Secure your router's access

There are some possibilities to grant access to the router (or to any PC/Server):

  1. ask for nothing: anybody who can establish a connection gets access
  2. ask for username and password on an unsecured connection (e.g. telnet)
  3. ask for username and password on an encrypted connection (e.g. SSH) (e.g. by following walkthrough_login)
  4. ask for username and merely a signature instead of a password (e.g. SSH with dropbear.public-key.auth)

If you ask for username/password, an attacker has to guess the combination. If you use an unencrypted connection, they could eavesdrop on you and obtain your credentials.

If you use an encrypted connection, any eavesdropper would have to decrypt the packets first. This is always possible. How long it takes to decrypt the content, depends on the algorithm and key length you used.

Also, as long as an attacker has network access to the console, they can always run a brute-force attack to find out your username and password. They does not have to do that themself: they can let their computer(s) do the guessing. To render this option improbable or even impossible you can:

  1. not offer access from the Internet at all, or restrict it to certain IP addresses or IP address ranges
    1. by letting the SSH server Dropbear and the web server uHTTPd not listen on the external/WAN port
    2. by blocking incoming connections to those ports (TCP 22, 80 and 443 by default) in your firewall
  2. make it more difficult to guess:
    1. don't use the username root
    2. don't use a weak password with 8 or less characters
    3. don't let the SSH server Dropbear listen on the default port (22)
  3. use the combination of
    1. username different than root
    2. tell Dropbear to listen on a random port (should be >1024): System → Administration → Dropbear Instance → PortSSH Port

If you have an external disk you may want to encrypt it.

  1. Fwknop (FireWall KNock OPerator) implements an authorization scheme called Single Packet Authorization (SPA) alongwith setting up two factor authentication. This method of authorization is based around a default-drop packet filter and libpcap. SPA is essentially next generation port knocking. For example: it can open the port for SSH on WAN, but just for a short period of time, until you can establish a new connection through that port.
    • See detailed instructions at: Fwknop

  2. Ostiary, like port knocking, adds an additional layer of security. It can be used to simply initiate a script or task remotely (without needing SSH access). See detailed instructions for configuring Server or Client by going to the corresponding links below.
  3. To protect open ports against brute force attack, the attacker ip address can be banned via iptables configuration:
  4. Dependent on you situation you may want to employ an Intrusion prevention system like fail2ban or better yet implement your own one based on logtrigger.

Example that adds a user called nicolaus:

opkg update
opkg install shadow-useradd
useradd nicolaus

Or add the user by hand (Take care that uid/gid (e.g.=1000) are not already in use!)

/etc/passwd: USER:x:1000:1000:GROUP:/mnt/usb:/bin/false
/etc/group: GROUP:x:1000:
/etc/shadow: USER:RANDOMSTUFWillBeUpdatedWithPasswd:16666:0:99999:7:::
passwd USER

However, you can't ssh to this user yet. To enable ssh access, you should make a password for that user, create their home folder and most importantly indicate the shell of that user:

passwd nicolaus
mkdir /home
mkdir /home/nicolaus
chown nicolaus /home/nicolaus
vi /etc/passwd

First, you should install sudo:

opkg install sudo

Additionally, you must allow your desired user by manipulating '/etc/sudoers' by tool visudo. Now you can follow ONE of the methods below to choose how the user should be able to run commands as root:

Method 1: 'sudo'ing by any user with root password (more secure)

In this method any user can temporarily run commands as root only if they know the root password. This way when the user runs a command with sudo they should enter root's password instead of their own password.

For enabling this method you should open the file '/etc/sudoers' by entering the command


Then uncomment the 2 lines below in that file and then save

## Uncomment to allow any user to run sudo if they know the password
## of the user they are running the command as (root by default).
Defaults targetpw  # Ask for the password of the target user
ALL ALL=(ALL) ALL  # WARNING: only use this together with 'Defaults targetpw'

This method is more secure because you don't need to protect both root and privileged (sudoer) users to keep the whole system safe.

One usecase can be allowing remote ssh with password from WAN: For more security (still less than RSA key) you can only allow users other than root to ssh with their password (optionally on a custom port) from WAN. And for even more security you can request root's password after running sudo. Therefor in this scenario a hacker should find 3 different strings user's username, user's password and root's password to get full access to the system. Even if the user's account get compromised, then the intruder still can't damage your system because they don't have root password yet.

Method 2: 'sudo'ing with the user's password

In this method, after logging in by the desired user, when you enter sudo you should enter the user's password again. The end result is similar to how you use sudo in Ubuntu or other popular Linux disros, but this method doesn't utilize group 'sudo' for this purpose.

For enabling this method you should also enter the command


And then add a line allowing your user, under comment “## User privilege specification”:

## User privilege specification
root ALL=(ALL) ALL
nicolaus ALL=(ALL) ALL

Method 3: 'sudo'ing with the user's password if they are member of group 'sudo' (needs installing some packages)

This method is very similar to Method 2, except that it allows any member of group 'sudo' to use sudo with their own password. This method is exactly the same one used in Ubuntu and other popular Linux distros to allow 'sudo' access for a user.

For activating this method first you should allow group 'sudo' to use command sudo by entering


And then uncomment the line below:

## Uncomment to allow members of group sudo to execute any command
%sudo ALL=(ALL) ALL 

Second you should create group 'sudo'. You can do it by manually editing '/etc/group' but it's more standard to install and use tools for this purpose:

opkg install shadow-groupadd
groupadd --system sudo

And finally add your current user to the group 'sudo'. You can directly append your user to '/etc/group' but again it's better to use usermod:

opkg install shadow-usermod
usermod -a -G sudo nicolaus

This method is more convenient because you can simply allow sudo access for any user you want, just by usermod -a -G sudo <USER> but takes more space (for installing new packages) than method 2 which may be more suitable for systems with very limited space.


If you are using ppp in the default configuration with username and password in /etc/config/network, then the unprivileged user can read it from pppd's command line (with e.g. ps w). To prevent that, you can add “user <username>” to /etc/ppp/options and “<username> * <password>” to /etc/ppp/{chap|pap}-secrets and then remove the username / password options from uci configuration.

Of course /etc/ppp/{chap|pap}-secrets should not be world readable:

chmod go-rw /etc/ppp/chap-secrets

For secure web access, OpenWrt can be accessed via HTTPS (TLS) instead of the unencrypted HTTP protocol. If HTTP is not secure enough for you, you can disable the existing (unencrypted) web access and either

  • Follow Providing encryption to set up SSL protected access
    1. While luci-ssl automatically installs px5g that can be utilized, you can also use openssl to generate your own certificate authority and certs, then use that certificate authority to sign the certificate you use for uhttpd. Certificates can also be named or placed in whatever directory you wish by editing /etc/config/uhttpd
    2. Optionally instruct the server to not listen on plain HTTP anymore:
      uci -q delete uhttpd.main.listen_http
      uci commit uhttpd
      /etc/init.d/uhttpd restart

      OR Rebind to LAN only and redirect all http requests to https:

      uci set uhttpd.main.listen_http=""
      uci set uhttpd.main.listen_https=""
      uci set uhttpd.main.redirect_https="1"
      uci commit
      /etc/init.d/uhttpd restart

Can mandatory client certificate checking be set up with uhttpd? → not possible with uhttpd

If you require remote SSH access, follow the hardening instructions on SSH mentioned above.

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  • Last modified: 2023/03/18 19:38
  • by ryanc