Review: 6 slick open source routers

DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWrt, OPNsense, pfSense, and VyOS suit a wide range of devices and networking needs

Review: 6 slick open source routers
Thinkstock/MIST

Become An Insider

Sign up now and get FREE access to hundreds of Insider articles, guides, reviews, interviews, blogs, and other premium content. Learn more.

Hackers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but the lousy stock firmware your routers shipped with.

Apart from smartphones, routers and wireless base stations are undoubtedly the most widely hacked and user-modded consumer devices. In many cases the benefits are major and concrete: a broader palette of features, better routing functions, tighter security, and the ability to configure details not normally allowed by the stock firmware (such as antenna output power).

The hard part is figuring out where to start. If you want to buy a router specifically to be modded, you might be best served by working backward. Start by looking at the available offerings, picking one of them based on the feature set, and selecting a suitable device from the hardware compatibility list for that offering.

In this piece we've rounded up six of the most common varieties of third-party network operating systems, with the emphasis on what they give you and who they're best suited for. Some of them are designed for embedded hardware or specific models of router only, some as more hardware-agnostic solutions, and some to serve as the backbone for x86-based appliances. To that end, we've presented them with the more embedded-oriented solutions first and the more PC-oriented solutions last.

DD-WRT

DD-WRT has proved to be a popular router firmware choice not only with hobbyists and hackers, but router manufacturers as well. Buffalo, for instance, has used DD-WRT as the basis for many of its home and prosumer router offerings. The original product was created in 2005 for the Linksys WRT54G router, a device designed to accept Linux-based firmware, and the core software is available as a GPL offering. Note that there may be fairly major differences in implementation or presentation between the core version of DD-WRT and third-party, router-specific editions such as Buffalo's.

To continue reading this article register now

NEW! Download the Fall 2018 digital issue of CIO