TP-Link to Block Open Source Router Firmware in the US

Popular network hardware manufacturer TP-Link have stated that they will be preventing their users from loading open source firmware such as DD-WRT and OpenWRT onto its routers sold in the United States as part of a move to comply with new Federal Communications Commission regulations.

The rule laid out by the FCC aim to limit the amount of interference with devices, by disallowing user modifications to wireless networking hardware that causes it to operate outside of licensed radio frequency limits. The FCC do not intend to deliberately ban the use of third-party router firmware from use entirely, theoretically allowing router manufacturers to permit the installation of this firmware provided there are controls in place that block devices from operating outside of their specified frequencies, power levels and types of modulation.

With locking out custom firmware being the easiest way to ensure the new FCC regulations were upheld, the open source community feared that this would be the action taken by manufacturers. In this case, they were right.

In all TP-Link routers produced on and after June 2, 2016, TP-Link’s changes will mean that “users are not able to flash the current generation of open-source, third-party firmware.” They also stated that “excited to see the creative ways members of the open-source community update the new firmware to meet their needs.” However, they did not provide any further information as to what would allow future versions of custom firmware to be installed on these routers.

Other router makers are yet to release explicit statements regarding their plans to enforce the FCC’s new rules on their routers would be, however, it is easy to imagine many taking a similar route. Even if custom firmware developers were to rewrite their software, there would be no real assurance that it obeys the restrictions without making the radio controlling software entirely separate so there can be assurance it was not tampered with.

FCC Could Ban DD-WRT and Wireless Router Mods

The US Federal Communications Commission is proposing new laws that will ban internet users from modifying setting and firmware on wireless routers, making particular mention of third-party open-source DD-WRT as a firmware to be outlawed.

Third-party firmware – such as DD-WRT, Tomato, and OpenWRT – allows users control over every aspect of a router, can compensate for security flaws with proprietary firmware, and support router VPNs. DD-WRT, a free Linux-based firmware, is a favourite amongst router modders, with manufacturers such as Buffalo manufacturing routers specifically to function with DD-WRT.

The FCC’s new proposals govern software requirements for Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) 5GHz band, calling for 5GHz devices to “be secured to prevent its modification to ensure that the device operates as authorized thus reducing the potential for harmful interference to authorized users,” and that manufacturers ensure that “the device is not easily modified to operate with RF parameters outside of the authorization.”

The footnotes of the proposal outline what the FCC considers weak router security, calling out “those that rely solely on the distribution of firmware in compiled binary form without any form authentication or verification between the device and entity sending the firmware. These implementations are typically susceptible to device ‘flashing’ with third-party firmware or software capable of operating the device outside of its authorization.” The document then lists rules that router manufacturers should abide by, including, “What prevents third parties from loading non-US versions of the software/firmware on the device? Describe in detail how the device is protected from “flashing” and the installation of third-party software such as DD-WRT.”

Do you enjoy greater security, firewall control, wireless strength, and VPN options in the US thanks to DD-WRT? Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thank you ExtremeTech for providing us with this information.

Linksys WRT1200AC AC1200 Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router Review

Introduction


Linksys is a well-known brand in the router business and it is a pleasure for me to take a look at their WRT1200AC router today. The WRT1200AC is a dual-band smart wi-fi router based around a powerful dual-core processor to provide great transfer speeds and reliability.

The design is a mix of a conventional box with a slight futuristic touch. It’s simple enough to please those who don’t want their router to stand out, yet it features enough distinctions for those who do want it to stand out. A great mixture of the two worlds and one that is striking similar to the WRT1900 router.

The front has individual LEDs for the WAN, LAN, eSATA, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections as well as one for the 2.4GHz and one for the 5GHz band. Each of the four gigabit ethernet ports also has their own LED to let you know what port is active and which isn’t.

The rear side features the aforementioned four LAN and one WAN port, all full gigabit to support modern faster than 100MB/s internet connections. The USB 3.0 port allows you to attach modern and fast storage while the combined USB 2.0 and eSATA port allows you to connect both legacy and fast storage. There’s both a reset and sync button as well as a dedicated power switch for when you want to turn the whole thing off.

The Linksys WRT1200AC has two high-performance antennas and supports beam-forming technology for the best possible connection to your wireless devices. Both bands work simultaneously like they should for combined N400 and AC849 Mbps connections.

The router has a lot of ventilation holes on both the top and bottom to ensure that the router is properly cooled even when tasked to the limits and when running in hot environments. The four large feet keep the router firmly in place and you don’t need to worry about it shifting its position even when a cable is pulled or plugged.

Inside the package you find everything you need to get going with a wireless Linksys experience, the router itself and its two antennas, an LAN cable to connect it to your internet connection, an AC/DC power adapter and manuals to get started with everything.

The WRT1200AC also comes with all the software based features you’ll want. The wireless signal is protected by WPA/WPA2 encryption and the unit comes with a built-in firewall, parental and guest control, as well as scheduling and more.

If you shouldn’t be happy with the Linksys system and rather have something more familiar, then your in luck. The unit is built to be compatible with the open source router software, OpenWRT.