Router 101 - How best to stay safe online

Router 101 – How best to stay safe online

–Your router is the first line of defense in keeping your home network safe–

The dark side of the Internet is getting worse every day…ransomware, malware and viruses. This list could go on and on. I know this very well. For nine years I protected a billion-dollar multi-national company from network intrusions.

The wrong router, a poorly configured router or a router running older, compromised firmware can grant easy access to your home network…to your ham radio computer(s) and to all other computers and connected devices on your network.

It recently came to light that my old router, a TP-Link, was no longer secure and hadn’t been for some time because its firmware had been compromised. But TP-Link was downplaying the problem after security researchers called them out. TP-Link for whatever reason was resisting updating its flawed router firmware.

I decided to go on a mission to replace my TP-Link. A tried high end models from Linksys, TRENDnet, Buffalo and Asus-Google. Here are my results:

LINKSYS:  Initially looked good. It runs a full version of DD-WRT firmware. For those of you who love to tinker, DD-WRT firmware is the way to go — you’re not dumbed down with your router manufacturer’s basic firmware which lack many useful security, privacy and performance features. But DD-WRT takes quite a while to understand and I suspect most hams would be turned off with the learning curve. The feature I liked the best was its automatic firmware update feature. Keeping any router updated is absolutely critical, however most router manufacturers are slow to update and when they do it’s a nightmare to update your router. However, there was a huge problem with the autoupdate feature — it didn’t work reliably.

TRENDnet:  My experimentation with the TRENDnet didn’t take long. When I tried to update the router with its latest DD-WRT firmware update, the router bricked; i.e. it was still operational, but I could no longer access its configuration webpage. I did a factory reset, but it wouldn’t reset.

BUFFALO:  I thought this router could be a dark horse winner, but it didn’t measure up when it came to wireless range. I’m against bridging routers or trying to use WiFi extenders — can get trickly and even end up slowing down your network.

And the winner is!

ASUS-GOOGLE OnHub:  Let me get the cons out of the way first — then on to why I like it so much:

  • It looks funny.
  • You can’t access it via your web browser. You must use a smartphone app — free iOS and Android apps are available.
  • You must have a Google email account. This actually improves the router’s privacy and security. Other routers are too easily hackable via common direct username and password exploits.
  • It only has one Ethernet port. Not a problem for me because my network comes together via a Netgear 16-port gigabit Ethernet switch (a great bang for the buck, by the way).

None of the above cons phase me a bit.

PROS:

  • By far it’s the easiest router to set up and configure that I’ve ever encountered.
  • Given its secure design and method of access, privacy and security excel.
  • No touch firmware. It automatically updates itself.

Asus Google OnHub http://amzn.to/2m6DCZM

  • The smartphone app user interface is child’s play — so easy to manage. Not cryptic in the least.
  • Wireless range is excellent — better than my previous three external antennas TP-Link router.
  • For really large homes add more OnHubs to create a mesh network.

I couldn’t be happier with my Asus-Google OnHub router. My quest for the best router is now officially over. Highly recommended.

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