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Friday, 27 January 2017 14:57

Trend Micro Home Network Security (review)

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Perhaps the best home security is the kind you cannot see – it just does its job unobtrusively. That best describes Trend Micro’s Home Network Security device – it needs to sound a loud klaxon every time it saves you from a threat or you may forget it is there.

This device is a small 240V powered box that you attach with an Ethernet cable to a port on your gateway/router. You install the iOS or Android app on your smartphone (the only way to communicate with it), pair the device to the app (using auto-discovery or 2D barcode), and that is it.

As you use the home network, it discovers new devices and you can allocate them to an owner, change the device name to something more familiar, and turn network access on or off. The fact you can use the app to deny a device access is good, especially if some unknown devices show up. You can also see shared devices like printers etc.

TM HNS charts

While it constantly monitors for threats, it does a daily security scan and has a report going back 30 days that covers ransomware websites, vulnerabilities, network attacks, and Web threats. Disappointingly (if you are a glass-half-empty type) or great (if half-full) it has only discovered two Web threats during the 30-day test with more than a dozen connected devices – still, if it stopped two that’s better than not.

The box is not a firewall – that is left up to your router. It works via routing all Internet traffic in and out via the box (with an imperceptible delay), inspecting it and blocking bad stuff. What that means is it protects every device on your home network – be they computers, smartphones, IoT devices, security cameras and entertainment gear like smart TVs.

The secret sauce is that this box has access to Trend Micro’s security cloud that knows what nasties lurk out in cyberspace. The $399 unit comes with two years’ subscription of Trend Micro Home Network Security Station (the secret sauce) to protect all your Wi-Fi and Ethernet-connected devices. After that, you can buy annual updates. If you don’t purchase renewals the device will simply stop working.

TM HNS info

Small issues

I use two routers (a cable gateway and an AC5300) and segment the network (entertainment/IoT, and the other for computing devices). The Trend Micro Home Network can only protect devices connected to the nominated primary router. The trick is to connect it to the main router — in this case, a Telstra cable gateway — and connect everything else to the other router to give full protection.

HTTPS sites are currently assumed to be safe but there is a growing trend for cyber criminals to use these as malware sites. Trend Micro is looking into this.

I think the app has a little way to go – not in usability but perhaps in adding more features like identifying IP address and bandwidth use. I would like to see a browser version as well.

And it does not remove the need for anti-virus/malware software when perhaps it could also have Trend Micro’s Maximum Security software included, if only for a handful of ‘removable” devices like notebooks etc.

My take

Most people are going to look at it glass half-empty style and say $399 plus subscriptions after the first two years is too expensive.

I suspect however that with the growing number of IoT devices that are impossible to secure without it, that it will be money well spent. The proof, however, will be in seeing if it does fully protect everything on the network or if cyber criminals find a way around it.

I give it seven out of ten stars, only because I suspect this version one has many more things it could do.

Whatever the outcome this is the first add-on subscription device for home networks and I expect to see this category grow.

On that point, Fing has its US$79 Fingbox on Indiegogo and, while it does not have Trend’s secret sauce, it claims to be a digital fence and will block intruders and more.

Symantec has also announced its Core Router that includes security in a router. Trends offering is that it works with any router/gateway so when you replace your router it stays.

 

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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