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Routers

Routers provide a hardware firewall between your computer and the internet.

If you pay for broadband or dial-up, our internet provider may not supply you with a router as a subscriber, they may just supply you with a modem.

This will allow you to connect to the internet, but doesn't provide any security.

This becomes all the more critical with an 'always on' broadband line, so we advise strongly that you get a router. 

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This becomes all the more critical with an 'always on' broadband line, so we advise strongly that you get a router. 

They don't cost a fortune these days, and are relatively easy to install and set up. You must check whether you will be connecting through your modem or through an ADSL router.

A normal wireless router will only provide you with a wireless network, it won't allow you to connect to the internet unless you connect your modem (if you have one)

If you don't have a modem, or you don't want to use it because you only want one box not two, then you'll need to buy an ADSL wireless router.

These have a built-in modem, and provide everything you'll need to get going.

You can buy routers here: UK ADSL Wireless Netgear Routers and here: USA DSL Wireless Netgear Routers

We really like the Netgear brand for their reliability and simplicity.

Below, we've given a quick guide to the most important areas to configure.

The simple guide to safe router use:-

1. Change the default username and password

Log into your routers setup page (following the instructions for your particular router), and change the admin username and password.

Make it something difficult to guess for greater security, or for a really strong password, use a password manager, like 1Password.

Don't leave a copy of your password written on a post-it note on full public view.

If you don't change the passwords, anybody can get into your router and take it over.

2. Turn on WPA wireless encryption

All modern routers allow for wireless encryption. You must change this to protect your wireless signal and prevent unwanted users logging on and using your internet connection.

WEP is an older encryption and is not as secure. Please check that all connected computers have the capability to use WPA encryption

3. Change the default SSID and make it invisible

All routers will be configured with a default network ID. Change this to one that is personal to you, and then turn off SSID broadcast. This means the router won't automatically show your network to somebody searching for it. This also means that your own computers won't find your network, so you may have to enter it manually on each computer on your network that is searching for your wireless. This should not be relied upon as a security measure on its own, but more as an additional security measure. Hiding SSID will only thwart the most casual of snoopers, but would easily keep a neighbour out if they weren't tech savvy.

4. Enable the firewall on the router

All modern routers will have a Firewall option. Some are disabled by default (straight out of the box) so please check that it is enabled.

5. Don't manually open any ports unless you have to

Opening ports on your router, opens the 'door' to potential hackers, but some software won't work unless a specific port is open. There are so many routers and pieces of software out there, that it would be impossible to list all the options.

6. Do not auto connect to wireless networks

Please check that your computer, particularly your laptop, doesn't automatically connect to any wireless network, as you'll have no idea who you are connecting to and what they might be doing with their network.

Remember, trust nobody.

7. Turn off UPnP 

Universal Plug & Play potentially leaves an opening to your network, so disable it unless you need to open it for a specific program, for example Back To My Mac

8. Turn off your router when you are away for long periods

When you are away on holiday, (or if you're really paranoid, out for the day), turn off your router and computer, and therefore negate any chance of somebody getting into your network when you're not around to look after it.

You'll also save on your electricity bill and be more eco-friendly!