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Routers can improve computer security

Is anything connected between your modem and your computer? If not, get and install a router.

(A quick reminder: your modem is the thing you plug into a phone or cable outlet that brings the Internet to you.)

Routers let you share a variety of networkable things among different computers – even computers themselves – with or without wires. But even if you only have one computer and don’t care about wireless access, there’s still a great reason to get and use a router:

Since routers usually “reside” between a modem and the computer(s) hooked up to the Internet, every bit of web communication goes through the router. Most consumer-grade routers have firewalls built in, so they can help keep your computer from harm.

How you can use this tip

If computer security concerns you and you don’t yet have a router, pick one up at your local electronics shop and install it. Consumer-grade routers need not cost more than $100.00.

Are they difficult to install? If you know how to plug the modem into your computer, routers involve two extra wires at most (a power cable for the modem and a cable running from the modem to your computer) if all you use the router for is your modem and one computer. And if that computer lets you access the internet wirelessly (that is, it has WiFi) as modern laptops do, the second wire isn’t necessary – no more plug into your laptop.

Routers can also accommodate network-ready printers, scanners and other peripherals so that you can easily share these things among several computers.

Before you buy a router, check with your internet service provider (ISP). Some ISPs are quietly concerned about their customers’ lack of concern (or knowledge) of computer security, which often increases the workload for their support desks. As a result, some ISPs now ship combined router-modems. The benefits to you are:

  • one less thing to plug into a power socket
  • a “free” and supported piece of equipment (depending on the contract you have with your ISP)
  • greater security
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