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136. Setting Up Your New Router

By Andrew D. Wright

For people on highspeed Internet connections, having a router (pronounced row-ter, with row sounding like cow) is a very good idea.

It not only enables you to connect more than one computer to the Internet at the same time, it also protects your computer from network-based attacks, being scanned for open ports and functions as a hardware firewall, the best kind.

Routers come in two main types, wired and wireless. With a wired router, every computer is connected using a network cable between the router and the computer. Wireless routers make a connection to a computer with a wireless network card using radio waves. Both kinds of router can be purchased for well under $100.

The first thing to do with the router is to connect it between your highspeed modem and the computer. Locally there are two highspeed Internet providers that you can use a router with: Eastlink, which does not require a login to use, and Aliant, which does. Consult your router documentation for how to set up the connection.

Login to your router and change the default router password. Use something that is not easy to guess for a password, at least eight characters.

Once your router is on the Internet, look up the router make and model on the router manufacturer's web page and see if there is new firmware for your router. Firmware is the basic set of instructions that tell your router how to work. These days, breaking into routers from the Internet is one way criminals can get access to your computer. Firmware updates close the security holes that the bad guys can exploit. Installing new firmware is easy to do; usually it just requires you to download and run a program.

If you are setting up a wireless router, there are some choices to make. You can secure the connection or leave it open, so anyone can use your Internet connection. While sharing is a virtue, this is not really a good idea since you are liable for what your connection is used for. Having an open connection means that someone can anonymously use it to do bad things, such as downloading kiddie porn, and you would be the person that law enforcement goes after.

Most new wireless routers will support three encryption protocols: WEP, WPA, and WPA2. WEP is useless, since it can be broken into within minutes by anyone who can use Google to search for how to do it. Use WPA2 for the best security. It is supported by all newer wifi network cards and is built-in to Windows Vista and Windows XP Service Pack 3. Windows XP Service Pack 2 can support WPA2 with the KB893357 Hot Fix from the Microsoft website installed. Macintosh OS X computers running version 10.3.3 or better with AirPort Extreme network cards also can use WPA2.

When putting in a passphrase for the WPA2 key on the router, the best security would be to use at least twenty random characters.

Routers will assign your computer an internal private network address. They will also allow you to direct specific ports to particular internal network addresses. If you want to make a port invisible so it cannot be used, simply direct that port number to go to an internal private network address that is not being used by any computer.

Suppose your computer's internal network address is and you want to block port 113 so nothing can use it. In the router control panel, point port 113 to go to, presuming that there is no computer using that address connected to your router. Something on the Internet trying to scan that port would get no response.

Check for open ports on your computer for free at the Shields Up! link:


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Originally published 18 July 2008


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