Networking computers in the home has become a straight forward process, connect computers to a router and connect the router to a broadband modem. Periodically will be necessary to make modifications to how router operates. Even if it is to secure a wireless network to prevent unauthorized use of Internet service that one pays for. Adding other devices such as game consoles or VOIP adapters to the network to allow for online play will require configuring the router to allow communication with the outside world. It would be simple if all these devices could just communicate without any other intervention, but if it would make things very insecure. Configuring a router to allow these to get online isn’t difficult in fact it’s just as easy as opening your favorite web browser and entering in an address.
Instead of entering in an address of a web site it is the IP address of the router that needs to be typed into the address bar of the browser. Different makes and models of routers have slightly different IP addresses that open up the router configuration pages. The documentation that comes with any router will tell you what IP address to enter to access the configuration pages. If the documentation for the router is unavailable then finding the IP address is easy too. Go to the start menu and select Run and enter in cmd in the box and click the ok button. In the window that appears type in ipconfig and press the enter key. A list of network parameters is shown. The IP address of the computer you are using is shown and beside where it says Default Gateway is the IP address of the Router.
The first thing that needs to be done when accessing the configuration utility is that a logon user name and password needs to be provided to prevent unauthorized changes to the configuration of the router. Routers come with a default user name and password set by the manufacturer. Very few actually bother to change the logon password which is something that is highly recommended to increase security especially for operators of public computer networks.
Now What Do I Do Here?
Setup Internet Connection
The first thing that can be changed using the configuration utility of the router is how the connection is made to the Internet. The most popular and the default setting is DHCP assignment. This is where the broadband provider sends an IP address automatically to the modem. Virtually all cable providers and the vast majority of DSL providers use DHCP assignment. The other choices static IP, this is where the provider sets an IP address in the modem and customers' computers are set to use that IP address. PPPoE is still required by some DSL carriers, this is where a user name and a password have to be entered before going online to authenticate the user. Consumer network routers can accommodate PPPoE logons.
One of the changes that people need to go into the router configuration to set up is wireless security. Without any security set up on a WiFi router, the router is broadcasting an Internet connection that anybody can use for free. The freeloading can often lead to slow performance if the freeloader is using any kind of peer to peer downloading with bit torrent. A free loader could also use somebody’s Internet service for illegal activities such as exchanging child pornography. Wireless security using WPA encryption closes WiFi networks to freeloading. With wireless security people are faced with choice between WPA and an older wireless security standard called WEP. WEP should be avoided at all cost because it is easily cracked and still permits people with a little technical knowledge to freeload. Some devices like portable video game systems still only support WEP for online gaming. If only computers are going to used wirelessly then it’s WPA that must be used.
Universal (Un)plug and Play
One of the settings that is supposed to make it easier for network devices to work through routers is the Universal plug and play. What makes it easy for devices to get access through a router also makes it easy for those malicious intentions to get access to your computer. From a security standpoint it is best to leave Universal plug and play disabled. There are better ways to provide Internet access to devices that need it without exposing your data to unnecessary risk.
Opening and Closing Ports
To get game machines or PC games online then often it will necessary to open a port. To understand the need for opening ports an understanding of what ports are is needed. IP ports are the communications channels of the Internet. Just like the channels on a CB radio. Viewing web pages uses port 80 and sending an e-mail is done on port 25. Normal Internet traffic that typically comes from computers is trusted by the router any non-typical traffic that comes from games or game consoles is treated as suspicious and is not allowed through. When ports are just left open they are open for not just games and other applications that need to have ports open, open ports can be used by hackers to exploit your computers(s) for their own purposes.
Many brands and models of routers have the capability of giving unrestricted unfirewalled access to the Internet to a single device on the network. While it maybe easy to put a computer into the demilitarized zone to get access to online games, it’s open to every hacker, worm, other malicious software designed to pull sensitive data. Putting a game console system in the demilitarized zone may provide easy Internet access for online gaming maybe easy, however it will be necessary to dedicate a static IP address to the game console to ensure that if the router reassigns IP addresses that it’s the game console that stays in the demilitarized zone and that computers that get dynamically assigned IP address stay out of the demilitarized zone.
Many newer routers no longer support blanket port opening or demilitarized zones. The way for games or other special applications to get access to the Internet is through port forwarding. Older routers also support forwarding. Port forwarding takes data coming in on a certain port and automatically directs it to the IP address of the computer or other device that needs it. Port forwarding is considered to be the most secure way of providing connectivity to games and other special applications without risking other computers.
Setting up and configuring networks used to be a daunting task even for the experienced computer network engineer. Modern home network routers making changes to provide greater security or to give devices on the network special access privileges to the Internet is no longer a complicated task.
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