Routers come in different brands and just to name a few- Netgear, Digisol, TPlink, Asus, Linksys and Dlink are just some of the well-known and popular names in the router industry. These different brands come with different stock firmware and security features and though this is the case, these well-known brands are very reliable; but, they also come with a price.
To save on budget, many would go for cheaper options. This usually is where problems would start, since, budget-cost routers come with very limited functions and security features. Another reason why problems arise is due to the manufacturers not supplying updates. This reason alone could give third party individuals to penetrate easily through security loopholes. Aside from that, hackers could perform malicious activities that will and could breach your weak network.
With this, you will have to take into your hands the security of your network and to do this, it is imperative for you to have a bit of knowledge on technology, Linux and open source router firmware.
What is Open Source Router Firmware?
An open source router firmware is also a custom router firmware, alternative firmware or aftermarket firmware. It provides the best security features and allows its users to modify it. This open source router firmware is highly recommended for you to be able to have a more advanced router that comes with additional features that will suit and meet your office or home requirements.
Benefits of Using Open Source Router Firmware:
- Allows you to edit firmware code
- Removes bugs available in stock firmware
- Improved user interface
- Allows you to add different functionality
- VPN integration
- Bypasses government restrictions
- Network stability
- WiFi hotspot integration
- Telnet/SSH support
- Advanced wireless modes
- Full control over network routing
Best Open Source Custom Router Firmware
This open source custom router firmware is one of the oldest router firmware. It has been in the market since 2004 and it is highly recommended for embedding devices and routers. It provides an access to the filesystem which is writable with package management and its customer premises equipment are catered by OpenWRT router that could be run on smartphones, personal computers and in residences.
OpenWrt allows its users to configure and customize applications. In addition to that, this custom router firmware’s main components are Linux, musl, util-linux and BusyBox which makes this firmware one of the best offered in the market.
OpenWrt used to work on the command line and eventually is made with Graphical user interface. However, to be able to work with the GUI of your router, you will need at least 8MB flash storage and 4MB for command line. This only means that graphical user interface is optional only. Hence, if you are comfortable with command line, you may use that.
Furthermore, OpenWrt is an open source custom router firmware that offers 3500 optional software packages which can be installed using your opkg package management system.
- IPv4 and IPv6 support
- High level of customization
- Routing through Quagga, BIRD, Babel and many more
- Stateful firewall, NAT and port forwarding
- B.A.T.M.A.N, OLSR AND IEEE 802.11s-capabilities
- Wireless security
- Load balancing
- IP Tunneling
- Forwarding protocols UPnP and NAT-PMP through upnpd
- Domain Name System, DHCP through Dnsmasq and MaraDNS
- Wireless functionality
- Wireless distribution system (WDS), WPA-PSK, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK Mixed-Mode encryption modes
- Supports Linux
- Software packages support
DDR-WRT is another Open Source router firmware based on Linux and was released in 2015. It comes with different flavors and sizes such as Mini 4MB, Micro 2MB, Nokaid 4MB, Standard 4MB, VPN 4MB, VOIP 4MB and Mega 8MB. In addition to that, this open source router offers the following features:
- Web management over HTTPS
- XLink Kai daemon
- MMC and SD card support
- PPTP client
- Samba/CIFS client
- Milkfish SIP router
- SNMP Yes
- Secure Shell daemon
In comparison to OpenWRT, DD-WRT lacks some features. However, DDR-WRT solved this by supporting third parties which was able to enhance its functionalities. In addition to that, DD-WRT comes with tabbed designed user interface which offers easy to use and easy to operate feature.
DD-WRT supports the following:
- Bandwidth monitoring
- Access control
- Quality of service
- Iptable filewall
- Universal plug and play
- Dynamic DNS
- Multiple SSIDs
- AnchorFree VPN
- Supports OpenVPN and WireGuard
Tomato Router Firmware is for Linksys and is based on HyperWRT router project. Unfortunately, it has stopped getting updates in 2006. Though this is the case, Tomato has kept its momentum. This firmware is not completely open source but it is a free custom router firmware. In this
firmware, you will be able to see a lot of usage of Ajax and SVG based graphical bandwidth monitor. In addition to that, it also supports wide range of older Linksys WRT54G series, Asus routers, Buffalo AirStation and WNR3500L.
Routers supported by Tomato:
- WL520GU –no USB support
- WL500G Premium – no USB support
WHR3-AG54, WHR-G54S, WHR2-A54-G54, WHR-HP-G54, WZR-G54, WZR-HP-G54. WZR-RS-G54, WZR-RS-G54HP, WVR-G54-NF
- WRTSL54GS – no USB support
- WRT54GS v1-v4
- WRT54G v1-v4
- WRT54GL v1.x
- Fuji RT390W
- Microsoft MN-700
With the huge and nice community support, this router project is still flouring in the market. It also offers additional functionality and features such as:
- Ajax based GUI
- DHCP server
- SVG based graphs
- CLI access via Telnet or SSH
- Client bandwidth control
- Bandwidth statistics and graphing
- DNS forwarder
- Wireless modes
- Access point, wireless Ethernet, wireless client station, wireless distribution system, AP and WDS
- SES button control, JFFS2, SMB client
- Advanced QoS
This open source custom router is based on OpenWRT and is a free router Linux distribution. Gargoyle is meant to be used for Broadcom or Atheros based chipset routers like older Linksys WRT54G, Netgear and Asus Routers. Its interface is easy to use and both command line and graphical user interface is offered by Gargoyle.
- Tor server and Tor client
- VPN server and VPN client
- Network file storage sharing
- Bandwidth monitoring
- WiFi scheduled on and off
- Quotas and bandwidth throttling
- Quality of service with active congestion control
- Website blocking
Other Open Source Router Projects and Tools
Best Free and Open Source Router + Firewall Distributions for PCs or Servers