Upgrading the D-Link routers to OpenWrt


Hacking the D-Link DIR-878

By Craig Miller

OpenWrt is my router software of choice. And with hundreds of supported home routers to choose from, it is usually easy to come by an inexpensive piece of hardware to upgrade to OpenWrt. Usually this is a simple affair, navigate to the firmware upgrade section in the OEM's software, and upgrade to the appropriate OpenWrt image.

Recently, while assisting a friend, I discovered that the old tried-and-true method no longer worked. D-Link had gone high-tech, and is now using signed images. What this means is that if the new firmware (or image) has not been cryptographically signed by the OEM, the router will reject the image. Naturally, OpenWrt, open source router software is not signed by D-Link.

Using the bootloader web interface to flash firmware

To D-Link's credit, they have put in a web-based firmware flasher in their bootloader. It isn't as nice as GL-iNETs web-based uboot flash utility, but it works with caveats.

The last one is the challenge, since D-Link only distributes signed images as of 2018.And, it rejects the OpenWrt image (some checksum error). So is there another way?

Hacking the D-Link router

Fortunately, I am not the only one who has wanted to install alternate router software on a D-Link router. Someone wrote a clever Python script (dir-882-telnet-hack.py ) to hack into the D-Link firmware. Using a vulnerability, a modified SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) command is sent to the router which starts a telnet server with no authentication.

Ack! D-Link has fixed this vulnerability

If you have a modern firmware on your D-Link router, then the telnet-hack python script won't work. Kudos to D-Link on fixing that security hole. Fortunately, they still have the older firmwares available, and it is just a matter of flashing an older signed image from D-Link.

D-link download

Just click on the down arrow, to find the older firmware. Version 1.10 is a good one to use, as it is signed and still has the telnet-hack vulnerability.

Flashing D-Link Firmware

Using the D-link Web GUI, navigate over to the firmware upgrade page (Management->Upgrade).

D-link download

And click on "Select File" to open the older D-link firmware you just downloaded. Then upgrade (actually downgrading) the firmware. The router will reboot, and you will be running the older vulnerable firmware.

Back to Hacking

Once the router has been downgraded to a vulnerable version of D-link firmware, it is time to run the telnet-hack python script (dir-882-telnet-hack.py ).

$ python3 ./dir-882-telnet-hack.py
[*] Send payload to
[*] Exploit success!
[!] telnet

Then it is just a matter of telnetting to the router, and observing that you have logged in without a password challenge, and that you are root (the '#' prompt is usually reserved for root)

$ telnet
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.

BusyBox v1.12.1 (2018-02-03 16:38:35 CST) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.


And you are in and have successfully hacked into the D-Link router. Leave that telnet session open for now, we'll come back to it.

Upgrading to OpenWrt

Use a browser to navigate to the OpenWrt Table of Hardware. Find your router, and click on the View/Edit Data link. This will take you to a more detailed info page about your router. It has good info, such as how much memory, storage, Ethernet ports, etc. Near the bottom, you will find links to the OpenWrt images.

For the D-Link DIR-878, it lists:

Firmware OpenWrt Install URL: https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/21.02.1/targets/ramips/mt7621/openwrt-21.02.1-ramips-mt7621-dlink_dir-878-a1-squashfs-factory.bin

Download the Firmware OpenWrt Install image. The Key is that when flashing OpenWrt from OEM software, you want to use the factory image. And any upgrading afterward you should use the Upgrade image.

Loading the OpenWrt image onto the D-link router

In the D-Link Web GUI, navigate to the Upgrade page again (Management->Upgrade). This time click on "Select File" and select the OpenWrt image. The upgrade will fail, since the OpenWrt image is not signed. But that is OK.

Because what it did do is transfer the file to the router, and it is now in the /tmp directory on the router.

Back to our hacked telnet session

Switch back to your telnet session that we left open earlier. Change directory to the /tmp directory, and look for the image file. There is no MD5 sum to check. But if you are unsure, look at the size of the firmware file, and compare that to the OpenWrt factory image on your laptop. If they are the same, then got ahead and flash the image with mtd_write utility.

cd /tmp
ls -l firmware*
mtd_write -r -w write /tmp/firmware.img Kernel

The router will write the new image, and reboot. Congratulations, you have just upgraded your D-Link router to OpenWrt

When the D-Link reboots, OpenWrt IP will be

The Default IP address of OpenWrt is You laptop should pick up an IP address on the 192.168.1.x network.

Point your browser at and you should be presented a vanilla OpenWrt stating that there is NO PASSWORD. Just click log in and give it a password (System->Administration).

OpenWrt defaults with the Wireless interfaces disabled, so you must use Ethernet for the initial configuration. This is part of the security of OpenWrt. Go ahead and configure the Wireless (Network->Wireless), and don't forget to set a pass phrase under Wireless Security tab.

Welcome to Router freedom

OpenWrt is a open source Linux Distro with over 9000 software packages to choose from. You can configure your router to be a OpenVPN server, Wireguard VPN server, Adblocker (like PiHole), NAS server, even a DNS64/NAT64 translation device (for IPv6-only). Of course the router doesn't have enough storage for 9000 packages, but you have the freedom to modify your router they way you want. Not just what some OEM that you might want.

Go forth and enjoy OpenWrt and do what you want.

Additional Info:

2 February 2022