I recently moved into a new apartment, and with rent "free fiber connection" was included. I was skeptical, but the building location and proximity to my office was a no brainer. Now I'm regretting it.

There's numerous issues with this setup, and I'm regretting passing off my wifi connection to the building to manage just to save a few bucks.

Here's a few things that bother me:

  • All of the SSIDs are the APT #'s. This was an immediate red flag - every internet connection is directly identifiable to an apartment unit. I see this as a huge security flaw, yet their technical support just blew that off.
  • I cannot change the SSID, or configure the router settings at all.
  • The network password was given to me - and I cannot reset it (because they need access). I have a feeling it's the same password the last resident had.

I do have access to the router itself, and I'd like to use a second router to build a new Wireless Access Point that acts as a VPN. I'm a totally security noob, so I'm having trouble finding a solution that I can implement without having access to the router configuration panel.

I'd like to implement a hardware VPN here, as opposed to just a software solution. I work in software so I'm very capable in the command line, but my networking skills could use some work.

Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

EDIT - To answer some of the comments. I am not looking to prevent a specific attack, nor am I a true "person of interest" for hackers. This is just the first time I've been given and router and told "Use this password". I am a web developer and manage a lot of AWS instances for various clients, so in general I'm concerned about leaked keys and identity theft.

I also confirmed that the password is the same default password that came on the router, which would confirm my suspicion that the last resident also had this password.

At this point, I've ordered a new router and am going to try and wire that up when it comes in tomorrow. I've also considered getting a USB VPN/Access Point and connecting to that exclusively at home.

  • An SSID as an apartment number, why is that such a red flag? If configured properly I don't see an issue with that. SSID's are traceable to apartment numbers anyway by measuring the dbm (signal strength). We call this security by obscurity, google it. – Jeroen Jun 3 '18 at 17:21
  • If you have access to the router, can't you disconnect it and connect your own instead of it, then reconnect it once you are moving out? Also, Jeroen is right about the SSIDs. – Peter Harmann Jun 3 '18 at 17:22
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    OK - maybe I watch too much Mr Robot :) I just figured someone could easily target my apartment specifically if they knew where I lived and use aircrack or something of the like. As opposed to using deductive reasoning to find my SSID. Hearing it from you guys makes me feel better tho – ig0lden Jun 3 '18 at 17:26
  • I was hoping to just leave the original router intact, because I didn't want to mess with it. It's in a small cubby hole in the wall, it may be hard to fit another router in there. Cords are just long enough for that router. I could give it a shot though. – ig0lden Jun 3 '18 at 17:27
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    There are a number of reasons this state of play might be undesirable; solutions vary depending on what exactly the concerns are. Can you share more about why exactly- in human terms not technical terms- you regret this setup and what exactly you want to defend against? – Jonah Benton Jun 3 '18 at 19:45

As you say, you cannot change the settings of the router and it is not your device. So treat it as that: Not part of your network!

Buy yourself another router that connects to the one you are provided with using (preferably) a network cable or if not possible WiFi. Configure that to treat this connection as WAN (the Internet) and to create a different wifi network for you, where you connect your devices.

If you want, you can configure your new router to build a VPN connection and send all traffic through that. Downsides are, it costs money and latency and bandwidth are worse. You shouldn't send anything unencrypted via the internet anyway, so I would consider that optional.

The important part is:

  • None of your devices should be connected to the provided router and wifi, only to your new router.
  • your new router should see the network of the provided router as external network
  • a device connected to the provided network shouldn't be able to access any device in your internal network.
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    Thanks for this response, exactly what I was looking for. To confirm - you're saying plug a network cable into my new router WAN port, with the other end into a LAN port on the provided router (there's 2 open, WAN is connected to internet source). Then configure to treat it as wifi? It may not even need additional configuration, but I'll find out tonight. – ig0lden Jun 5 '18 at 18:04
  • No, you connect the WAN port of the new router to a LAN port of the provided router. Only if this is not possible, you'd need a router that can use wifi as WAN connection and configure it accordingly. A cable is always a better solution of course, if possible. – Josef Jun 6 '18 at 12:23
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    Sorry - i worded that confusingly. That is what I was trying to say. Thanks for confirmation – ig0lden Jun 6 '18 at 14:04

Thank you to everyone for the comments and suggestions. After ordering a new router - I popped open the box and ran some longer cords out. I was able to use the internet connection just fine, and rename and secure my network.

Thanks to @Peter Harmann for the suggestion there - sort of a no brainer.

I also think @Josef's answer was the confirmation I needed to know that this problem does need to be solved and no one should be relinquishing control of their home network to their apartment complex. In general - they did a shitty job to boot. Thanks for the tips!

Installing my new router had some great side effects:

  • My internet speed went from 20mb up/down to literally 300mbps up, 250down. We have a fiber connection, but I was told it was throttled at 100mbps down, 50 up. Maybe they throttled this at the router? Either way its blazin now.

  • I was able to add a VPN to home network so I can access it remotely, including a connected HDD. (hell yeah!)

  • Improved my password of course, instead of using the default that came with the router (shame on the ISP)

  • I have complete access and control over my network, can monitor connected devices, etc etc.

Super happy with the result, and it feels good to see my network as a unique name among all the other units. Score one for the nerds!


router while testing


PS - no routers were left hanging by the wire :)

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