Almost everything you read or hear about routers includes a sentence or two about router security. The focus is generally on this essential item as the first line of defense in an Internet-connected world. Many medium-sized companies and large corporations take this into account when they purchase and set up their electronic infrastructure. They are in a financial position that allows them to buy top-shelf equipment, including the best wireless router.
In addition, these companies have individuals on staff whose daily tasks include making sure the communications systems are secure. This work covers a number of important sectors, one of which involves making necessary changes to router settings. Unfortunately, the non-professional who relies on wireless units and must maintain a reliable Internet connection doesn’t always have the funds or the expertise to secure a home system.
If the router is part of a system providing limited personal email and online shopping, security may not be a top priority. It’s still important, of course, but hacking is generally not a major issue. This is not the case with a serious gamer who may look in the mirror and see a semi-professional. It’s certainly not the case with someone who is a professional working from home and relying on uninterrupted, and uncorrupted, connection to the rest of the world.
All of these individuals, amateur and professional alike, benefit from having the best wireless router they can afford. This can be a serious issue when an individual must purchase a router based on price alone. Studies have shown that many of the popular wireless routers purchased from a retailer’s shelf are vulnerable to a hacker with just moderate skills. In this study, research personnel found that all the routers tested could be “taken over from the local network.”
Eleven of the routers could be compromised from the WAN (wide area network). In a few cases, this action required “no active management session.” The test sessions were originally designed to include 10 of the most popular, off-the-shelf wireless routers. Management decided to expand this to the final 13, with the last three added being unique in certain ways when compared to the original 10.
The study focused on three categories, which included trivial attacks, unauthenticated attacks, and authenticated attacks. The first type required no human interaction, and three of the routers were vulnerable to a local adversary. The second category required some interaction by a human adversary. The same three were vulnerable. All 13 routers tested were found to be vulnerable to authenticated attacks, which required credentials be acquired or the attacker to use default router credentials.
This research was conducted in 2013, and while both wireless routers and security measures have changed and improved since then, buying the best wireless router is still essential. In fact, recent information from various sources still urge every user to take specific steps to ensure router security. One of the basic steps involves turning on the router’s firewall. While this is common among corporate tech professionals and knowledgeable semi-professionals working from home, it is sometimes overlooked by the end user working at home.
You may also want to look into establishing a virtual private network (VPN). This was much more expensive in years past, and was only used by some of the more successful corporations. However, it is possible to have your own VPN today, for a small fee paid monthly. When shopping for a quality router, find out if it supports personal VPN at router level. You may be able to gain protection without setting up VPN software on a computer.
Buying a top-shelf router with plenty of features is one of the keys to success in making a router more difficult to hack. But if you want to take security to the next level, you may want to consider using open-source firmware for your router. Experience show that these products are generally more secure than the stock software that comes with a router off the shelf.
An important factor in making open-source more secure involves the more-frequent updates accompanied by improved or new security options. With either stock or open-source, however, you should always take a few simple steps to enhance the security of your wireless router. Start with the administrator password and username, of course. You should also look into change the name of your network (SSID) and set the security mode to WPA2 (with a solid password). This may seem basic to those with more experience, but will be of great importance to the home-based amateur.
You don’t have to be an electronics wizard or a computer expert to shore up your first line of defense – the wireless router. Use a few simple steps, and if you’re still not sure, ask a knowledgeable friend for assistance. It’s that important.