The Secure Programmable Router Project Puts Your Network Back Under Your Control with a Raspberry Pi

Designed with an eye on security and privacy, SPR aims to give you complete control — by putting every device on its own private network.

Computer security developer Alex Radocea is looking to bring control of network routers back to the individual, launching a project to create what he calls a "Secure Programmable Router" using a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer (SBC).

"I started working on this project because I think that Linux provides a tremendous amount of agility and power for secure home networking but I felt like there was no router project out there that pulled it all together," Radocea explains of the SPR Project. "SPR simply enables users to do better than today's status quo. It lets users run a hardened, secure network without restrictive drawbacks. It lets users connect their consumer electronics to the internet with the peace of mind that doing so does not weaken their home network security."

The idea behind SPR is flexibility combined with security. Written primarily in Go with a React frontend, SPR can run in a Docker container on most any Linux box — but, Radocea explains, is ideally suited to the Raspberry Pi 4 thanks to its ability to have more than the 1GB of RAM its predecessors offered.

When installed and configured, an SPR operates somewhat differently to a traditional router. For starters, it isolates all Wi-Fi devices by default — placing everything its own virtual local area network (VLAN) and preventing it from communicating with the rest of the network. Each device is also given its own key for accessing the Wi-Fi network, using WPA3, which cannot be used by any other device even if leaked.

Radocea and others working on the project have a keen eye for privacy concerns, too. The SPR software comes pre-configured for DNS-based blocking of advertising and tracking networks, and blocks third-party telemetry while sending none of its own. There's support for using the device as a virtual private network (VPN) endpoint and plugins — themselves individual Docker containers — plus an application programming interface (API) to further enhance its capabilities.

Finally, the SPR Project team has designed a custom case designed to accept a Raspberry Pi 4 and a USB dongle, connecting to a clever flip-out antenna designed to boost signal strength. "The dongle is needed for better range and AP [Access Point] support than what the built-in Wi-Fi can offer," Radocea explains. "With a USB dongle [a Raspberry Pi is] well able to handle over a dozen Wi-Fi stations and serve data from the internet with rates up to 500Mbps."

More information on the project, along with instructions to install it on a Raspberry Pi, can be found on the Super Networks website; the source code is hosted on GitHub under the permissive BSD three-clause license. The company also offers a ready-to-run development kit, which bundles a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB in the company's custom case with a Netgear A6210 Wi-Fi 5 USB dongle and a 64GB USB SSD for $239.99, on its official store.

Radocea's Super Networks has also teased a high-end network appliance version of SPR based on a Marvell Octeon platform with 10-gig-Ethernet capabilities, but pricing and availability have yet to be disclosed.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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