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Secure your router

Recent research indicates that about 80% of the best selling routers have serious security flaws. Routers are rapidly adding many new features. They want your router to be accessible from the Internet and to provide all sorts of services. Sadly, these features are usually security challenged and frequently open your router to all sorts of foul play. I recently purchased a highly regarded high end consumer router to give my home the best WiFi reception possible. This router has been out for 2 years, but in the last 7 months it has had 5 firmware updates fixing over a dozen security flaws, as well as over 30 other bugs. Some improvements were added as well. So what do we need to do?

Changes to the default settings

It used to be that I could disable Remote control and Universal Plug and Play and the router was fixed. Then I had to add disabling WPS to the list. Now I suggest disabling all Cloud services unless you are specifically using them. For my new Asus router I disabled: AICloud; FTP Sharing; USB File Share; Itunes Server; DLNA; Cloud Disk; smart sync; VPN Server; remote management; Upnp and WPS.

Of course, you must change the default password, and use an good strong WiFi WPA2 passphrase. Should you want guests using your network, you might want to set up a separate guest network with a weaker passphrase.

Firmware updates?

I will help you with this as it is not easy or simple. I suggest getting your model number and checking your firmware version and then the firmware updates available for your router. As I said, despite buying a brand new router, out of the box, 4 newer firmware versions with 50 improvements and fixes were available for my router when it arrived. So check and see if your router's manufacturer has made firmware improvements you should have. If they haven't done anything important, or they fixed things you don't use and have turned off, then skip it. Firmware updating is risky, so don't do it unless it yields important benefits.

Have a way to get back

Before doing your firmware update, you want to make sure you have a way back. On rare occasion, but frequently enough to plan for, a firmware update will fail in such a way that the router is unusable. Therefore, your manufacturer will have a way to get back to before you made the "improvement", that stopped your router from functioning. My Asus router came with a CD which has a program on it to revert back to the previous firmware to recover from a firmware update problem. Other routers make you save the current firmware somewhere so you can re-install it. Be sure you understand the process for you router. This may require "reading the manual". Sorry, sometimes it is unavoidable.

Now do it

Sometimes you will download the firmware update, often in a zip file. Unzip it, and point to it when asked to do the firmware update. Somewhere in the Administrative or Management section. Sometimes, they will automate the process for you. Just be sure you can get back and do it when you have some time to spare.

As always, I'll be glad to help you with this.

Further reading

You can do some basic testing of your router by using GRC's ShieldsUp test.

Date: August 2014

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