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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SOHOware NetBlaster II Wireless Hub
Author: Tim Higgins Review Date: 3/22/2001
- Amazingly easy setup!
- Have to buy a client card to set up "hub".
- 50% throughput decrease with WEP enabled
One RJ45 10BaseT Ethernet
printed Quick Installation guide
printed User's Guide
25 foot UTP Normal cable
100-240V Power supply
Two external dipole antennas
Hardware reset button
The NetBlasterII 802.11b wireless products are probably the closest
thing to wireless plug and play that I've run into yet!
But there is a catch...
The BlasterII had the fastest and easiest wireless setup that
I've experienced with any 802.11b product, but I was a little
confused at first. Since I've installed many an Access Point,
I opened the box and read the printed manual, looking to
see if the BlasterII "hub" (it's really an Access Point
or 802.11b to Ethernet bridge) was administered via a Windows
application, or a web interface. I found that there was
nothing I could do to set up the "hub", except plug
in power and connect it to my Ethernet LAN. The configuration
of the "hub" would be done when I installed a LAN client.
Yup, that's right, you must have a SOHOware BlasterII client
card (either PC card or PCI card) if you use the BlasterII "hub".
This took me aback at first, since I tend not to like restrictions
on what I can and can't do, but I said, "What the heck, let's
try it their way.." and pressed on with the install.
I installed a PC card client on my Compaq 1650/ Win98SE laptop,
and ran the BlasterII Utility setup program, and after answering
one question about the BlasterII "hub" ID, I sat amazed
as I typed a URL into my browser and it came up! I was wirelessly
connected through the BlasterII "hub" to the Internet
via my Ethernet LAN! No trying to guess the IP address of
the AP, no wrestling with ESSIDs, just fast and simple connection!
I even moved the "hub" from one router to another in
my test network and all I needed to do was do a DHCP Release/Renew
on my wireless laptop and I was connected again to the new subnet!
You can use NetBlasterII client cards with other manufacturers'
802.11b products, and you can use other manufacturer's 802.11b
clients with the NetBlasterII "hub".
The default ESSID of the NetBlasterII is its MAC address, which
is printed on a label on the bottom of it. But I just
entered "ANY" as the ESSID when the Utility asked
me and I connected just fine.
The BlasterII Utility sits in the System
Tray. Right clicking on it lets you jump directly to the
different parts of the utility or a regular click will
bring up the Toolbar shown below. Holding the mouse
pointer over the Tray icon gives you the link Quality
and the icon turns from green to red when you lose network
The four icons stand for the Adapter Properties,
Connection Quality and Traffic Monitor apps, and Wireless
I didn't find the Connection Quality (shown above) or Traffic
Monitor very useful (the Monitor vertical scale was too large
and not adjustable), but the Properties windows were very nice.
You could access everything you needed to from them, with no rebooting
needed for changes. (Click on the shots below for a full-sized
The BlasterII supports 40 bit WEP encryption, and you can
set four keys, either directly as 10 Hexadecimal characters each,
or automatically generate the keys using a "passphrase".
There's also a "Quick" Encryption method, which the
manual says "utilizes a simpler encryption method to offer
security without sacrificing data throughput speed". I saw
throughput differences among the three modes, which I detail below
in the Performance section.
Since you can only administer the "hub" via a wireless
client, I approached testing the different WEP modes with caution.
I expected to get disconnected from the "hub" as soon
as I changed the client Encryption mode. Not to worry!
Changing the client's Encryption mode disconnected me from the
network as expected. But changing the mode in the "hub"
properties window (with matching keys), automatically rebooted
the "hub" and changed the Encryption mode on the client!
All I had to do was wait until the "hub" came back
on-line and I was connected with the desired Encryption!
not to like?
Sadly, with all the great ease of use that it has, the NetBlasterII
isn't perfect! As is all-too-common among inexpensive Access
Points, the BlasterII comes up short on network monitoring capabilities.
You have no way of knowing:
How many clients are using the network
the MAC or IP address of clients
the state (active, roaming, etc.) of clients
The Traffic Monitor provides some info about network
performance, but doesn't provide any statistics on dropped packets,
You also can't control access to the wireless network
by blocking/allowing MAC addresses, and can't do any packet filtering
to control the services that users can access.
I used netIQ's free QCheck utilityto check the NetblasterII's wireless performance. Tests
were done using an NetBlasterII PC card as
the wireless client, and a Windows PC connected to the "hub"
as the other LAN client. Here are the results:
Comment: Although the Condition 3 &
4 Transfer Rate numbers look good, the connections were marginal
(signal quality of around 13%) and sustained transfers would
probably feel slow.
Enabling 40 bit Encryption caused about a 50%
throughput hit, but the Quick Encryption method really seemed
to live up to its description of causing little speed degradation.
SOHOware could have a real winner on its hands with the NetBlasterII.
They really have made installing a wireless network almost
as easy as just plugging in the pieces! If the Win2000 and
Me installs go just as smoothly as my Win98SE install, and they
keep their pricing competitive, the other guys better watch out!
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