SFTP, DropBear on Linksys WRTSL54GS and OpenWrt

For some reason, I couldn’t get this to work the first time through, but perseverance paid off. On our home office LAN, we use the LinkSys WRTSL54GS router. The WRTSL54GS (whew!) is the Storage Link (that means it has a USB connection) version with 802.11 G technology, the standard 54 Mbps wireless protocols, with the SpeedBoost option.

I’ve upgraded the factory-installed firmware with the third-party Open Source firmware OpenWrt. This gives me more capabilities, the ability to tweak lots of settings, and the ability to add on many, many third party applications. You might not think of a little sub-$100 consumer-grade router as a platform for third-party applications, but under the hood this device is a Linux box with a decent CPU, a bit of spare RAM, switches, routers, bridges and USB connections. Thanks to the storage option, you might make your router a file server using Samba or NFS protocols, or an ftp or SFTP server you can use to share files inside the firewall or securely outside of your firewall (if your contract with your upstream provider allows you to run servers; many consumer connections disallow this, unfairly, in my opinion.)

OpenWrt is accessible remotely through telnet (discouraged, as it is not secure), Secure Shell (ssh), and a web interface. There are even third party add-ons to created an enhanced web interface (WebIf2) with a built-in package manager, usage graphs that update live, and more.

This week’s project was to get the storage working. I was under a misunderstanding that disk sharing had been broken in the version of OpenWrt (White Russian) that I’m using, but a CentraLUG meeting earlier this year, presenter Bruce Dawson showed off one of his LinkSys machines with disk storage working, so I was encouraged to give it another try. Following the instructions at the OpenWrt wiki for USBStorage and SFTP, I was up and running pretty quickly. Nifty!

This is pretty cool. In slightly less geeky terms, this gives me the ability to transfer files to our home office LAN from anywhere on the Internet without having to keep any of the machines in the office running, just the router itself and a USB flash drive hanging off it.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.