Monday, April 23, 2018

Routers In the News

[Breaking news: FBI tells router users to reboot ... ]

Here at the Country Bunker high atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, we take our router responsibilities very seriously. Anyone reading this blog is undoubtedly doing so through one or more routers at the local level and then many more across their ISP's network, the upstream internet provider and so on. Modern, sophisticated routers make the worldwide web and internet possible. We are not talking about the kind of router that cuts wood, plastic or laminates, but rather this: Router (computing).

You may be thinking, "I don't need to read about no stinkin' routers." And "Doesn't my internet provider send a reliable, secure router when the service is installed?" Unfortunately, this is rarely the case as these companies are motivated by profitability and the bottom line. Robust security is expensive to maintain and technology moves at a rapid pace as does the potential threat environment. Companies usually provide equipment or agree to support a bring-your-own device that they can support for years and years; they are familiar with the "firmware" (software that runs the router) at a specific revision level and unauthorized updates in their eyes are unsupported when it comes time to troubleshoot a problem with your internet connection or voice-over-IP phone system. Some of them refuse to reveal the root user or administrative password to the end user and maintain control of settings and firmware level in that fashion.

Here we turn to the recent revelations concerning security breaches on hundreds of thousands of commercial routers across the internet, apparently perpetrated to demonstrate flaws in the router software. These are industrial-strength devices so imagine what has, can and could be done to the inexpensive garden variety ones used in most homes. Like most people, I had purchased a home router from the lowest cost source I could find, set it up quickly and then (mostly) forgot about it. I did think to change the default administrative password and name the wifi network something obscure. I disabled the guest network too. Every so often I would check for a firmware update but there hasn't been one from Netgear for this model in years, a common failing of mass market products. More recently I had trouble getting a networked music server to work and thought about upgrading to a router with business features and advanced configurations. Highly publicized router exploits were a strong motivation to upgrade as well. The one I settled on is manufactured by a company that specializes in wireless equipment, a Pepwave Surf SOHO purchased online from

The installation took a couple of hours and nearly everything is back. That one hinky system has always been hard to configure so I will have to dig into the manual and figure it out. Used a Pepwave installation checklist with my own "secret sauce." Stay tuned for the gory details!

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