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ISP Routers and How to Bypass Them

In a recent blog post, I documented how hard it was to have my clients ISP detail the instructions to “bridge” the ISPs provided router.  Life before when ISPs started providing router hardware was so much easier.  We controlled everything on the network and the ISP provided nothing but the connection. The ISPs started to provide their own hardware to make our lives “easier”.  They could look after things for us.  What they did not tell you was that they could now access your router.  Yes, they probably aren’t going to do anything except reset your password for you when you forget it, but in principal, it’s like giving your house keys to your neighbour: all you can do is hope they don’t come into your house and poke around in your stuff, but the possibly is always there.

There are several other reasons to use your own equipment besides just keeping the ISP out, including having more control over your network traffic, configuration for specific VPN connections, parental filtering and just using overall better hardware.  Personally, I don’t want my ISP to access their equipment in my home, so I am finally going to add a new router (with the functionality and control I want) into my home network.  I require parental controls and guest network access, which are not options on my ISP-provided equipment.

In order to use your own equipment, your ISP router/modem will have to be put into what is called Bridge Mode.  Bridge Mode enables traffic to pass through without restriction, allowing the equipment you supplied to control your data to your needs.  Depending on your ISP and equipment, this may not be an obvious setting.  Some ISPs would prefer that you don’t use equipment other than theirs.  Refer to the user manual or contact your ISP for assistance on how to do this.

My ISP-supplied router has a setting which easily allows me to turn on Bridge Mode.  This may not be the case with your equipment.  If you are unsure of how to change from Router to Bridge, contact your ISP or IT Professional.  If Rogers is your ISP, I have documented how to change to Bridge Mode in this article.

Bell Cisco Bridge

Enabling Bridge Mode allows all traffic to pass seamlessly to my router and I can fully control how it is handled.

Typical network layout for 2 routers. This could apply to your home or small office.

Don’t get me wrong, using the equipment supplied by your ISP is fine for your home and office, as long as you take some precautions:

  1. Change the router username and password
  2. Disable all unnecessary services and ports
  3. Change the Wi-Fi username and password
  4. Ensure the Wi-Fi encryption setting is set to at least WPA.

For more information on router security please see the article How to Secure your Router.

Also be aware that most ISPs will not support your connection if you are not using their hardware.  If you do require assistance you may need to set your router back to its original settings.  Also note that if your router is reset, all your settings will have to be re-configured.  It’s a good idea to either backup your settings (if possible) or write the settings down.

Enjoy taking control of your data and knowing you have made it one step harder for someone to access your network.

As with any changes on your network, please use best practises to safeguard your data. If you are unsure of how to secure your equipment, please contact your qualified IT Professional for assistance.

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