Linksys EA6200 DD-WRT installation

Linksys EA6200 DD-WRT installation

I picked up a couple of refurbished Linksys EA6200 routers this past weekend. For whatever reason, DD-WRT isn’t officially supported on them, though it does seem to be a popular DD-WRT router. A lot of people make the upgrade far more difficult than they need to. With some simple hacks, Linksys EA6200 DD-WRT installation is pretty straightforward.

I came up with an 18-step process that I simplified just as much as I could. Unlike some methods I’ve seen, I don’t have you editing any binary files or creating custom startup scripts.

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You might need a new router

Do you need a new router? If your Internet is slow after upgrading to a faster service, and if your wifi range and reception is poor, or your Internet connection just generally misbehaves a lot, you might need a new router.

Even the New York Times, of all places, has published articles extolling the virtues of new routers. If your wi-fi at home is bad, they say, think about picking up a TP-Link Archer C7 router. I like the Asus RT-AC66U myself,  but in my experience, and the experience of my colleagues, a new router makes a huge difference.

When one longtime friend upgraded to a TP-Link Archer, he told me his wi-fi improved so much his wired network was suddenly struggling to keep up with it. That’s fixable. He’s a candidate for Gigabit Ethernet.

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How to use a router as a switch

How to use a router as a switch

Most of us have an old router like a Linksys WRT54G laying around, or if we don’t, it’s very easy to find one–the nearest garage sale or thrift store is a good bet–but sometimes all we need is a switch, to hook up a couple more computers or other devices to a wired connection. Using a router as a switch wastes some of its capabilities, but it’s easy to do. Here’s how to use a router as a switch.

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How to find inexpensive routers to run DD-WRT

How to find inexpensive routers to run DD-WRT

I’ve been using and recommending DD-WRT for years, but it’s getting harder to find inexpensive routers to run DD-WRT. Many inexpensive routers now use non-Broadcom chipsets that DD-WRT and other third-party firmware don’t support well, or at all.

But there’s still a way to get inexpensive, compatible routers that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

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More about Pfsense, the alternative to the crappy consumer router

I spent some time over the weekend playing with Pfsense, and I can’t say much about it other than it does what it says. I didn’t throw a ton of hardware at it–the best motherboard I have laying around is a late P4-era Celeron board, and the best network card I could find was, believe it or not, an ancient Netgear 10/100 card with the late, lamented DEC Tulip chipset on it. Great card for its time, but, yeah, nice 100-megabit throughput, hipster.

If you actually configure your routers rather than just plugging them in, you can do this. Plug in a couple of network cards, plug in a hard drive that you don’t mind getting overwritten, download Pfsense, write the image file to a USB stick, boot off the USB stick, and follow the prompts. Then, to add wireless, plug in a well-supported card like a TP-Link and follow the howto. Read more

Linksys routers are under attack, and here’s what you can do about it

A couple of my college buddies posted a link to an Ars Technica article about Linksys routers getting hacked. Sorry I didn’t find it myself, I’m prepping for a job interview. Excuses, excuses, I know.

Researchers have been doing this kind of stuff for at least a year, but now we’re seeing the bad guys do it. It was just a matter of time, because bad guys are going to attack whatever is easiest to attack, and consumer routers are direct-connected to the Internet and their security isn’t really all that much better today than it was when Linksys released its first router in 2000.

What’s worse is that two of the affected models, the Linksys E1000 and E1200, are no longer supported by Linksys. The answer is DD-WRT. Visit the linked page, type in the name of your router, check the version (it’s on a sticker), then load DD-WRT like you would load Linksys firmware. If you’re not comfortable doing it, a computer-savvy friend or acquaintance can do it in half an hour for you. I’m running DD-WRT on two routers myself, and put it on my mother-in-law’s router, and find there’s no comparison between it and anything any of the manufacturers are shipping from the factory.

Is its security perfect? Probably not, but it doesn’t even have the feature this exploit is using. And turning off undesirable features is the beginning of good security.

Kickin’ my wireless oldskool, WRT54G-style

I found a couple of old Linksys WRT54G routers and decided to load DD-WRT on them. The first one, an abandoned-by-Linksys WRT54GS model, gave me some trouble, which led me to buying a TP-Link unit to run DD-WRT on. The second unit, which was a vanilla WRT54G, still had firmware available on Linksys’ site, so the upgrade was somewhat straightforward–it went by the book, at least. I installed the latest Linksys firmware, then installed the DD-WRT mini build, then upgraded to the full build.

Linksys WRT54g obsolete
This Linksys WRT54G was one of the best pieces of computer hardware of its day. I can’t recommend it as a router anymore but it can still help you out as an access point.

After getting DD-WRT running on it, I configured it to behave as an access point on channel 6. I was surprised at how strong the signal was. Years ago, I ran a pair of WRT54G routers, and they struggled to cover the house. It’s possible that was due to age, or perhaps I was getting too much interference from my neighbors since we were probably all running our wireless on the default channel in those days because none of us knew better.

As for my WRT54GS, when I tried to upgrade it, I got a nice message stating, “Upgrade are failed!” Nice. Too bad it didn’t add “All your base are belong to us.” That’s when I learned you need to install the last Linksys upgrade first, then upgrade from that. So I downloaded that from some forum, tried flashing that, and received the same message. So I set it aside, figuring I bricked the unit. A few days later, after getting the WRT54G running, I fired up the GS, visited its configuration page, and… found DD-WRT running on it! Upgrade are failed? More like all your upgrade are belong to ME.

In all honesty, I probably got lucky. It’s always best to go by the book on things like this. Including the 30-30-30 reset.

The WRT54G is limited, of course, to 802.11b and 802.11g (54 megabits max) but as a complement to a more modern router, it still has a few tricks left. If you have one laying around, it won’t cost anything aside from about 30 minutes’ worth of effort to load DD-WRT on it and see what it can still do for you.

And if you don’t happen to have one laying around, it’s not hard to find a used WRT54G. I find them at estate sales, garage sales, and rummage sales pretty frequently because a lot of people set them aside when they either buy newer, faster routers or their ISP forces them into an all-in-one unit. Don’t pay too much for it, because it’s aging technology, but I’d say they’re worth grabbing for $5 or less.

Another day, another router backdoor

Ars Technica dropped this bombshell toward the end of the day yesterday: A backdoor in Linksys and Netgear (and possibly other) routers. The exploit works on a weird port, so it’s not remotely exploitable, nor is someone going to drop it with some crafty Javascript like the recent D-Link backdoor, but it’s not out of the question at all for malware to do a pivot attack. Here’s how it would work: Once a computer is infected, it could attack the router and infect it too, so that once someone disinfects their computer, the router could re-infect the computer at a later date. A router is a great place to hide, because nobody looks at it, and they have ample storage on them to exploit..

What can you do about it? Read more

The trouble with routers

I see the advice going around, again, to disable the Windows firewall and rely on an external router, the justification being that it makes your computer “invisible.” It doesn’t. Only IPV6 can do that–and then, only if you don’t use it for anything.

The trouble with that advice is that there are botnets targeting routers. Routers are nothing special; they’re small computers running Linux on an ARM or MIPS CPU, typically outdated versions with old vulnerabilities that can be exploited by someone who knows what to look for. One example of this is the Aidra botnet. Typically Aidra is used to attack outside targets, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility for an infected router to turn on and attack the machines it’s supposed to protect. And if you’ve turned off your firewall, then you have no protection against that.
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