Table of Contents

"From The Wall Out" -- part 3 of 3

The Original Article: From The Wall Out

To Keep Reading: Computer Security

Modems

Step One:

Connect your laptop or desktop to the modem’s output port via Ethernet cable.

This is a setup guide for a standard modem to router network configuration. Bear in mind that some newer hardware may combine these two functions into a single device. Use inference to determine which steps are not applicable in such situations, and always consult the user manual.

Step Two:

When accessing sensitive settings such as your modem dashboard, first open a private browsing session. Next type in the modem’s IP address or manufacturer specified link. You can find this info on the specifications label and in your user guide.

Step Three:

Use the default username and password to access the settings dashboard. Again, consult the label and the manual.

Step Four:

Change the default password, and if possible, the username. Annotate the new info and store it securely. Default settings are the primary means of maliciously tampering with a modem.

Step Five:

Unless you have a specific need for it, turn off remote configuration. If you must leave it on, attempt to narrow access by using MAC addresses. If possible, obtain and add the device MAC authorized to use the remote access point, ensuring to disable all other avenues. Keep in mind that remote access is the other main security risk for modems.

This concludes the modem setup and hardening procedure. You may still wish to tweak a few settings, but the primary security risk is now alleviated. All that remains is monthly maintenance, which consists simply of logging in with your new password and installing any available updates. Hardware setup is pretty simple, right? Don’t worry, routers aren’t much harder than this. Let’s dig into it!

Note that some modems receive their updates from your Internet Service Provider automatically. Check your user manual or online documentation to identify if your modem has this feature.

Routers

Step One:

After powering up the router, use an Ethernet cable to connect your laptop or desktop to the router. Since many modern computers no longer provide an RJ45 port, you can opt to connect to your newly created wireless network to continue setup. Simply locate the default password to get started.

Be aware that some of the initial steps for the router setup will feel redundant if you just finished your modem. They should feel more natural at this point, and you can pick up your pace if you so desire.

Step Two:

Using the base IP address or the provided URL, navigate to the router configuration page in a web browser. Just like you did with the modem, always consult the user guide or specifications label for details. Be sure to use a private (incognito) browsing session for extra security.

Step Three:

Login using the default router username and password. Note this combination will be different from the access password of the wireless network. This distinction is very important to remember. (Learn more)
Upon accessing the dashboard, immediately change this info and copy it down. Store your new credentials in a secure location away from the router itself.

Step Four:

If your router has a firewall option, turn it on. It is not an all-in-one security solution, but it will help. Any feature that makes your hardware more secure gives your more peace of mind and adds to your overall network strength.

Additional Router Hardening

Consider limiting the number of allowed devices to a reasonable number. For example, if you currently have 9 devices on your network, set the allowed number to 15, and leave room for growth while still reducing risk.

Unless you actively use the guest network, disable it. If you choose to leave it turned on, make sure you change the password for it.

DHCP protocol is the standard of router management. You will likely find it defaults to this setting. This gives the router the ability to automatically assign IP addresses to new devices. If you are extremely worried about security and want full control of your network, you can choose the manual option which requires you to log in and add each new device.

If the router has an automatic reboot option, utilize it. This allows your router to clear out unnecessary data in its cache, and it resets your device connections. Naturally, this helps to reduce the malware risk.

If you so desire, some routers allow for the adding of devices, which can be done manually using their MAC addresses. If you choose this option, it requires the most work but is also the safest option for setting up your home network. In this configuration, no device can join without its MAC address being added to the list.

The key to easy modem and router setup lies in having fun and discovering new features. Explore the hardware settings, learn what you can, and don’t be intimidated. Use a search engine to explore options that seem confusing. Or even better, reach out to me via email and I’ll be happy to answer your questions. May you enjoy happy and safe networking!

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