A router is a computer hardware component that directs data between networks, or within a single network. Often, consumer-grade routers are used to connect several home computers to a single Internet connection, and/or to each other. Commercial routers direct data within a company or university network, and may also be connected to the Internet. Internet backbone routers dynamically direct traffic around the Internet.
Wireless routers perform all the functions of a regular router, and additionally provide a transparent extra layer of connectivity protocols which enable different wireless devices to connect and transmit information. While wireless routers are known to be slower and less secure than standard wired devices, they allow Internet connectivity in places otherwise inaccessible. Also, in many locations the cost of cable and its installation is more expensive than the cost of wireless equipment. Another advantage of wireless connectivity is the portability afforded by the lack of tether. A wireless-equipped PDA can be used continuously throughout a house or workplace.
Although Cisco Systems provides the bulk of commercial-grade routers for Internet backbones and large corporations under it's own name, it's Linksys brand competes with Netgear, Belkin, and D-Link for control of the home and small office market. Each one of these companies has had controversy surrounding it's operations in the router market. Ciscos' Linksys brand had sold a very powerful router with a Linux-based operating system. After releasing the source code of the router, hackers were able to change the code and therefore perform hundreds of dollars worth of upgrades on their routers for free. In mid-2003 Netgear began selling routers that queried the University of Wisconsin's Internet Time Server for self-configuration without the university's approval. This led to a continuous DDoS-style load on the university's network that persisted for months. While Netgear did in fact respond to the university's requests to have the router's firmware changed, the distribution of the patch took many months, and not all routers sold have been patched. D-Link made a similar error in it's router's firmware two years later, when D-Link routers pinged Denmark's Stratum 1 timeserver for self-configuration. However, D-Link had not cooperated with the Stratum administration, and refused to update their firmware. Also in 2003, Belkin Corporation sold a router that occasionally responded to user's requests for webpages with advertisements for other Belkin products. While newer Belkin routers do not have this 'feature', the bad publicity the advertisements generated has stained Belkin's reputation in the router market.
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