Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Book Review: Linksys WRT54G Ultimate Hacking, by Paul Asadoorian and Larry Pesce; Raul Siles Technical Editor

By Stephen Northcutt

I think the most important contribution this book will make is to help people understand that it is possible to change those innocuous Linksys boxes. After all, they are everywhere. I don't personally plan to try to hardware hack my Linksys router tonight after finishing reading the book, but it is on the list. Heavens knows, I have three or four sitting in the equipment closet from before we upgraded my home office to professional equipment. In the book we learn the parts of a Linksys router; to be truthful, I had never thought about that. There is a discussion about overclocking the router to make the processor run faster. Talk about a blast from the past, brings back the old 8086/8088 days.[1] It was dangerous then and it still is today. There is a discussion about the OpenWrt[2] team, without them, this would never be possible.

So you are probably thinking; why? Well, economics for one thing, as one article put it, "The story of the Linksys Wireless-G Router (model WRT54G) and how you can turn a $60 router into a $600 router is a little bit CSI and a little bit Freaks & Geeks."[3] For me the book was a real eye-opener to learn how much people have done with the WRT54G, there are a number of choices in firmware, even semi-commercial choices such as Talisman. These third-party firmware distributions allow you to establish VPNs, hotspots, mesh and even SIP VoIP. This book is extensively researched, we learn how to set up DHCP, SAMBA even Kismet! There are even several methods for increasing the wireless radio transmit power and or antenna modifications. U.S. readers are cautioned this can get you into trouble, I know I ended up sending my FM pirate radio system to a missionary group in Africa because it was just too tempting and in an urban area the FCC will eventually get you. The biggest surprise for me was the use of a WRT54G (with an adapter) as a bluetooth scanner.

My understanding is that the authors of this book, the legendary security podcasters "Pauldotcom", are going to offer a class, that sounds like a lot of fun.

If you are going to be installing wireless it is a good idea to read this book; a lot of the information applies regardless of what brand of equipment you select. And as for me, I don't think I will ever look at a Linksys router in the same way again; from now on I will be wondering just exactly what is going on beneath the hood.