The new Norton Core router is designed to improve network security for smart home devices as it sits between then and manipulative agents on the internet.
The Internet of Things is a security problem. The Mirai botnet attacks drove the point home in October. There are more and less secure devices, but they all share the same basic weaknesses: they’re underpowered, making it hard to implement serious security systems, and their basic functions require them to accept requests from anywhere on the web. That combination makes them easy targets for hackers, who can use the devices to build botnets or launch ransomware attacks. And since those aren’t the kind of problems you can fix with a software patch, the security world has been at a loss for what to do.
Today, Norton announced a new approach to the problem: building a better router. Arriving this summer, the Norton Core is pitched as a single device that will keep your smart things in line. Instead of trying to secure devices one by one, the Core solves the problem at the network level, using the router as a hub to monitor traffic from every device at once. Your thermostat likely doesn’t have the processor power to run robust malware checks, but the Core does, and since it sits between the devices and the wider internet, it also has the power to block and quarantine devices as soon as something fishy turns up.
In hardware terms, the Core is basically a high-performance router in a cool-looking shell. It has a dual-core processor to power those virus scans, and dual-band antenna to support up to 2.5 Gbps of bandwidth. It’s not an out-of-the-box mesh system, like Google Wifi or Eero, but it does share some of the aesthetic properties and smartphone-based controls as those systems. I didn’t get the chance to test the Core rigorously, so it’s hard to say how it stacks up on delivering bandwidth, but at $279 for a single unit (or $199 on preorder), you won’t be paying too much extra for the security features. Those high-performance specs also mean the Core has enough processor power to run robust internal security checks and automatically download patches, making the device itself significantly less vulnerable.