Fuelled by emerging threats and their ability to monetize protection from them, Symantec's consumer division Norton has announced a new wireless router that it hopes will be effective in protecting the new wave of IoT devices that are either on the market now or headed for it shortly.
Priced at an introductory $199.99 (normally $279.99), the Norton Core is visually startling for a router; loosely resembling a geodesic dome - think Epcot Centre - it comes in either Titanium Gold or Granite Grey, and has all of the latest technologies you would expect from a modern router. Its credentials include Wave-II wireless, which means simultaneous dual band 2.4/5GHz, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, beamforming antennae and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It has a theoretical maximum throughput of about 2.5Gbps.
The device also features four Ethernet ports (1 x WAN, 3 x LAN), and two USB 3.0 ports - but, curiously, these latter two ports aren't mentioned at all in any of Norton's product information.
Referring to its built-in IoT protection, Norton gives the following, quite vague information regarding IoT device protection and auto-quarantining on Core:
Core discovers smart devices, identifies vulnerabilities and secures them all. If a device is ever breached, Core quarantines the threat.
Through deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention, and more, Core defends your home at the network level. Core fends off cyber-threats before they can infiltrate your home and compromise your personal life.
Core also comes with an accompanying smartphone app which is designed to administer and monitor the router. That may sound unusual at first, because routers don't ordinarily need 'managing' on a daily basis, but the Norton Core does have some value-added features that make it worth managing. For example, it will give your home network a 'score' that is based on how secure your network is currently, and how it's performing.
You can manage features like your guest network from the app, revoke network access by device, setup a 'bedtime' schedule to prevent wireless connectivity at certain times or even manage screen time, effectively limiting the amount of time each individual device has per day on the internet.
But there is a catch, and it's very...Norton. The price of the unit includes 12 months' complimentary subscription to Norton Core Security Plus, after which you pay $9.99 per month with an annual commitment. The Security Plus suite includes anti-virus for up to 20 devices, but it also covers security updates for the device itself, meaning you're effectively paying $9.99 per month for your wireless router. If you cancel the subscription, Norton's FAQs state that the router will continue to work but that IoT protection, device level security and all parental features will be disabled.
If the security and other benefits are seen as worthwhile, the $9.99 monthly fee may not be a problem, but for consumers who are happy with their existing router, its firewall and how it's managed, it's difficult to imagine how the price tag, plus the subscription could be seen as worthwhile, especially considering how little is known about the real-world security protection it actually offers.