If you’re concerned about Internet security and protecting your anonymity and privacy, your light years ahead of the average Internet user. Today’s Internet landscape is more perilous than ever before, and countless attacks happen each day – by both common hackers and governmental wiretapping schemes such as those employed by the NSA.
Using the Internet without a security mechanism like a VPN tunnel is just begging for trouble, but there are many other reasons to use VPNs every time you fire up your favorite Internet browser.
Unfortunately, many countries across the globe engage in stringent censorship programs. And more often than not, Internet users are baffled at the reasons their nation’s government blocks certain websites. It isn’t uncommon for countries around the globe to blackout entire websites; even the most popular web services of our time such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, and just about any streaming video or audio service you can think of.
Would you really want to run the risk of a foreign government or hacker obtaining your private information as it is in transit through the public Internet? Of course not. Likewise, most people find it absolutely unacceptable to have their freedoms of expression and information restricted.
But, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that all of these problems are easily solved by using a VPN tunnel. The bad news is that the vast majority of providers (though not all) only allow simultaneous connections between 2 devices. Some even only allow simultaneous connections between 1 laptop/desktop computer and 1 mobile device.
But this is intolerable. We live in the age of information, and most people have several devices including laptops, smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and a variety of other types of computing systems.
The global information infrastructure is transitioning to the latest trend – the Internet of Things (IoT). Believe it or not, devices that require an Internet connection outnumber the global population!
With so many devices to secure with VPN tunnels, how on Earth is the average user supposed to get away with only 2 simultaneous connections? Worse yet, what about people with family and friends that want to share the same account?
What if I told you there was a clever trick just about any user can employ to circumvent the simultaneous connection restrictions imposed by the average VPN provider? Well, guess what, there is!
Instead of establishing a VPN tunnel between your computer (or mobile device) and the VPN server, you can actually create a VPN tunnel between your home router and the VPN server. This way, users can secure virtually any number of devices at the same time, as long as those devices are connected to your home’s network, be they wired or wireless devices.
There’s just one problem. Most home wireless routers have default software (called firmware) that is incapable of establishing a VPN connection. Fortunately, there are completely free versions of firmware that the vast majority of users can use to supercharge the functionality of their basic routers to take better advantage of their hardware. Today we are going to look at DD-WRT, but there are other free alternatives – such as Tomato – that boost the capabilities of your basic router…for free!
The whole idea is to upgrade the default firmware on your home wireless router to add code (among countless other useful features) that allows your router to create a VPN tunnel with a server from your provider.
But, not all routers are capable of running DD-WRT. However, most of the mainstream routers can run this code, and a complete list of supported models can be found here.
Believe it or not, the upgrade process is so simple and straightforward that even technology novices can complete the task without a headache. The first step, however, is making sure your router model is supported.
After that, all you need to do is two easy tasks: flashing your router firmware and building a VPN tunnel to your VPN service provider’s server. Then, your home network will have an ‘always-on’ VPN connection that secures all of the Internet traffic originating from your home – regardless of how many devices use your local network.
DD-WRT provides a ton of useful features that aren’t usually present in default OEM firmware. After you have upgraded the code on your router to DD-WRT, you can gain the following benefits and features for free:
There are a few things you need to get started. First and foremost, you need a router supported by the DD-WRT software. Furthermore, users need a router with at least 8MB of RAM.
In addition, users will need an Ethernet cable to connect their laptop to their router. Last but not least, users will also want to have their VPN username and password readily available.
The installation process (also called flashing your router) is pretty darn simple. Just use the following steps:
Within the confines of the DD-WRT software, there are two basic ways to establish a VPN connection with your provider. Either use the GUI (which is much easier), or opt for the command line. The vast majority of VPN providers offer OpenVPN configuration files free for download, so this is the preferred configuration we will explain in detail during this tutorial.
Thankfully, there has been a proliferation of DD-WRT routers recently. You can check out my guide here to see the top 5 options.
After following this configuration process, your newly flashed DD-WRT router should have established a VPN tunnel with your provider of choice. Doing so will secure every single device that connects to your local network. Just remember, should you run into any technical difficulties, any decent VPN service will have customer support staff ready and waiting to assist you with the configuration process.