Hi everyone, I'm Jake Harris one of the new team members who will be carrying on Westfield Insurance's Information Security Blog. I thought I'd take a second and share with you a recent issue which I've seen quite often.
I recently had the chance to work on a friend’s computer. (Actually it was a fair trade; I'll fix your computer if you can watch my daughter for a few extra minutes) The first thing I noticed was a little black box connected directly to their computer. I asked "Don't you have a router?” The response was "sure do, it's down in the garage with the other wood working tools". I laughed as I've heard that one more than once in my travels. But from a more serious point of view a router is a very handy piece of technology, not to mention component of securing a home network.
I'll take a few moments to explain (no not in great detail, unless you ask me for them) what a router is, why it really makes sense to get one, and how simple they really are to use.
What is a "Router"?
Well a router is a rather complex device if you start talking about all the cool things they could do in a corporate network, rather from a home network point of view a router is a device which acts as a protective gate between your home network and your internet connection.
Think of it like this if:
· A computer with a password is a locked building
· Antivirus software on a computer is a security guard patrolling that building
· Your home network is like a parking lot connecting all of the buildings
Then a router would be a protective fence surrounding your parking lot with a gated entrance. The gated entrance is only going to let something in if it is welcome or allowed to come in.
The technology used to make this happen is called NAT (Network Address Translation), basically what that means is the router is the actual computer that gets a "public" address or “dirty” address, and then the router provides each home computer a "private" address. The router is usually very secure from an internet point of view, so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged.
Why should I get a router? I don't have a parking lot, or security guards?
No, most people probably don't have parking lots or security guards, and I wonder to myself why, well point blank they can't afford it. But a router is cheap, usually less than $50, and if you can afford that type of security for your home network maybe you should get it, not to mention you can connect multiple computers at one time to the internet and use wireless.
You just said they are complex, are you sure they are simple?
In short companies which make home routers have done a great job of making them simple to install in a home network. In many cases all you have to do is:
· Open the package
· Plug power into the router
· Plug your internet connection into the Internet port on your router
· Plug your computers into the private ports on your router
· Reboot your internet connection device (simply remove the power, wait 5 seconds, and plug it in)
And you’re ready to surf once again.
A few thoughts on keeping your router safe:
· Change the administrator password
· Update the firmware every few months or as available
· Backup your router’s configuration
All of these tasks should be documented on a CD or paper that comes with your router.
Will a router fix all your worries, well a short answer is no. Anti-virus, Anti-spyware, updating your software (patching) and safe web surfing practices are just as important, however a router is still an important component of keeping your home computer secure.
Well I hope my thoughts reached someone out there and made them a little more secure. Looking forward to hearing about other’s thoughts and experiences, even if you want to tell me about that great new router you just bought or a vote for a next topic.
Thanks for reading,