What is UPnP, and is it Safe?

Updated on May 11, 2023
What is UPnP, and is it Safe?

With the proliferation of smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), the need for seamless connectivity and communication between devices has become increasingly important. One of the technologies that facilitate this seamless connectivity is Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). UPnP is a set of networking protocols that enables devices to discover and communicate with each other on a local network without requiring manual setup.

While UPnP offers numerous benefits in terms of convenience and ease of use, it also raises concerns about security and privacy. In this guide, we will delve into UPnP, exploring what it is, how it works, and, most importantly, whether it is safe to use. We will examine the potential risks associated with UPnP and offer tips on how to secure UPnP-enabled devices.

What is UPnP, and What is it used for?

UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is a set of networking protocols that enables devices to discover and communicate with each other on a local network without requiring manual setup. The main goal of UPnP is to simplify the process of connecting devices to a network and allow them to interact with each other seamlessly. UPnP is widely used in smart homes, businesses, and other environments where multiple devices must communicate.

How Does UPnP Work?

UPnP is built on a set of networking protocols that enable devices to discover and communicate with each other on a local network without requiring manual setup. The main protocols used by UPnP include Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), Internet Gateway Device Protocol (IGD), and the description, control, and event subscription (GENA) protocol.

When a UPnP device is connected to a network, it broadcasts a message using SSDP to announce its presence on the network. Other UPnP devices on the network receive the message and can communicate with the device without requiring manual setup. Devices can also use the IGD protocol to communicate with devices on other networks, such as the Internet.

UPnP devices are classified into control points, devices, and services. Control points are devices that initiate UPnP requests, such as a user’s smartphone or computer. Devices are any UPnP-enabled hardware, such as a smart TV or a wireless speaker. Services are the devices’ functions, such as streaming video or playing music.

When a control point initiates a request, it sends a message to the device that provides the required service. The device then responds to the control point, allowing it to access the service. This communication takes place using the GENA protocol, which enables devices to communicate changes in their status to other devices on the network.

The Dangers of UPnP

UPnP devices are designed to automatically open ports on a network’s firewall, making the network more vulnerable to attacks.

One of the main dangers of UPnP is that it can enable attackers to access devices on a network remotely. If an attacker gains access to a device on the network, they can use that device to launch attacks on other devices or steal sensitive information. For example, an attacker could use UPnP to open a port on a smart TV and then use that port to gain access to a user’s home network.

Another risk of UPnP is that it can enable attackers to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. By opening ports on multiple devices on a network, an attacker can use those devices to send a large amount of traffic to a target server or website, overwhelming it and causing it to crash.

Additionally, UPnP can make it easier for attackers to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks, in which they intercept communications between devices on a network. This can enable attackers to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information.

To mitigate the risks associated with UPnP, it is important to ensure that devices on the network are kept updated with the latest security patches and firmware updates. Disabling UPnP on devices is also a good idea unless necessary for their operation. Finally, it is important to ensure that the network’s firewall is configured to block incoming traffic on all ports unless it is explicitly allowed.

What are the risks of having UPnP enabled?

UPnP, despite its convenience, can pose security risks due to its inherent design and functionality. This raises the concern making us wonder that should UPnP be enabled? The following are some key reasons why UPnP can be a security risk:

Automatic Port Forwarding

One of the main security risks associated with UPnP is its ability to open ports on a network’s firewall automatically. This feature is intended to facilitate device communication but can also create entry points for unauthorized access. Attackers can exploit these open ports to gain access to devices on the network or launch malicious activities.

Lack of Authentication and Authorization

UPnP devices often lack strong authentication and authorization mechanisms. This means that once an attacker gains access to the network, they can easily interact with UPnP-enabled devices without proper authentication or authorization checks. This can lead to unauthorized control of devices, data breaches, or manipulation of settings.

Vulnerabilities in UPnP Implementations

Like any software or protocol, UPnP implementations can have vulnerabilities. If a device has outdated or insecure UPnP firmware or software, it can be susceptible to exploitation by attackers. Vulnerabilities in UPnP implementations can be leveraged to gain unauthorized access, launch attacks, or compromise the entire network.

Exposure of Devices to External Networks

UPnP can expose devices on a local network to external networks, including the Internet. This exposure increases the attack surface and makes devices more vulnerable to external threats. Attackers can target UPnP-enabled devices directly from the internet, increasing the risk of unauthorized access or attacks.

Potential for Malicious Configuration Changes

Malware that utilizes UPnP takes advantage of the protocol to exploit vulnerabilities and carry out malicious activities. UPnP can allow malware to spread within a network or gain unauthorized access to devices. Malware may use UPnP to automatically configure network settings, open ports, or bypass security measures, enabling the malware to propagate or establish control over devices without the user’s knowledge or consent. This poses significant security risks and emphasizes the importance of securing UPnP-enabled devices.

Should You Disable UPnP?

Considering the potential security risks associated with UPnP, it is generally recommended to disable UPnP unless necessary for specific devices’ functionality on your network. Here are some reasons to consider disabling UPnP:

Vulnerability Exploitation

UPnP can create a potential entry point for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your network and devices. By disabling UPnP, you eliminate this automatic port forwarding capability, reducing the attack surface and making it more difficult for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities.

Unauthorized Device Control

UPnP can allow unauthorized individuals to manipulate your devices or change their settings without your knowledge or consent. Disabling UPnP helps prevent unauthorized control over your devices, protecting your privacy and security.

Mitigating Malware Risks

Malware that utilizes UPnP can exploit the protocol to propagate within your network or establish control over your devices. By disabling UPnP, you close off this avenue for malware propagation and limit the potential impact of such attacks.

Granular Control and Manual Configuration

Disabling UPnP requires manual configuration of network settings and port forwarding, giving you greater control over your network and allowing you to manage the traffic carefully entering and leaving your network. This manual approach ensures you know all the network connections and can apply specific security measures where needed.

Network Segmentation

Disabling UPnP can be part of a larger network security strategy, including segmenting your network into separate subnets or VLANs. By isolating devices into different segments, you can mitigate the impact of potential breaches and limit the spread of malicious activities within your network.

How to Fix UPnP Security Problems?

There are two ways to fix UPnP security problems:

UPnP-User Profile (UPnP-UP)

It provides a balance between convenience and security. UPnP-UP requires authorization for UPnP devices and apps before granting any requests. Still, it may not be a complete solution since your router and devices may not support it. The protocol cannot still determine the trustworthiness of external devices attempting to connect to your router.

Disable UPnP

The second option is disabling UPnP on your network, eliminating all UPnP-related threats. However, this means giving up UPnP’s convenience, so it’s important to carefully evaluate the pros and cons before deciding.

If you heavily rely on UPnP, check if your router has a built-in mechanism to guard against UPnP exploits before disabling the protocol. If your router can protect itself, there is no need to worry. However, if you feel that your network and devices are at risk without any protective mechanism, disabling UPnP is the safer choice.

What is UPnP Router?

A UPnP router, also known as a UPnP-enabled router, is a networking device that supports the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol. UPnP routers have built-in functionality to enable devices on a network to automatically discover and communicate with each other without requiring manual configuration.

UPnP routers typically have UPnP functionality enabled by default, allowing devices to automatically set up port forwarding, open network ports, and establish connections for applications and services that require inbound access. This convenience simplifies tasks like online gaming, media streaming, file sharing, and remote access to devices on the network.

How to Disable UPnP?   

Disabling UPnP on your router typically involves accessing the router’s administration settings through a web interface. The exact steps may vary depending on your router model and firmware, but here’s a general guide:

  1. Open a web browser on a device connected to your network.
  2. Enter your router’s IP address in the address bar. The default IP address is often printed on the router itself or provided in its documentation. Common IP addresses are “” or “”.
  3. Enter your router’s username and password to log in. If you still need to change these credentials, check the router’s documentation or the manufacturer’s website for the default login information.
  4. Navigate to the UPnP settings section. The exact location of this setting may vary depending on your router’s firmware. Look for terms like “UPnP,” “NAT,” or “Port Forwarding” in the router’s settings menu.
  5. Disable UPnP. This may involve toggling a switch or selecting a “Disable” option for UPnP.
  6. Save the changes and exit the router’s administration settings.

Once you have disabled UPnP on your router, the automatic port forwarding functionality will be turned off, reducing the potential security risks associated with UPnP.

How to Enable UPnP on Router?

Follow the same steps explained above to get to the settings menu, and from where you disable UPnP, just toggle “Enable,” and UPnP will be enabled on your router. However, the point to remember is that the discussed procedure works for most routers but not all of them. There are slight chances that your router may have different configurations.

How Does a VPN Help with UPnP Security Risks?

When addressing UPnP security risks, using a reliable VPN like AstrillVPN can provide significant benefits. Let’s explore how AstrillVPN can help mitigate these risks:

1.   Enhanced Privacy and Encryption

AstrillVPN offers robust encryption protocols that secure internet traffic, including UPnP communications. Encrypting your data, AstrillVPN prevents unauthorized access and protects sensitive information from potential attackers.

2.   Anonymity and IP Address Concealment

With AstrillVPN, your IP address is masked and replaced with one from their extensive server network. This added layer of anonymity makes it challenging for potential attackers to identify your network or target it for UPnP-related attacks. Your online activities remain private and secure.

3.   Firewall Protection and Intrusion Prevention

AstrillVPN employs advanced firewall features and intrusion prevention mechanisms. These security measures help block malicious traffic, including potential UPnP exploit attempts, ensuring your network remains safeguarded against unauthorized access and cyber threats.

4.   Geo-restriction Bypass

Another advantage of AstrillVPN is its ability to bypass geo-restrictions. By connecting to their global network of servers, you can access content and services that may be restricted in your region. This feature allows you to utilize UPnP functionality while enjoying fully enhanced security.

While discussing UPnP security risks, it’s essential to consider reliable VPN solutions like AstrillVPN. Their comprehensive features, including privacy protection, encryption, firewall safeguards, and geo-restriction bypass, make them valuable in securing your network and mitigating UPnP-related vulnerabilities.

Remember, ensuring the security of your network and devices is paramount. A trusted VPN like AstrillVPN can play a vital role in protecting your online activities while enjoying the benefits of UPnP functionality.

UPnP Cyberattacks in the Past

Mirai Attack

The Mirai attack was a significant cyberattack that occurred in 2016. It exploited vulnerabilities in various Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including those using UPnP. The Mirai botnet, composed of compromised devices, launched massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against targeted websites and services. The attack exploited weak or default credentials on devices with enabled UPnP, allowing the botnet to propagate and compromise many IoT devices.

Flash UPnP Attack

The Flash UPnP attack, also known as the Misfortune Cookie vulnerability, was discovered in 2014. It targeted residential gateway devices with vulnerable UPnP implementations. Attackers exploited the vulnerability by sending a specially crafted HTTP cookie to gain unauthorized access to the device’s administrative interface. This attack could result in device compromise, data theft, or the establishment of a backdoor for further malicious activities.

Pinkslipbot Attacks

The Pinkslipbot, also known as QakBot or Qbot, is a sophisticated malware strain involved in various cyberattacks. One of its techniques involved leveraging UPnP vulnerabilities to facilitate its spread within a compromised network. By exploiting UPnP-enabled devices, the malware could map ports and establish communication channels, potentially allowing the attacker to control additional devices and carry out malicious activities, such as data theft or distributing other malware strains.

UPnProxy Attack

In 2018, researchers discovered a new attack, UPnProxy (UPnP Proxy), targeting vulnerable UPnP implementations. The attack exploited a flaw in UPnP devices to redirect incoming network traffic through malicious proxy servers. This allowed attackers to intercept and manipulate the traffic, potentially leading to data theft, eavesdropping, or the injection of malicious content.

EternalSilence Attack

The EternalSilence attack, discovered in 2015, targeted home routers with UPnP enabled. It exploited vulnerabilities in UPnP implementations to modify the router’s DNS (Domain Name System) settings. By redirecting DNS queries, attackers could control the traffic flow and potentially direct users to malicious websites, leading to phishing attempts, malware downloads, or other fraudulent activities.


Considering the security risks involved, it is advisable to evaluate the necessity of UPnP in your network environment carefully. Disabling UPnP on your router can significantly reduce the potential attack surface and protect your network from UPnP-related threats. However, it’s essential to weigh the convenience provided by UPnP against the potential security risks and make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.

Additionally, implementing alternative security measures, such as enabling strong device passwords, regularly updating firmware and software, and utilizing a reputable VPN, can further enhance the security of your network and mitigate UPnP-related risks.

By staying informed about UPnP vulnerabilities, following best security practices, and regularly monitoring network activity, you can proactively safeguard your devices, data, and network infrastructure from potential UPnP cyber threats.


Is UPnP needed for gaming?

UPnP is not necessary for gaming, but it can provide convenience by automatically configuring network settings and opening ports for online gaming. It simplifies the process of establishing connections with other players and hosting multiplayer games.

Is UPnP on or off by default?

The default state of UPnP varies depending on the router manufacturer and model. Some routers have UPnP enabled by default, while others may have it disabled.

Does UPnP bypass NAT?

Yes, UPnP can bypass Network Address Translation (NAT) to establish direct connections between devices on a network and external networks or services. It dynamically manages port mappings and allows devices behind a NAT-enabled router to receive incoming connections initiated from external sources.

Is UPnP an Ethernet?

No, UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is not specific to Ethernet. It is a network protocol set that facilitates device discovery, communication, and control within a local network environment. UPnP can be used over various network technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and others.

Should I turn on UPnP for Xbox?

Enabling UPnP for Xbox can simplify setting up network connections and accessing Xbox Live services. It allows the Xbox console to automatically configure network settings, open ports, and establish online multiplayer connections without manual intervention.

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