136. Setting Up Your New Router
By Andrew D. Wright
For people on highspeed Internet connections, having a router (pronounced
row-ter, with row sounding like cow) is a very good
It not only enables you to connect more than one computer to the Internet
at the same time, it also protects your computer from network-based
attacks, being scanned for open ports and functions as a hardware
firewall, the best kind.
Routers come in two main types, wired and wireless. With a wired router,
every computer is connected using a network cable between the router and
the computer. Wireless routers make a connection to a computer with a
wireless network card using radio waves. Both kinds of router can be
purchased for well under $100.
The first thing to do with the router is to connect it between your
highspeed modem and the computer. Locally there are two highspeed Internet
providers that you can use a router with: Eastlink, which does not require
a login to use, and Aliant, which does. Consult your router documentation
for how to set up the connection.
Login to your router and change the default router password. Use something
that is not easy to guess for a password, at least eight characters.
Once your router is on the Internet, look up the router make and model on
the router manufacturer's web page and see if there is new firmware for
your router. Firmware is the basic set of instructions that tell your
router how to work. These days, breaking into routers from the Internet is
one way criminals can get access to your computer. Firmware updates close
the security holes that the bad guys can exploit. Installing new firmware
is easy to do; usually it just requires you to download and run a program.
If you are setting up a wireless router, there are some choices to make.
You can secure the connection or leave it open, so anyone can use your
Internet connection. While sharing is a virtue, this is not really a good
idea since you are liable for what your connection is used for. Having an
open connection means that someone can anonymously use it to do bad
things, such as downloading kiddie porn, and you would be the person that
law enforcement goes after.
Most new wireless routers will support three encryption protocols: WEP,
WPA, and WPA2. WEP is useless, since it can be broken into within minutes
by anyone who can use Google to search for how to do it. Use WPA2 for the
best security. It is supported by all newer wifi network cards and is
built-in to Windows Vista and Windows XP Service Pack 3. Windows XP
Service Pack 2 can support WPA2 with the KB893357 Hot Fix from the
Microsoft website installed. Macintosh OS X computers running version
10.3.3 or better with AirPort Extreme network cards also can use WPA2.
When putting in a passphrase for the WPA2 key on the router, the best
security would be to use at least twenty random characters.
Routers will assign your computer an internal private network address.
They will also allow you to direct specific ports to particular internal
network addresses. If you want to make a port invisible so it cannot be
used, simply direct that port number to go to an internal private network
address that is not being used by any computer.
Suppose your computer's internal network address is 192.168.1.100 and you
want to block port 113 so nothing can use it. In the router control panel,
point port 113 to go to 192.168.1.250, presuming that there is no computer
using that address connected to your router. Something on the Internet
trying to scan that port would get no response.
Check for open ports on your computer for free at the Shields Up! link:
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email firstname.lastname@example.org or
click here. If we use your question
in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 18 July 2008