Now available: c’t Fritzbox – the compendium for the popular router

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Much office work has moved to the home office for a long time, if not permanently. But many routers still have to ensure that everything runs smoothly, which were actually only purchased and configured for private purposes. They work well, but business issues that first depend on network security have only been considered marginally.

That is why the particularly popular Fritzboxes are in the spotlight: How can you get the best out of the versatile routers in order to optimally handle business phone calls, video conferences or cloud synchronization? For these questions we have in the new c’t Fritzbox special issue various practical articles on all aspects of safety and reliability have been compiled. Who orders up to and including 03.08, does not pay shipping costs. Further offers – for example for our superbundle – can be found at the end of this article.

The Fritzbox special issue focuses on network security, WLAN upgrade and home office optimization. Because the wizard-guided basic configuration runs accident-free even for inexperienced routers. But for use in the business environment and in the home office, you should once again lend a detailed hand, if only because targeted attacks on Fritzboxes have been increasing recently. Based on such a configuration, you can then use detailed articles to devote yourself to the subtleties, including privacy protection, the VPN structure or projects such as the connection of business telephones.

Fritz boxes can effectively keep would-be intruders away, seal the WLAN with modern encryption, protect privacy when making calls and surfing, and much more. For this, subtleties must be set in many places in the Fritzbox menu that are not always obviously related.

We play through various scenarios using examples so that even those with no router experience can reliably configure a Fritzbox. At the same time, you learn how the techniques work in order to use them according to your own needs. For example, you can make well-founded decisions as to whether you want to change the telephony provider or add another one for certain purposes, because not every VoIP provider encrypts telephone calls. Positive examples include Deutsche Telekom, Easybell and Dus.net.

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The articles also convey how good and how useful the new WLAN generation Wi-Fi 6 is and clarify under which conditions Wi-Fi 5 is still sufficient. An itchy point for administrators as well as for company employees is the secure connection of workplaces to the company. Whether IPsec, OpenVPN or WireGuard, each of the trustworthy VPN technologies takes a lot of time to set up and has pitfalls. We help with a method based on the Raspberry Pi minicomputer. This frees up administrators and company employees time for their actual work. The admin sets up the Raspi so that it can establish a secure, individual VPN connection to the company without the involvement of the employee. An additional gain in security is that the connected PC is completely isolated from the home network.

The subject of “network security” also includes Internet availability, i.e. the reliability of the connection. No network operator in the world guarantees 100 percent availability 365 days a year, but medium-sized and large companies install one or even more backup lines and use them with multi-WAN or SD-WAN routers as they see fit – for example also in a bundle. If the main line then fails, a prepared multi-WAN router seamlessly switches to the remaining ones, so that often only the administrators notice a failure.

Far cheaper technologies are sufficient in the private sphere. With a little caution and the right preparatory work, you can keep the duration of the failure short without high monthly costs and save your nerves. Fritz boxes offer several methods at the same time. The simplest variant may only cost you a smile: Ask your neighbors whether they can help you out and open their WLAN – the Fritzbox then connects as a client and brings your home network to the Internet via the diversion. The charm of this is that you don’t have to change anything in your network configuration.

If you want to arm yourself against the failure of a Fritzbox, you can have a used older model ready as a reserve. If you import a backup of the current configuration on it, the replacement box is online again immediately and with it at least the common network devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets and VoIP telephones. Depending on the equipment of the box and the network, smart home devices may have to wait for the new or repaired Fritzbox to arrive.

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Some companies are not optimally equipped for their employees to work from home. For example, even after several lockdowns, there are no concepts for business calls under the company extension number from the home office. The misery is certainly partly due to PBXs that are not or only insufficiently designed for such applications and that do not pass test runs. In principle, cloud-based PBXs could then step into the breach, but if companies with multi-year maintenance contracts are tied to suppliers of PBXs, quick changes are too expensive.

Many Fritzboxes are only poorly designed for home office operation: The company’s PBX forwards all incoming business calls to the Fritzbox – around the clock, on workdays and weekdays, regardless of whether you are at home or on the go. We show you how to configure the Fritzbox according to the situation, for example using several phone numbers and the answering machine function.

As in many other routers, the SIP and RTP specifications common for telephony are also found in Fritzboxes. From FritzOS 7.2x onwards, there are also the encrypting variants. The SIP standards are also the basis for integrating completely third-party IP telephones. We published a comprehensive example of Cisco telephones back in 2017.

Business telephones from other manufacturers can also be connected. Devices from Unify are currently attractive because they are cheap on the second-hand market and offer numerous convenience functions. Similar to the Cisco telephones, you only have to implant the appropriate firmware into the third-party devices.

Some of the exciting projects in the special issue fill gaps that the developers have left. For example, the Fritzbox comes with a child protection filter that you can use to block unwanted websites, but it only belongs to the entry-level category in terms of functionality. In the Linux world, from which essential parts of the FritzOS operating system originate, there are definitely powerful DNS filters and AdBlockers. One example of this is the popular pi-hole. The router manufacturer AVM will probably never implement this and its kind on Fritzboxes. Alternatively, it can be installed on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer for the entire home network.

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We tried the DNS filter Pi-hole with two extra encryptions in combination with various Fritz boxes and also the newcomer AdGuard Home. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. AdGuard Home made a smoother impression as AdBlocker, not least because the software consists of a single program and looks like it was made of one piece. The bottom line is that both DNS filters protect your entire network from malware hidden in advertisements.

AVM usually provides Fritz boxes with updates for several years. If the manufacturer discontinues support, this does not have to be the end of the mission for an actually adequately equipped Fritzbox. With the open source router operating system OpenWrt and its thousands of expansion packages, you can breathe new life into your box. For example, many older models are still very suitable as WireGuard VPN servers or encrypting DNS resolvers.

The c’t Fritzbox special issue is available both on paper and in digital form. who the Print edition for 14.90 euros up to and including August 03, 2021 in heise shop ordered, does not pay shipping costs.

You will receive the digital version as a PDF from now on for 12.99 euros in the heise shop, in our Android and iOS apps or on Amazon.

The printed booklet and the digital edition are available from it also as a bundle for 19.90 euros, the superbundle from the book “The Ultimate FRITZ! Box Bible” PLUS booklet PLUS PDF for 34.90 € Is there … here.

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