A few questions about router related privacy

I’ve heard ISP provided routers can phone home, and I also wanted to try a new, less crappy router. I have a few questions about this.

  1. Is there a tool (I’m on Linux) I can use to check if/with what my router is phoning home with?
  2. My ISP provided router has a plug on the back labelled “Phone” and I believe we have VoIP as part of our plan. Most routers I see don’t have such a plug. From what digging around I’ve done, it sounds like I’d need an “ATA” or “Analogue Telephone Adapter” to connect the phone cable to, and then connect the adaptor to a LAN plug on my router. Is this correct?
  3. How much security or privacy would I gain from buying an OpenWRT compatible router and flashing it with that, over just using whatever firmware it comes with?

Any help is appreciated.

  1. you would need to mitm the router in some way, but it’s safe to assume that it is probably sending some data about your connection or network back to the ISP
  2. depends on ISP and how their VoIP is set up, would need to contact support or find the specific support article on your ISP’s site about this
  3. a decent amount on both counts but setting up an OPNsense router would be even better especially in terms of security, though OpenWRT isn’t trash by any means. In terms of security in particular, you might also want to put some thought into network design

Ah, I had heard of OPNsense as well but wasn’t sure how the two compared. For what it’s worth my goal here is just to have a router that’s more secure for my household than the chinese junk my ISP gave us, and which also doesn’t phone home. Nothing too fancy, though I’m out of my depth here so I’m not sure how much I should be expecting to pay (I did find a very affordable router in my region that supposedly supports OpenWRT).

In terms of security in particular, you might also want to put some thought into network design

Where would I start with this, as a total beginner? Any good resources you know of?

Yeah if your goal is just “better than ISP junk”, most OpenWRT routers will suit you just fine.

In terms of network design, I’m not sure of specific resources unfortunately but the main stuff you should be thinking about is whether you want to isolate particular things from the rest of your devices (e.g., smart TVs, IoT), whether you need extra coverage for WiFi (and thus need more APs), whether you’ll be doing any self-hosting (and thus need firewalls, port forwarding etc).

Ah, I see. Thank you for the info, I’ll look into that.

OpenWRT is great if you have a wifi router that’s already supported by them. If not, pretty much any old PC can work to install OPNsense to. Just need to have 2+ ethernet ports available. OPN has a buttload of configuration possibilities, there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to do basic setup.