The Need for Basic and Advanced Router Protection
In 2011, a man in Buffalo, NY was woken around dawn by pounding on his door. Before he could climb out of bed, the door was broken down and a handful of armed police were swarming inside. He was handcuffed and told he was being placed under arrest for child pornography. The man, however, was entirely innocent of this crime. Police and computer experts took all of the computer equipment from his home, as well as all of the family’s wireless devices, and found nothing. What was going on? The explanation begins with one thing: the absence of router protection.
Essentially, the man in NY had failed to use the most essential router protection tactics, and because of this, illegal downloads of illicit images were traced to his IP address. Unfortunately, it was someone within range of the family’s router who had illegally piggy-backed on the signal and used it to break the law. Fortunately, the authorities were able to analyze all of the IP addresses used by the actual criminal, and triangulate his location in the heart of the neighborhood.
This is an extreme illustration of the threat of inadequate router protection, but it is not an isolated one. Many people run into trouble when someone in the neighborhood behaves like a parasite and uses their signal to surf and download as they please. Not only does this gobble up available bandwidth and performance issues. It is also guilty of slowing down the speed at which the valid users can access the internet, and creates all kinds of security threats.
Without proper, or even basic router protection, you could expose yourself to this list of potential problems. This is why the matter of protecting your router begins with you, and is your responsibility. It is not the ISP (Internet Service Provider) nor the actual router itself that should be expected to do this; it is you, and we can help you learn the best methods to employ.
The Need for Basic and Advanced Router Protection
To begin with, router protection is not built into the devices. Routers have firmware (or software if you like) and hardware, but nowhere in their design are they meant to block “leeches” from hopping on to your signal, or from harmful data or code coming into the network from the internet. These are fortifications that are in your hands.
The basic steps in router protection include things like turning of the broadcasting that even allows someone to know the signal is there. For instance, if you click on your computer’s networking panel, it is going to show you the names of the available networks, and most of them will not be yours. If you opt to disable SSID broadcast in the router’s settings, it is a solid step towards router protection.
You must also use password encryption. Leaving it open and without a password is like an open invitation to trouble. As one expert writes:
“There are very few reasons for the average home and small business user to not encrypt wireless signal with WPA2 security.”
Use MAC filtering — All routers require unique MAC configurations, and if you enable MAC filtering, it requires you to register each MAC device to access the network.
Reconsider Guest Networks
This is an area of debate, but it is one way to reduce risks and create basic router protection. Your router may have arrived with pre-designed guest networks. This is a stock network, and it is very easy for someone to figure out the default passwords and illegally use your signal. You may want to limit access only to those who know the private key to the main network.
Apart from these basic steps, and knowing how to navigate to your network’s status page to see just who is using the network at all times, you can make your router impenetrable by using the more advanced router protection tactics below.
Advanced Tactics to Consider
Did you know that most computer network security experts suggest that all consumers toss the routers supplied to them by their ISPs and instead purchase business or commercial grade routers? These are without the long list of vulnerabilities that seem to appear in almost all of the consumer models. From easy backdoor gateways into routers to failures in firmware updating systems, consumer models are just too risky, and investing in your own WiFi/Ethernet router at a commercial grade tends to bring many threats to an end.
Of course, one of the savviest methods of creating flawless protection for a router is to use a modern gateway device. This is one that is capable of monitoring all traffic in and out of the network.
As a simple illustration of this, the man in the news story mentioned at the opening of this article could have effectively blocked the criminal by using a gateway device. A good gateway device, such as the CUJO, would be capable of understanding how all of your devices use the network, including the router. Machine learning ensures that no misunderstandings occur and that no “red flags” are missed. Should any device behave in a way that is unfamiliar or unrecognized, it can alert the owner.
So, if the router that had never had a specific user or device receives some sort of request for access from that unknown user, it tags it as suspicious, blocks any access and secures the network.
It is incredibly sad that the technologies we can use to make our lives easier, more efficient and often safer are being exploited by criminals looking to do everything from steal our bandwidth for their illegal activities to stealing our identities by gaining access to our networks. Router protection is a huge part of keeping yourself safe from such behaviors. Begin with the simplest and most effective changes in your router’s settings, invest in your own commercial-grade router, and even consider using two separate devices for modem and router to make your home even more secure. Then install a gateway device that acts as the ultimate firewall and protector, and you should have no more problems or worries about security.