to support
it. Fortunately, most RR affiliates are phasing out their
use of this method.
@Home usually looks for a specific host name attached
to it. If you're an @Home customer, your router will need
to support a changeable host name. A router with the ability
to set the Domain name that its built-in DHCP server hands
out to LAN clients will also be handy, although this can be worked
around by manually setting it at each client.
Finally, the new kid on the Authentication block is PPPoE.
If your BSP is using this method, your router MUST support PPPoE,
which most now do. [If you don't know whether your ISP uses
this method, check this
Setup, and Upgrading
Remember that although these are "hardware" solutions,
they still require setup and administration. They
are not just "plug-'em-in-and-they-work"
All routers support the TCP/IP protocol and will provide Internet
connection for any flavor OS computer connected to it as long
as that computer can "speak" TCP/IP, which virtually
all OSes can.
BUT, some products can't be setup by non-Windows computers.
Others may not let you upgrade their firmware unless you have
a Windows computer. Be sure you check whether your prospective
purchase can be setup and upgraded with the computer that you