UPnP: What Is It? How Can It Be Dangerous To Your Network?

UPnPWhen you think of the words “Universal Plug-n-Play” what do you think? Do you think about Plug-n-Play when you connect a USB device to a computer and it just works? Or do you think of that feature on the router abbreviated as UPnP?

If you’re thinking UPnP on your router, then that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about today. More specifically, we’re going to talk about why you should leave that feature disabled.

What Is UPnP?

UPnP is nifty feature where when you’re behind a firewall on your router, traffic that needs to be routed that may normally be blocked incoming or outgoing is allowed to go through by poking a hole in the firewall and then sealing the hole back up when traffic does not need to go through that hole.

It has a convenience factor so that you don’t have to keep messing around with router settings to let traffic through.

Unfortunately with this convenience also comes a vulnerability. By having UPnP turned on you are vulnerable to attacks from hackers.

Disable UPnP To Protect Your Network

Under normal circumstances as long as you’re behind a good firewall this wouldn’t normally be an issue.

However, hackers have tools that allow them to to modify your firewall to allow outside connections to come through the port traffic.

This means that that hole you poked open with UPnP to see certain traffic go through is now being used as an attack vector on you. Security analysts suggest that in order to prevent this from happening to login to your router and disable UPnP.

There are some routers out there, however, that do not give you an option to disable UPnP. It’s on and is always on.

To these routers security analysts have suggested you just replace the router entirely and get a router that allows you to enable/disable UPnP. I agree with this notion as it’s better to be given a choice with these things than have features like this always on as a convenience to you.

A Fix Is In The Works

Don’t get me wrong, UPnP is great for what it is and it is a nifty feature on routers. But for your network security, at least for now disable it.

I say “for now” because Cisco Systems, owner of the Cisco and Linksys brand routers, announced recently that they have released a fix for this vulnerability to the UPnP software development kit. While this vulnerability fix may not be in home routers right now, if it does get fixed then eventually it should in theory be fine to have it back on.

But until that time, turn UPnP off in your router.

Have you used UPnP in the past? What is your opinion on security versus convenience? Share your thoughts!

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