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An Insider's Look at Routers: Purpose, Configuration, and Security
A router is a networking device that allows the routing of data packets between computers. It allows the connection between computers as well as the sharing of hardware (e.g. printers), files and applications. It also serves as interface between the network and the internet. Routers often come with built-in firewalls to prevent outsiders from gaining access to a user's computer.
A router can be connected to a laptop by using an Ethernet cable or wireless connection. But, having to use a cable defeats the whole purpose of using a laptop; therefore, laptop users should choose a wireless router. (The next section lists "Top Routers for Laptops.) A wireless router is a convenient and, obviously, popular choice among mobile users, also because nowadays, portable routers are much smaller in size and can be easily fit in a laptop bag.
Routers are configured by logging in to them. This is not too difficult of a task as a set of configuration instructions will come with the chosen product. Just follow the router's manual to set up and configure it. Need more help? Take a look here to see "How to Connect Your Laptop to a Router." To see if your router is properly configured and connected to the network after the installation, you may want to test the router.
Advice: Make sure to enable your router's encryption to provide an additional layer of defense for your Wi-Fi network. Use either WEP or WPA encryption. Also, make sure your router is secure by changing the default network name and password.
Note: The advice from Guard Private & Online Security presents the following steps that can maximize the security of a router.
- Buy a router with secure Wireless Encryption (WEP)
- Password protect access to the router's configuration
- Change the Default Service Set Identifier (SSID) for the router
- Disable the SSID broadcast on the router's configurable software
- Enable the Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering on Wireless Access Points (WAPs) and routers
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Top Routers Offering Security
When choosing a router, decide what it is you need: Wireless or Portable?
Top Wireless Routers
- Cisco's Linksys E3000 is a high performance and secure Wireless-N Router. It has four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a firewall based on Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI), Network Address Translation (NAT) technology, and wireless security encryption in 64- and 128-bit versions. It can also support RADIUS server authentication and Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering. It's available from the manufacture for $159.99. If you are planning on choosing this router, click here to see a "Cisco router firewall configuration."
- The D-Link Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit Router (DIR-825) has excellent security. It has parental controls as well as the ability to provide guests access to the network. In addition, it uses SPI, NAT, and MAC. It does however lack RADIUS server authentication. But, it does support Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) encryption, the strongest encryption available. It's available online for approximately $120.
Top Portable Routers
- Cradelpoint's Wireless N Portable Router is a small and secure router that implies SPI, NAT, and WPA. It enables a laptop with a VPN client to create a secure tunnel to corporate networks. It's available at Amazon for $52.99.
- The 802.11N Travel Router 300MBPS N Travel Router is a lightweight device with the following security features: WEP / WPA Preshared Key / WPA RADIUS / Powerful SPI Firewall / NAT / WMM based on the Quality of Service (QoS) standard. It's available at Amazon for $49.99.
- The Windy31 USB-Type Portable Wireless Gateway is an USB type Wireless Broadband Router that combines a wireless LAN card and wireless AP (Access Point). It's available at Amazon for $34.99.
- The D-Link Wireless-N Pocket Router/Access Point (DAP-1350) is a perfect for Wi-Fi users as it is small enough to carry with them while traveling. It's available at Amazon for $79.01.
Advice: Users should check out the "2011 Wireless Routers Review Product Comparisons" to find other top routers.
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Add Security to Your Router
Once a router has been chosen, you will need to take a few additional steps to increase the security of your network:
- Check your router access list to provide traffic-based security. The access list gives you control on who is able to access and connect to your router (and then network); it allows you to restrict traffic through the router’s network interfaces.
- Use Login/password points to provide user-based security. This helps keep unauthorized users from accessing network devices
- Install a program like the Router Audit Tool (RAT) to improve router security. (Download RAT from the CIS home page at http://www.cisecurity.org/.)
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Overview of Network Security - Security: http://www.devshed.com/c/a/Security/Security-Overview/1/
Best Broadband Routers for Laptops: http://www.laptop-security-pro.com/best-broadband-routers-for-laptops.html
The Best Wireless Router... How To Maximize Security: http://www.guard-privacy-and-online-security.com/best-wireless-router-security.html
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos - Computer Network (by jscreationzs)