Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a setting available in most routers that allows you to skip the manual configuration of port forwarding (hence the name plug and play).Image credit: felixtriller on flickr
UPnP can detect services running on your PC and instruct your router to accept incoming connections on the appropriate port. This means that if you are hosting a service which you’d like to make accessible over the internet (such as a gaming server), you don’t need to do any extra configuration in your router to accept the incoming connections.
Keep in mind that sometimes UPnP is enabled by default, so you may not even need to do anything to start accepting incoming connections over the internet.
Is UPnP a security concern?
The short answer is: yes, it can be. There’s a reason that routers used to drop all incoming connections by default before UPnP become standard and ubiquitous across all brands of routers. Securing your PC from malicious attacks is the job of your firewall (Windows Defender in most cases), but it’s also the job of your router. Routers without UPnP enabled will drop incoming connections, and that’s good.
At the same time, it also means that hosting a gaming server or other service that needs to be accessible from the internet is a little more challenging without UPnP. UPnP is just for convenience and makes it so a user can host a service without having to worry about figuring out how to set a static IP address and configure port forwarding.
There have been a lot of reports of hackers exploiting UPnP to launch malicious attacks. But don’t hit the panic button: as long as you have your firewall enabled and you keep your software up to date, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be affected by this kind of exploit.
In conclusion, it’s a good idea to keep UPnP disabled and just manually configure port forwarding when needed. If you find that UPnP has really made things more convenient for you, then enable it but be cognizant that there is a small risk associated with doing so.
How to enable or disable UPnP
There are a lot of router makes and models out there, so the instructions for enabling or disabling UPnP is going to vary widely. We’ll show you the step-by-step using a Linksys router. If you have a different brand, you’ll have to improvise on some steps but you should find that the process is very similar.
Start by getting the IP address of your router. Open a command prompt by going to Start and typing ‘cmd.’
In the command prompt, type ‘ipconfig’ and press enter. Your router’s IP address will be listed under ‘Default gateway.’
You can see in this example that our router’s IP address is 192.168.1.1. Type that into the address bar of your web browser to bring up your router’s configuration page.
The default password for a Linksys router is ‘admin.’ That may be true for your router as well, or you may need to look for a label on your router to find the correct password.
Once you’re logged in, click on Connectivity (if your settings look different, you’ll have to poke around in the settings to find UPnP, or consult the manual/Google for where to find it), and then Administration.
Here you’ll find the setting to enable or disable UPnP. After making your changes, click OK to save them.