Pragmatic Security Tips To Protect Routers And Networks In 2012 And Beyond

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Tips to how to secure your router and network in 2012 and beyond.  These tips are pragmatic, and so it’s most likely that you may be able to apply these tips onto most routers and network setups.  Unfortunately, even though these tips are pragmatic in details, sometimes the tips here won’t be any useful for you if you have older routers or your network setups are too unique and special.  Let us get on with the tips.

In no particular order, the tips to secure your routers and networks are:

  • Change router’s default password for the administrator username/login.  Make sure the new password is a lot harder than the default password.
  • Change router’s default passphrase for your wireless network.  Make sure the passphrase is strong enough.  It’s best to throw in at least 50 plus characters string.  Also, don’t forget to include capitalization letters, numbers, and special characters (i.e. signs) in your 50 plus characters string passphrase.
  • Make sure to disable UPnP feature within your router.  I’ve heard hackers can exploit this feature.  To be safe than sorry, I guess you should turn this feature off if you don’t have the need for it.
  • Make sure your router’s firewall is turning on and filtering inbound and outbound traffics.
  • Make sure your router has MAC address filtering turns on and allowing only Mac addresses of machines on the list to access network.  Of course, you have to know hackers can still spoof MAC addresses easily, therefore this is not 100% hacker proof.
  • Disable DHCP feature or limit the DHCP IP address range to amount to how many physical machines you have and want to connect to your network using DHCP protocol (DHCP IP addresses).  This way, if an undesirable person wants to use your network, he or she might not be able to get a lease of DHCP IP address from DHCP server which runs on your router, therefore he or she cannot use DHCP IP address to access your network.  Keep in mind that he or she can just assign himself or herself a local static IP address and connect to your network anyway.  Nonetheless, this method might prevent script kiddies from acquiring DHCP IP address from using hacker tools.  Still, there is no guaranteed DHCP might prevent hackers from just running another script which automatically demands a static local IP address.  If you turn off DHCP, you might prevent hackers to exploit DHCP weakness/exploits, and so you can disregard DHCP exploits for your router.  Turning off DHCP also encourages you to enter a local static IP address for each computer’s network configuration, therefore you might prevent a specific computer from automatically connect to your router; in a way this method helps preventing a specific computer of yours from automatically connecting to a fake access point, because hackers can use a special router which can emit an even more powerful wireless signal, overwhelming your wireless router’s signal and encouraging a computer to connect to the wrong/rouge access point which hackers have controlled of (i.e., man in the middle attacks).
  • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature, because this feature is weak against hackers’ brute force attack which exploits a weak secure PIN authentication process (i.e., this feature reveals too much information on PIN authentication algorithm while authenticating a device).  Nonetheless, this feature might be patched by the routers’ makers in the near future, but to be safe than sorry it’s best to disable it until you really have the need to use it and it has been patched.
  • Enable WLAN Partition if you are paranoid about your network security.  This feature prevents wireless devices to communicate with each other.  Why is this feature useful in securing your network?  Imagine if a hacker can insert himself in your network with a wireless device, he or she might not be able to hack another wireless device of yours if the network disallows the communication between wireless devices.  Unfortunately, this feature might prevent you from sharing files and data between your wireless devices.  One example is iTunes home sharing might not work on wireless mac laptops.  Therefore, if you need to have your wireless devices to talk to each other, then you should not enable this feature.  Otherwise, it’s an awesome feature for enhancing your network security.  Let not forget, if an elite hacker has hacked into your network, he or she might also have control of your router, therefore this feature in the end might be useless if a hacker can change the router’s settings at will.
  • Turning on several log features within your router.  Logs will help you trace back to strange network traffics, requests and errors.  Perhaps, logs can even tell you that you’re getting hacked.  Of course, elite hackers might have way to not trigger your router to log their hacking activities.  Therefore, this feature is just one more layer/tool for you to protect yourself against hackers.  This feature might slow down your router though, because it’s logging network traffics.  So, if your router isn’t equipped to log heavy network traffics, then you should turn this feature off.  It’s all depend on a network situation and the capability of your router really.
  • Enable Access Control.  This feature is useful only if your router is able to allow you to add two types of rules that matter most, and these two types of rules should be made available at the same time, so one rule is enhancing the other rule in security measures.  First rule should be disallowing all other machines to connect to your network.  Second rule should be allowing only the machines with the IP addresses listed in Access Control’s IP table to connect to your router/network.  Of course, you should note that this feature will enable a default blocking feature which might prevent your machines to access dangerous websites and so on, therefore some websites you might want to access will not be accessible.  Also, your router may allow you to add additional websites to be blocked, consequently enhancing the security measure for Access Control feature.  Some routers even go as far as allowing Access Control feature to block certain network ports, but I don’t think this feature is necessary.  After all, your router’s firewall should be blocking all incoming requests and ports.
  • If your router isn’t connecting to your ISP through DHCP protocol, then you should add a trusted but more secure DNS IP addresses of third-party/trusted/secure DNS providers.  One good example would be DNS IP addresses of Google Public DNS service.  Another good example would be DNS IP addresses of OpenDNS.
  • Update your router’s firmware to the latest firmware.  This way you can prevent hackers from using known firmware exploitations that specifically target your router’s firmware.
  • Reboot your router sometimes or add a schedule reboot for your router if your router has this capability.  This way you can actually clear up the router cache and might prevent your router from storing what hackers have uploaded to your router.  I don’t think that it’s yet possible for hackers to be able to permanently make change to your router in regarding to what the router could store and so on.  Therefore, when you reboot your router, your router clears up the cache in its memory and so everything within your router should work as how it was.  Reboot a router can be done in two way.  One is to do a soft reboot which requires you to log into your router’s administration panel and reboot it this way.  The other way is just to pull the electrical adapter which powers your router off the electrical outlet, forcing the router to reboot and reconnect to your ISP.
  • You might also want to disable the SSID broadcast.  When you disable this feature, your machines might not be able to connect to your router using DHCP protocol.  Nonetheless, as long you know how to connect to your router manually using static local IP addresses, then you should be fine.  Of course, you have to remember your router’s SSID name and enter the router SSID onto your machines correctly before your machines can talk to your router.
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