Update your home router

OK, this is really  not what I normally natter on about in my posts, I usually focus on commercial and enterprise goodies like O365.  BUT, this is important!

Most consumer grade routers (DLink, Netgear, Linksys, Belkin, et al) are built with relatively poorly secured firmware based on a Linux kernal.  The manufacturers do a pretty lousy job of properly closing security holes in the firmware and, as a rule, don’t release many, if any firmware updates for a given model.  The upshot is most users of consumer grade routers are sitting behind a much-less-than-perfect firewall and enjoy a false sense of security.  There has been much written about the problem and there is lots of information out there on the ‘Net about how easy it is to breach many of these devices.

One of the simplest steps you can take to protect yourself and your home systems is to replace the factory firmware with a “trusted” replacement firmware such as DD-WRT (there are others, a good list is here).  The whole point of a firewall/router is to deny access to your systems by unscrupulous third parties; replacement firmware such as DD-WRT patches the holes that are discovered by various security-oriented researchers and ensures that your router actually is doing what you expect it to do – keep the bad guys out!

Many of the replacement firmware distributions also expand the control you have over your router and many include features like enhanced wireless control (eg giving you the ability to control TX power settings) which is a nice little bonus.  I recently upgraded my home Linksys WRT54G2 router (yah, yah … I’m cheap and the old Wireless-G girl serves me just fine) with DD-WRT and the process was pretty painless.  I now see features somewhat akin to those I see in my work and customer Sonicwall’s and I now have somewhat better wireless signal penetration in the house then I did before the upgrade (I love the power settings!!).  Best of all, a bunch of security holes that existed with the factory firmware are now permanently closed.

A WRT54G (or any other consumer router, for that matter) and DD-WRT are NEVER going to be a direct replacement for a commercial-grade router/firewall in a commercial setting BUT it can be a damn fine combination for use in a home setting.  More capable consumer hardware (my WRT54G2 is relatively lightweight from a hardware perspective) can do a lot of interesting things with DD-WRT or some of the other distro’s so you can create a pretty secure and sophisticated home router if you are so inclined.  But whether or not you are looking for an extended features list, I urge you to check out the distro’s that are available and overwrite the factory firmware that is on your router.  It is “cheap insurance” that is well worth the bit of time that it will take you to upgrade your router.