The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released the first version of their open wireless router firmware today that supports the work of the Open Wireless Movement. Called a “hacker alpha version”, this software aims to deal with many of the issues of security and privacy that plague most traditional router vendors today. It was announced today at the HOPE X (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York City. Initially, the firmware will run only on the Netgear WNDR3800.
This software aims to bring more people into the project who want to help develop and test the software. By releasing this to a group of hackers to test, the EFF is hoping to make this firmware much more secure and reliable than stock router firmware.
Another major point of this software is to allow users to set aside a portion of their router’s bandwidth for use by other people in an open WiFi configuration. This seems to fit into the groups belief system, but given the trouble that Comcast seems to have gotten into through their Open WiFi initiative, it’s not clear how well the general public will embrace this idea.
Aside from these other issues, there are 2 things that we like about this firmware that were announced.
- The firmware will have a “minimalist, secure, and elegant Web user interface to set up and configure the router” as well as an “Advanced, non-minimalist administrative options are accessible by SSH”. This sounds like they’re reacting to the general practice of creating router administration interfaces that are big, cumbersome, and completely unusable by the general public. Making things easy is good. By making the more complex user interface available over SSH, they help ensure that only advanced users will get to it.
- The firmware will have a “secure software auto-update mechanism”. This is a bit controversial, as many people do not believe that these devices should auto-update themselves. We say nonsense – pushing security fixes out as soon as possible is a good thing. Especially on devices that would rarely get an update anyway.
It’s also worth noting that this firmware will be a part of the SOHOpelessly broken contest in a few weeks that’s being sponsored in part by EFF. This is a great move to gain some more attention for this work, as well as shaking out some bugs by the worlds greatest router break-in artists. Good move.
We’ll be watching this project closely in the next few months to see what happens.