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Category Archives: Networking

Netgear Nonsense

April 8, 2012

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a post. I’ve just been so busy lately that I don’t have the time. But right now I’d like to sneak one in. I must warn you though, it’s a little bit of a rant.

I was at my parents’ house on Saturday for Easter; it was spending some time with family and enjoying a nice meal. While I was mingling with everyone my dad told me about his new Netgear router he bought. Specifically a WNDR4000. Since he bought a new router and had to set a new wireless password, I would need the new password for my phone. I went downstairs to check out the router and see my dad’s computer (he also recently bought an SSD for the first time). He told me the password and I was able to connect a few moments later.

Then we started talking about networking and sharing files. Eventually the conversation moved to him needing to log into the router to see some information. He tried the typical 192.168.1.1 address but the browser would never seem to load the page; it would just sit there at a white screen, trying to load. We tried on a different computer and were met with the same result. I double-checked the address through ipconfig and it was indeed correct.

I thought this was ridiculous, but the “fun” was just beginning. I mean, he must have already been in the router if he had set up his wireless password, changed the SSID, etc. We consulted the manual which instructed us to navigate to routerlogin.com which would prompt us for credentials. Okay… I thought that was a little odd, and, to be honest, baffling. It doesn’t make any sense to have to connect to an external destination to access a local device.

But fine, we’ll go to the website to log in. Except the website wouldn’t load. It seemed to be down. They offered a second website, routerlogin.net, which did the same thing. We tried from a different computer and the same thing happened. I even entered both websites into www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com and both came back with a “It’s not just you!” response. I just checked the sites now and I’m getting the same result. Except now when I try to navigate to the websites they redirect to Netgear’s support page – no place to log in or enter credentials.

Okay so how the hell are you supposed to log into your router? Like are they serious? So if their websites go down or become inaccessible for some reason I’m effectively locked out of my router? How could no one recognize that this was a terrible idea?

So I decided to call technical support. I wanted to find out what their back up plan was (if they even have one) for this situation, and, admittedly, I wanted to rant a little bit to someone. Perhaps a manager or some other higher up would listen to the recorded call and see that this in an absolutely asinine idea, and then abandon it ASAP.

I was met by someone on the phone with a thick Indian accent – a sure sign of outsourcing to India. Please note I have nothing against India, Indians, or the Indian accent; however, as a Canadian customer it makes it even more difficult to convey my problem and to receive information. In any case, he proceeded to register the router, which took about ten minutes. He told me the case number for the call and said if we were to be cut off he would call back within 60 seconds.

Eventually we got to the point where I could tell him the issue, that we were unable to log into the router through the designated websites and if he could provide an alternative. Instead of giving me an answer or any kind of useful information he proceeded to ask me a bunch of useless questions. I informed him the Internet was working correctly and the router was functioning as expected. He ignored me and kept asking useless questions, such as am I using a desktop or a laptop, how many wireless devices do I own, or am I using XP Home or Pro.

I understand they need to know some information to troubleshoot, but this information is not going to help. After spending nearly 25 minutes on the phone I started to get frustrated, especially when he asked me what my ISP was, what my modem was, and what model it was. I mean come on, you’re asking every question except the ones that matter.

Anyway, after about 30 minutes on the phone we got cut off. Either that or he hung up on me. In any case we didn’t receive a phone call in the next 60 seconds or for the rest of the night. Later I went home and Googled the issue. Apparently I’m not the only person who’s had this issue (not surprised there). And I found out in some cases that the router redirects 192.168.1.1 to their websites. Absolutely unbelievable. I advised my dad to return the router if possible and to purchase another brand. I’m quite partial to D-LINK, but Linksys would be my second choice.

Posted in Hardware, Networking

How to Properly Secure Your Wireless Network

February 10, 2012

Wireless networks are ubiquitous technology; they’re everywhere. Anyone who’s ever lived in a dorm room, apartment building, or a tightly-packed neighbourhood will know how popular they are. And yet, most people do not secure them properly. They’re left wide open for anyone with a wireless device (which used to be just laptops, but now pretty much any smartphone or tablet is capable) to connect to.

Why?

Some may ask, “Why should I protect my wireless network?”, and the answer is very simple: because whoever connects to your network can do anything on the Internet that they can do somewhere else. What you’re mostly trying to prevent is some kind of illegal activity, and I don’t just mean file sharing. These malicious individuals are essentially using your identity to commit crimes on the Internet. Don’t be a victim to this.

In addition, if they’re able to connect to your network then they have access to all the devices on your network, including your PC and especially to any shared folders you might have. They can also use your Internet connection to waste your bandwidth, which might result in you receiving a much larger Internet bill. Lastly, since they’re on your network they can get to your router and if they get in there, they have 100% full control over your network and can block you from accessing the Internet.

Minimum

Your wireless network’s access point is the router. This is the device that all other devices on your network connect to, so this is what you need to protect. The absolute, bare minimum you need to do is to change the default administrator password on your router. Step-by-step instructions on how to do that is beyond the scope of this post, but there are dozens of tutorials online plus your router should come with a manual describing the procedure. Choose a strong password.

Note: this does not prevent anyone from accessing your network. It does however prevent someone from taking control of it.

The Basics

The first step is to choose a security protocol. WPA2 is what’s recommended. It has replaced WPA. Do not use WEP. Ever. It is not secure and can be cracked relatively easily. A simple Google search will reveal how easy this is. Again, choose a strong password; the security is useless if the password is easy to guess. Do not use the network’s name, your/siblings’ names, birthdays, etc. Instead use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. This is crucial. I want to stress that.

More Advanced Stuff

There are some more advanced methods to protecting yourself if you’re a little more paranoid or have very sensitive information flowing through your network. The next thing you can do is implement MAC address filtering. This limits the access to your network to individual devices, so even if they had your password, if they’re not on the allowed list, the person cannot connect. Note however that this isn’t bulletproof since MAC addresses can be spoofed (they would have to know what to spoof it to, though).

In addition to this you can stop your SSID (the name of your network) from broadcasting. In other words, the person would have to know the name of your network in order to even attempt to connect; in their list of wireless networks yours would be absent and they would have to add yours manually. Note that this method as well is not bulletproof.

Lastly, you can physically block the wireless signal using metal mesh (such as the material used for screen doors). Mold it into the appropriate shape and voila, you’re now blocking your signal from reaching say, the street, or your neighbour’s house. You may have to use more than one layer but it does the trick. Now the perpetrator has to be inside your house to get onto your network, which at that point your wireless network is the least of your concerns.

Protect Yourself

Protect yourself from becoming a victim of Internet crime, bandwidth theft, or simply being locked out from your own network or Internet connection. Take a few minutes to look into how you can secure your wireless network and you’ll thank yourself.

Posted in Networking, Security