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Where I live my ISP does not give IP addresses out. My external IP address is the same as my external if I plug directly into the wall with no router. My ISP does give everybody a "router", that is really terrible for gaming. I have heard that it's really dangerous to plug my computer directly into this line since there's no router, but how can someone access my computer with my IP address? Do they have to use software to sniff packets, or is there something as simple as basically remotely accessing my computer by typing my IP into software? I am buying a router that is better than the one provided, but I was just interested.

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Routers are not that bad for gaming. You just need to figure out which ports to forward for each game. –  CodesInChaos May 22 '12 at 21:27
    
@CodeInChaos Alternative: Set up your gaming system as a DMZ host on the router, and use a host-based firewall. –  Iszi May 22 '12 at 22:06
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@CodeInChaos You don't even need to do that with most modern games, since they support automatic UPnP port forwarding. –  Polynomial May 23 '12 at 8:06
    
@Polynomial After each game is working, I recommend turning off uPnP on the router again. Otherwise a comprimised pc equals a comprimised router. –  Daren Schwenke May 23 '12 at 12:50
    
@DarenSchwenke Yup. In fact, it's worse than that. I recently attended a talk at BSides where UPnP was discussed - the possibilities are hilarious. –  Polynomial May 23 '12 at 13:12
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If your pc has a firewall which blocks all incoming packets, and is patched up to date then you can be relatively safe. I wouldn't recommend it though, add you are missing layers of protection which a router can give you.

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Most if not all ISP's now only give out one IP and expect users to have a router. IP addresses at least for IPV4 are a commodity.

It is much more likely that you will initiate the compromise of your system via flaws in software already running on your PC, than someone external cracking their way in. With any basic firewall running on your PC or router most attacks from the internet are silently blocked.

That being said, a compromised PC which is directly connected to the internet can immediately become a web or file server/email relay/whatever the cracker wants as once the PC is compromised,he can then simply disable the firewall. A PC behind a router (where the cracker doesn't have access to configure the router) can still only affect the PC's on that local network and generally initiate outgoing traffic.

Having your PC directly connected to the internet is dangerous if your PC is not configured correctly and a router is better suited for most every task you would then be asking your PC to do anyway.

In short, the benefits of having a router outweigh the negatives.

The negatives:

  • A small increase in latency. Most home routers still use store and forward, but the speed at which all the modern ones do it approaches wire speed. I would not expect to incur more than 1-3ms of latency from the router. Given that on a good day the average cable modem adds 10-20ms and the average DSL modem adds 30-50ms this is minimal for what you get.

The positives:

  • You can share your connection with as many home computers as you want.
  • You add another layer of defense to external attack.
  • The firewall built into the router is usually an order of magnitude faster than your PC firewall unless you are running Linux.
  • You free up your PC resources from handling most of the firewall duties.
  • Modern routers have QOS which allows you to select the priority for different types of network traffic. You could give your game priority and have a download running at the same time. With QOS turned on and configured correctly, the download will only take bandwidth when the game doesn't need it.

I've tried a lot of brands of routers over the years and I am partial to Cisco. Get a mid-level Cisco or a high level Linksys (made by Cisco) router.

Change the default username and password used on the router!

uPnP allows an application running on your PC to open holes as needed in the router firewall. Very convenient for setup, but another security hole. Enable uPnP during the setup and initial usage of your application. Once your app is up and working correctly, disable uPnP at the router.

Don't use wireless unless you have to. Getting wireless to work without any hiccups is a whole other discussion. It also adds to the latency.

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I have found even the most expensive LinkSys routers not even worth 1% for what they are sold for. The fact EVERY SINGLE Linksys router that supports WPS for a time was vulerable to an exploit because it could not be disabled is something I cannot forgive. I have a $150 router that I will have to replace because its inability to keep devices connected to WiFi for longer then 15 minutes. –  Ramhound May 23 '12 at 16:59
    
The last Linksys I had died a month in. It was replaced and then proceeded to work flawlessly for 3 years running my Vonage. If you think they really haven't improved under Cisco, I'll remove my Linksys reference. –  Daren Schwenke May 24 '12 at 18:50
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