Want Better Security on the Internet Without the Hard Work? Try DD-WRT

Want Better Security On The Internet Without The Hard Work? You Should Try DD-WRT

Each year, computer hardware manufacturers align their designs more closely to the open source technologies. When a piece of hardware is open source, it’s firmware doesn’t need to come from the manufacturer. It can come from an open source firmware project.

Open source firmware projects have traditionally focused their efforts on network routers more than any other kind of hardware. This is understandable, considering that network routers are an important link to the open sharing of knowledge. DD-WRT is one of the most common open source firmware options for networking routers. Scores of Linksys routers, for instance, are able to run on DD-WRT firmware.

How did open source DD-WRT networking router firmware get started?

DD-WRT comes from a complex history. It got started when Linksys began to use open source Linux as the basis of the firmware it made for its routers. Since Linux is open source, users are required to make the programs they write on it open source as well.

The open source firmware Linksys made became popular enough that it was picked up by a number of other organizations, DD-WRT, being one of them. Soon, the project gained life of its own. Other router manufacturers began to pick it up to use on their own routers. Today, there are many open source firmware movements for networking routers with names like Tomato.  DD-WRT has the most support, though.

Why on earth do you care about using different firmware?

When your network router’s firmware is open source, it has the greatest computer minds from all over the world working on every possible security flaw and correcting it. Proprietary firmware never gets this kind of attention. Many people throw away perfectly good routers because their manufacturers no longer support them with firmware updates. Old firmware can compromise security even more than poorly written new firmware. When it comes to well-written firmware DD-WRT closes every security hole. Nothing beats open source for security.

There are other great benefits to using open source firmware.

  1. Every router comes with a hardware firewall these days. These can be an important source of security. Unfortunately, router manufacturers often don’t pay much attention to the quality of their firewalls. Volunteer programmers, on the other hand, really care about designing quality firmware with secure firewalls.
  2. Every device that gets on the Internet needs its own IP address (it’s something like a phone number for the device). The old IPv4 standard that the Internet runs on today is quickly running out of possible unique IP addresses to assign to new devices. The answer is to move the world to a new standard called IPv6. Using open source firmware like DD-WRT, you can get your router to become natively capable of IPv6.
  3. DD-WRT is very customizable. If you’re a gamer, you can use your DD-WRT network router to connect your XBox to the XLink Kai gaming network. This wouldn’t be possible with any other proprietary firmware. You also get far more control over advanced features like QoS and DNS.
  4. If you need to establish a public access hotspot at your business, DD-WRT comes with built-in hotspot management. It offers features like client isolation, out of the box.

If you find DD-WRT interesting…

The first step is to find a router that supports open source firmware. Most major router manufacturers – Linksys, Buffalo, Netgear, D-Link and Belkin, among others – offer models that operate on the DD-WRT standard. Routers that use Broadcom’s chips usually offer the most DD-WRT flexibility.

Once you get a router with DD-WRT capability, you just need to download the latest version of the firmware from the DD-WRT website and then follow the instructions that come with your router to flash your router.

When you have your new DD-WRT firmware up and running, you’ll find that you get to customize your router in ways that were never possible before. You can overclock your router and schedule a regular re-boot for improved performance, among other things.

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