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Securing a Network Router
By James Wise
posted April 20, 2009
TECH TIPS – Many people use routers to
create a network between multiple computers in the home and possibly
share an Internet connection between those computers. If you don’t have
one already, we’ll talk about the many benefits of a router and how to
set one up in future columns. Today’s column is really more for those
who already have a router because if you don’t follow a few simple
steps to secure your router, other people could gain access to your
network allowing them to possibly see your personal files or use your
All the things we’ll talk about today are done via the setup page of
your router. Generally, this is accessed by opening Internet Explorer,
Firefox or whatever browser you use and going to the address of the
router (typically http://192.168.0.1/ or http://192.168.1.1/). If you
need help accessing your router, the documentation that came with it
should provide this information as well as the default username and
password you’ll need to access it (if you didn’t already change this).
If you need further assistance though, you can often find helpful
information by going to the website of your router’s manufacturer or by
searching the Internet for help or you can email me.
Let’s assume that you have been able to access your router’s
configuration page. Unfortunately, the configuration page you will see
varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model.
So, no one set of screenshots or instructions can be given for all
users. If you can’t find where to do the things mentioned below, you
can again refer to documentation or websites or email me at
Note that some of the items below ONLY apply to wireless enabled
routers. If all of your computers are directly wired to your router,
you might not have a wireless router. If you have a wireless router and
don’t use the wireless part, you can use the configuration page (or
possibly a physical switch) to turn off the wireless radio. In this
case, you can skip the “wireless only” steps below.
Step 1 (wireless only) – Change the SSID (network name)
Most routers come with a default SSID or network name. This is the name
you see when you look at available wireless networks from your
computer. Normally this is something like LINKSYS, DLINK, NETGEAR,
etc... While not exactly a security measure, I would recommend changing
this name to something unique but not really something that identifies
you specifically (no reason for other people to know for sure whose
networks they might see). Sometimes, you might hear a suggestion to
“disable the SSID broadcast.” This can be done but generally this just
makes things more difficult on you when you want to add a computer to
your network and it doesn’t really make any difference in how secure
your network is (so long as you use option 3 below).
Step 2 – Change the “admin” password for your router.
Many manufactures use the same username/password for all their routers
and it’s generally very easy for someone to find this out. To avoid
that someone would gain access to your router and have the ability to
change settings (which could expose you to risk), I always recommend to
change the password to something only you know. Where possible, use 8
or more digits/characters for a password and use numbers, letters, and
one or more special characters (like “!”). This produces a very secure
password. I would also suggest to write that password down and put it
on a label attached to the bottom of your router. Note that I never
recommend a computer’s password is written down and attached like this
but for a router, I think this is fine.
Step 3 (wireless only) – Secure Wireless Connections
Many routers ship with NO SECURITY allowing anyone to use your router
if they are within range of it’s wireless signal. This would include
nearby homes but could even include people driving by your house. If
you have a wireless router, ALWAYS enable security. There are several
different security modes including WEP and WPA. WPA2 is the most secure
option you can use. However some routers and/or devices don’t support
it (especially older ones). WPA is also a good option if you can’t use
WPA2. WEP would be next in line. It is relatively secure but there are
ways to hack it if someone is determined to do so. Therefore I would
recommend to only use this if you have no other option. Keep in mind
that you’ll have to use a security level supported by all of your
devices. In other words, if everything you have supports WPA2 but the
wireless card on one PC only supports WEP, you would have to use WEP or
replace the wireless card or driver software of the problem computer to
support a higher level of security. When using any security option,
you’ll have to create a password for the wireless connection. Once
more, I would suggest to use the password tips under option 2.
Step 4 – Update the Router’s Firmware
Firmware is the software the hardware runs (i.e. the operating system
of the router). Often, there are firmware updates published for routers
to add functionality, patch problems, etc… If the configuration page of
your router allows you to check for and update your firmware, I would
suggest doing this every few months or so at least to stay up to date.
Occasionally people also suggest using “MAC Address Filtering” to
secure a router. Each network card has a unique MAC address assigned to
it and so in theory, you can use MAC Address Filtering to setup a list
of the authorized addresses of your equipment so that only equipment
you allow can access your network. Setting this up makes new
connections more difficult for you and most importantly, it is possible
for hackers to change the address of their cards to match an allowed
address so this doesn’t really offer good security. Therefore, I don’t
generally recommend this provided that step 3 above is used.
Lastly, if you are leaving home for vacation or something (extended
absence), I would generally recommend that you turn off your router.
Sometimes however, there are several reasons you might not want to do
this. For example, if you have cameras setup that you can access over
the Internet, you wouldn’t want to turn the router off. Likewise, you
might want to be able to access your home computer remotely or might
use VOIP (telephone over the Internet) that you don’t want turned off.
Do you have a tech question you would like answered or a program you
would like to recommend? Email
me at email@example.com. For
computer questions, please include your operating system version (e.g.
Windows Vista) and sorry, but I don’t do Macs.
Disclaimer: Software, tips, and links provided are used at the risk of
© Copyright 2009
original material is property of
EdgefieldDaily.com and cannot be reproduced, rewritten or redistributed
without the expressed written permission of Edgefield Daily.com
JAM Straight Customs
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