0Replacing the BT Infinity SmartHub with pfsense

When I moved into a new home a year ago I was finally able to join the 21st cen­tury and ordered BT Infin­ity which is sup­plied with a SmartHub. The SmartHub is actu­ally reas­on­ably decent kit con­sid­er­ing it comes for free, but as with most ISP sup­plied devices it is locked down in some ways, for example you can’t use your own DNS serv­ers which I prefer to do. In the early days of ADSL (circa 2001) I ran a smooth­wall box in place of a router, and for a range of reas­ons (includ­ing inter­net fil­ter­ing con­trolled by me, rather than an ISP) I decided to go back to a linux-based fire­wall router.

The little Cel­er­on J1900 box I got to do the hard­ware side of things didn’t want to install smooth­wall, so I installed pfsense instead. I also had to get a vDSL (fibre) modem to con­nect the router to the phone sock­et. I got a net­gear DM200 which is actu­ally a full router that can be switched into “modem only” mode. Get­ting the whole arrange­ment work­ing took quite some fid­dling, so I thought I’d pull all the resources togeth­er in one place

1. Installing pfsense

I needed to install pfsense via USB, so effect­ively by flash drive. This was made pos­sible by the use of a blank pen drive, soft­ware called rufus, and the ‘mem­stick’ down­load of pfsense.

2. Configuring the netgear DM200

To do any­thing with the DM200 you will have to con­nect both a LAN cable to it, and the phone sock­et to it. Your PC should get an address from the net­gear by DHCP but if it doesn’t you will need to manu­ally set you IP address to 192.168.5.x (x being any­thing from 2 — 254). You can then log in via web inter­face at The default login user­name is admin and the pass­word is pass­word. Select the “advanced” tab, and then the “advanced” menu option at the bot­tom left of that page. Under that select the “device mode” option. Change the device mode to “Modem (modem only)” and click apply. You can see more details and screen­shots on the net­gear help pages

3. Login and change the default password

Con­nect your pfsense box to the lan and con­nect to it using web inter­face via it’s lan IP address (which it will dis­play on it’s default boot up screen if you con­nect a dis­play to it). You may have to change your loc­al IP address to achieve this. Login to the pfsense with the user­name admin and pass­word pfsense. Go through the setup wiz­ard and when giv­en the oppor­tun­ity change the default webui pass­word. For more detailed inform­a­tion on steps 1–3 I recom­mend a guide on tec­mint

4. Configuring the pfsense box to get a basic connection

I use BT infin­ity and get­ting the right set­tings proved trick­i­er than I had hoped. I had to first con­fig­ure the WAN set­tings cor­rectly and after that, set the cor­rect pro­file for the WAN inter­face. First, go to Inter­faces: WAN and set the fol­low­ing.

IPv4 Con­fig­ur­a­tion TypePPPoE
IPv6 Con­fig­ur­a­tion TypeDHCP6
Use IPv4 con­nectiv­ity as par­ent inter­faceticked
Request only an IPv6 pre­fixticked
DHCPv6 Pre­fix Del­eg­a­tion size56
pass­wordany value will work

Save the changes, and then go to Inter­faces: Assign­ment. Set the WAN inter­face to “PPPOE…” which after sav­ing should show with the phys­ic­al inter­face in brack­ets — in my case it says “PPPOE (em0)”. Save the changes again and hope­fully you will get a con­nec­tion.

4b. WAN MTU Value

In the WAN Inter­face set­tings you might want to adjust your MTU set­ting to work optim­ally with BT Infin­ity to avoid frag­men­ted pack­ets and pos­sible pack­et loss.  I have writ­ten a ded­ic­ated art­icle on this issue.

5. IPv6 Testing

The set­tings above should be suf­fi­cient to get IPv6 work­ing on your LAN cli­ents — you should also see an IPv6 address for the pfsense LAN inter­face (i.e. one that doesn’t start fe80). Try pinging google.com from a ter­min­al win­dow on a LAN cli­ent — if you get a response from the IPv6 address then all is well. You can also check that all i cor­rect using test-ipv6.com. Thanks to Dan­neh for the set­tings. For more inform­a­tion I recom­mend this red­dit thread.

6. Enabling Intel enhanced speed-step

I don’t want my lower powered router run­ning at full tilt all the time — but sadly pfsense doens’t seem to cor­rectly sup­port intel enhanced speed step by default at the moment. To get mine work­ing (and a lower cpu tem­per­at­ure to go with it!) I first had to enable PowerD in Sys­tem -> Advanced -> Mis­cel­laneous -> Enable PowerD. If you want to enable the low­est fre­quen­cies (altho these don’t save much power) you will also need to do the fol­low­ing changes: go to Dia­gnostics, Edit File. Then enter the file path /boot/device.hints. change the bot­tom 2 entries from 1 to 0 (called hint.acpi_throttle.0.disabled and hint.p4tcc.0.disabled). Thanks to SecondEdge and dreamslack­er for these tips. To check this is work­ing you will need to log into the router via SSH, select option 8 (shell) and run sysctl dev.cpu. | grep freq. This took my cpu core tem­per­at­ure from 66C to 57C — not bad for a tiny fan­less sys­tem packed in next to anoth­er PC, a modem, and an 8-port switch.

7. Port forwarding

Go to fire­wall: NAT and then click the add but­ton. Enter the IP address and port for the des­tin­a­tion and (most likely) the same port for the extern­al port. For more detailed inform­a­tion I recom­mend a post by splurben on the pfsense for­ums.

8. NAT Reflection

I use my laptop both at home on the LAN and away from home and in both cases want to access vari­ous web inter­faces on the LAN. I use DDNS to get a domain name and wanted to use this to con­nect even when con­nec­ted to the LAN. This requires NAT reflec­tion which can be enabled under sys­tem: advanced: NAT Reflec­tion mode for port for­wards. You may (prob­ably) need to also enable 2 oth­er options on this page: Enable NAT Reflec­tion for 1:1 NAT and Enable auto­mat­ic out­bound NAT for Reflec­tion

9. Adblocking

All of my PC webbrowsers have adb­locked installed, but the same can’t be said of my android devices as these have to be rooted to install block­ers. So being able to block ads with pfsense is one of the major advant­ages of using it. First, go to sys­tem: pack­age man­ager and then search for pfb­lock­erng and install it. You can then con­fig­ure it using Fire­wall: PFB­lock­erNG. I then used the guide by Fred­Merc to con­fig­ure it. A brief sum­mary of the set­tings I’ve used is as fol­lows. Go to Fire­wall: PFB­lock­erNG and then click on the DNSBL tab, and then click on the DNSBL EasyL­ist tab. Turn on the top EasyL­ist feed and point it to EasyL­ist. Then click the add but­ton, and set the second EasyL­ist feed to EasyP­ri­vacy and turn that on too. List action should be “unbound” and I set the update fre­quency to 1 day. Then click save. Then go to the DNSBL tab and enable the option Enable DNSBL. Finally go to the Gen­er­al tab and enable pfB­lock­erNG.

9b. Adblock fixes

The default PFB­lock­erNG con­fig­ur­a­tion causes prob­lems for the amazon android app. To avoid this, and oth­er issues, it is worth using some whitel­ist­ing. Go to Fire­wall: PFB­lock­erNG and then click on the DNSBL tab, scroll down to cus­tom domain whitel­ist and enter the fol­low­ing (thanks to bchow on the pfsense for­ums)

You may also want to enable the alexa whitel­ist of top sites.

10. Transparent squid proxy

I decided to set up a trans­par­ent squid proxy as much of the brows­ing that we do hits the same sites repeatedly on dif­fer­ent devices, I don’t expect it to make a huge dif­fer­ence, but I can’t see any good reas­ons not to. Use sys­tem: pack­age man­ager to install squid. Then go to ser­vices: squid proxy serv­er to con­fig­ure it. This is also needed for Squid­Guard if you want to use it, as I do.

11. Web filtering for child safety with SquidGuard

I have young chil­dren in the house and want to block unsuit­able con­tent. This can be achieved with the Squid­Guard pack­age and Shalla’s Black­lists. Install squid­guard from sys­tem: pack­age man­ager. Then go to ser­vices: squid­guard proxy fil­ter. Go to the black­list tab, enter the address http://www.shallalist.de/Downloads/shallalist.tar.gz and click down­load. Then use the Com­mon ACL tab, click on the plus but­ton and select the cat­egor­ies you wish to block. It is also necesary to set up a dummy tar­get cat­egory due to a bug. For more inform­a­tion see this post on pfsense for­um. Don’t for­get to set the default for all of the lists to allow at the very bot­tom of the lists. Thanks to net­work­inggeek on the pfsense for­ums for this tip. Lastly — it may be worth edit­ing a couple of advanced options so that blocked requests are only cached for a short peri­od of time — that way if you decide to unblock some sites you wont have to clear the browser cache to access those sites — there is more inform­a­tion on the pfsense for­um. I had to whitel­ist the cat­egory [blk_BL_sex_lingerie] so that my wife could buy under­wear as the fil­ter was block­ing the under­wear sec­tions on main­stream retail­ers (e.g. Deben­hams).

12. Enable U-PNP for a range of services (gaming, messaging, torrent, etc)

Go to Ser­vices: UPnP & NAT-PMP, tick the top 2 boxes (Enable UPnP & NAT-PMP and Allow UPnP Port Map­ping), and click save.

13. Malicious traffic blocking with SNORT

To block detect and block poten­tially mali­cious traffic you can install the SNORT pack­age. I recom­mend run­ning it without block­ing for the first few weeks as it will block lots of things you don’t want due to large num­bers of false pos­it­ives. I recom­mend using the fol­low­ing sup­pres­sion list to avoid some of the most annoy­ing false pos­it­ives

14. Getting web-access to the modem, through the pfsense box

My Net­gear DM200 modem (in pass-through mode) is only access­ible via a fixed IP address ( I wanted to be able to access its web inter­face on LAN com­puters. There are some instruc­tions in the pfsense wiki, but these didn’t work for me at first. There is a help­ful post by user Non­sense on the pfsense for­um

14b. Showing the modem connection statistics on the pfsense dashboard

After some head­scratch­ing I figured out a way to make the modem stat­ist­ics for my net­gear modem show on my dash­board.
This is done by cre­at­ing a cus­tom wid­get with php code.
Go to dia­gnostics and edit file. Cre­ate a new file at the path

with the con­tents

You will need to cus­tom­ise the user­name and pass­word. The above code works for the Net­gear DM200, and prob­ably oth­er net­gear modems and routers. For oth­er makes of hard­ware you will need a dif­fer­ent address for the stat­ist­ics and you may need to do addi­tion­al manip­u­la­tion of the response using php.
Note that I have over-rid­den the default net­gear refresh inter­val — I’ve turned it off as the reload breaks the dash­board dis­play. To get updated num­bers just refresh the pfsense dash­board using your web browser reload but­ton
Now go to the dash­board and add the wid­get and you’re all done.

15. Fixing the certificate warning when logging in

See this guide

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