May 23

The low-down on home routers – how to buy, what to avoid

Ever had the experience of not realizing you’re a subject-matter-expert until someone brings up a topic on a mailing list and you find yourself uttering a pretty comprehensive brain dump about it? This happened to me about home and SOHO routers recently. So I’m repeating the brain dump here. I expect I’ll get some corrections, because at least one of my regulars – I’m thinking of Dave Taht – knows more about this topic than I do. But here goes…

If you’re looking to buy or upgrade a home router, I’ll start with some important negative advice: Don’t go near hardware with a Broadcomm chip in it. The current too-weak-to-thrive threshold for router hardware is <4MB flash or <32MB RAM; if you buy less than that your forward options will be seriously limited. And most importantly: Don’t trust vendor firmware! Always reflash your router with a current version from one of the major open-source firmware stacks.

If your prompt reaction is “I ain’t got time for that!”, then the Romanian, Bulgarian, and Russian cyber-mafias thank you for your contribution to their bot networks and promise they won’t do anything really bad with your router. But they will sell control of it to the highest bidder, all right.

Yes, it’s that bad out there. You’ll understand something of why by the time you finish reading this.

Continue reading