With the rise of privacy infringement incidents in recent years, it is no wonder that more and more internet security experts are urging people to increase the protection they use when accessing internet.
What better way to do so than to install VPN on your home router?
Before jumping into this guide, it is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to familiarize yourself with the practice of flashing a router, as doing this step the wrong way may render it irreparably broken.
There are numerous resources on the dangers and best practices of this process, which can be found on the DD-WRT resource page.
1. Necessary Components
First and foremost, not all routers can be flashed, meaning that not all routers can support the necessary firmware that needs to be installed beforehand, in order to install a VPN program.
That said, there are plenty of routers on the market to choose from, and it is more than likely that the one you already own will be compatible. Some of the most popular routers on which you can install VPN are:
- TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900
- Netgear Nighthawk X8 R8500 AC5300
- Linksys WRT1200AC AC1200
- Asus RT-AC88U AC3100
- Cisco Linksys E2500
The second component you will need are the necessary firmware flashing files. These can be downloaded from the DD-WRT official website. Bear in mind that the files are only compatible with the specified router model, and trying to flash the wrong firmware will cause the router to malfunction irreparably.
It is for this reason that a certain degree of technical knowledge is necessary for this undertaking, as well as a solid deal of research on the subject. Before downloading the files, consult the DD-WRT resource page for more information about the dangers and benefits of flashing a home router.
And lastly, you’ll need to create an account on a VPN service of your choice and download the files that you’ll later used to install the software on your router. There will be a configuration file among them that will be essential for further setup steps.
2. Flashing the Router
We will be using Linksys WRT1200AC AC1200 as an example in this guide, since the DD-WRT firmware was made for a Linksys router to begin with.
The setup process is similar for any router and firmware, and the only relatively major difference is the UI layout of the said firmware. It is extremely important to familiarize yourself with the process as much as possible before attempting it, as a failed attempt will break the router, rendering it useless.
- The first thing you need to do is unplug the yellow ‘internet’ cable that connects the modem and router from the modem, and plug one end into your computer and the other into one of the ports on your router (not the ‘internet’ one).
- Perform a hard reset of the router.
- Next, log into the web UI, by typing in the IP address of the router (192.168.1.1 for Linksys routers).
- Log in using the password and username of your router (if you do not know the login information, you can always check on the internet as all Linksys routers have the same password and username by default).
- Perform a hard reset of the router.
- You should be in the web GUI at this point, so click the ‘Administration’ tab and choose the ‘Firmware Update’ sub tab.
- Click the ‘Browse’ button and select the .bin file that was previously downloaded.
- Click the ‘Upgrade’ button.
- DO NOT TOUCH the router and DO NOT CLOSE the browser.
- After a few minutes, a notification will appear stating that the installation was successful. Wait five minutes and then click ‘Continue.’
- After this, perform another hard reset and if everything went well, you should be able to see the DD-WRT UI after typing in the 192.168.1.1 into the URL bar.
3. Install VPN on the Flashed Router
Since many VPN services come with their own configuration files, we are going to use OpenVPN as an example for this guide:
- After opening your browser, type in 192.168.1.1 into the URL bar. This should take you to the DD-WRT control panel.
- In the Control Panel, click on the ‘Services’ tab and choose the ‘VPN’ sub-tab.
- After you have located the VPN tab, click the ‘Start OpenVPN Client’ radio button.
- After this, you need to open the .ovpn file in a text editor of your choice.
- The following text will need to be copied from the .ovpn file to the control panel’s fields as follows:
- Locate the line that follows after remote location.provider.com xxxx and paste the web address into the ‘Server IP/Name’ field and xxxx into the ‘Port’ field below.
- The text located between <key> tags goes into ‘Private Client Key’ field.
- The text located between <tls-auth> tags goes into ‘TLS Auth Key’ field.
- The text located between <cert> tags goes into ‘Public Client Cert’ field.
- The text located between <ca> tags goes into ‘CA Cert’ field.
- Click the ‘Save’ button and then the ‘Apply Settings’ button.
- To check if everything was set up properly, go to Status > OpenVPN. There should be logs of the encryption management located there. If it’s blank, it is likely that some of the settings were not entered properly and should be reset.
After you install the VPN service on the home router, there will be no need to have it set up on every individual device that you want to protect.
This means that whether it is torrenting files, streaming HD videos, gaming or just plain internet surfing, your internet usage will be safely encrypted and protected from any unwanted snooping.
This is particularly useful in countries with more lenient privacy protection laws or strong internet content censorship, but it should not be disregarded by any internet user at all.