You surely have a lock on your front door. Do you have such a lock on your network? Though you may think so, but it may well be wholly unlocked. Or at least, you may not be able to know for certain that it’s locked. If you use a commercial Wi-Fi router from your ISP, or one of the big names like Linksys, Belkin, DLink et al, your network may not be as secure as you think.
At the outset let me state that, as someone who reads hereabouts, you’re no dummy. You’ve taken steps to ensure that the router doesn’t still have the default admin password. You’re using modern encryption on your Wi-Fi. You’re being responsible, but there are things beyond your grasp.
The simple fact is that the firmware the runs most retail, commercial routers is closed source. As such, you have no ready way to verify it’s behavior. Yet, the manufacturer, by virtue of necessity, uses various common software modules to create their firmware. They may even use some open source modules, but end up with an closed source binary in the end.
The upshot of this reality is that you have a very small team of developers responsible for maintaining the code. That means updates come along slowly, if at all for older devices. By extension, serious security issues get addressed slowly, if they ever get addressed at all.
When last we left this story our protagonist had returned the Cisco AP to BUY.COM leaving le maison du Graves without functional wifi for about two weeks. Fortunately I was out of town a lot during that period so it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. If anything it gave me some time to evaluate my options regarding replacement gear.
I’ve noted that whereas I had a lot of problems with 802.11n type wifi APs I’d previously had far fewer issues with 802.11g type hardware. Very recently I was reminded by someone who should know that 802.11a/b/g is more mature hardware than 802.11n. This certainly rings true as my very old Linksys WAP-54G ran for literally years with no problems at all.
There are myriad inexpensive consumer routers available that include wifi functionality, but far fewer freestanding wifi access points (AP.) I surmise that this is because every broadband connected home needs a router and wants a wifi AP, so a converged device is the most affordable approach to this marketplace. Yet in many ways it’s less than ideal.
The fact that your router and wifi access point are in one device makes that device a major possible single point of failure. It dies and your entire network goes down. While merely inconvenient for the kids coming home after school to play World Of Warcraft, it’s a whole different kind of failure if you’re a full-time home office worker who relies on internet access to be effective in your job.
This is part 2 in the continuing saga of my fight with replacing a dead Netgear WNR-2000 that had served a my wifi AP. Please recall that I just RMA’d the Cisco WAP4410N that was to be its replacement.
Firstly, I think that I was a very early adopter of both residential broadband and wifi. Linksys was the obvious leader in devices for this market. I bought a Linksys WAP-11 when they were brand new and fairly pricey. I wired it into my trusty Linksys BEFSR-41 4-port wired router. That device was fed by a Time-Warner Road Runner cable modem back in 1998.