Cybersecurity is in the news nearly every day. Some celebrity gets hacked or a corporation “loses” a large number of email or account usernames and passwords. Depending on where you look, it is a $400 Billion plus problem with costs or damages in the Trillions overall.
It is easy to get lulled into complacency by the frequent mentions of how you need to protect yourself, your business, your smartphone, and your home network with its internet of things connected lights or security cams that is also at risk. At my office and elsewhere, I have pondered how to truly lock down hardware, software, and access. Passwords get stolen and quickly sold on the black market (most do not make the news, of course). What’s a business (or home network user) to do?
There are apps, of course, to secure your device usage — sending emails, files, and accessing secure websites. SNDR is a new one that sent me some ideas for this story; it launches next month. I run Avast on several laptops and other software that come with a device or machine. On some projects, I work on machines without internet connectivity.
Recently, a powerful new device from Untangle made its way into my office as a media loan. Untangle actually makes network security (firmware) for the SMB market, but they have partnered with some savvy router makers to bundle their software for home routers (and that now ubiquitous home office router, usually the same appliance). The company sent me an ASUS router that came pre-configured with their firmware. I installed it at a couple of different locations during my testing and it worked flawlessly except for the one time this user did not follow the instructions completely.
One thing to note: the measly single antenna that comes from the typical broadband provider is, well, wimpy in comparison to what Untangle sent me. Photo comparison is above. Okay, to be fair, sometimes those home wifi routers come with two measly antennas. The ASUS / Untangle router I tested has four (4) heavy-duty antennas, each one at least double the size of the standard you find on home wifi routers. So if you need a little extra distance or juice from yours, consider upgrading. This configuration actually solved some of my own connectivity problems in one location and made me aware that I needed a new wifi router. My broadband provider did not help me figure this out: “Everything appears to be working fine.”
So, whether you are a small or medium size business or a sophisticated home network user, this firmware is robust, and free, if you want to install it yourself on your own hardware. It is not for the faint of heart, though. But you will be able to look at things like:
What is the health of the router? (CPU, disk, etc)What is the state of the network? (who is online? what is the current throughput?)What applications are using the most bandwidth?What websites are being visited?Block and control which devices are allowed on the network.Scan downloaded content for malware.
The home user, in reality, has some of the same challenges that any business has; they just don’t realize it yet. Count up your devices: computers, phones, tablets, wifi speakers, Nest thermostat, some other internet of things appliance from light switches to security cams, are all likely running on your network. If you have kids, you might need to increase the number or diversity of this list for a home network. If you are evaluating different security options for your business, whatever size, the Untangle next-generation firewall (NGFW) is one way to protect your network and its devices. If you are a data junkie, then the Untangle standard and custom dashboards will keep you busy and happy.
For those readers trying to keep up with the serious cyber-security threats that take place nearly every day, I’m a big fan of Steve Morgan, who contributes here at Forbes. His Cybercrime Report 2016 is an excellent read.