Thanks to Tablets and Smartphones, Wi-Fi Security a Bigger Concern

Look for 2012 as the year for home networking routers with built-in access and security controls to take off. Why? Because the popularity of tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire will necessitate a way for SOHO employers (and parents) to control users’ online habits and to protect them from unwanted, non-business related sites. Because the brains at Cyberoam, makers of identity-based unified threat management (UTM) appliances know all too well that everyday browsing is moving quickly away from desktops to devices like smartphones, gaming consoles and tablets, they are the first vendor to offer up a Wi-Fi router that adds parental controls (think employee controls too) and security to anything connected to the local Wi-Fi.

It’s no surprize that consumer electronics network connections are growing rapidly. ABI Research firm says that wireless will remain the dominant LAN connection type and that, "Wi-Fi connections in consumer electronics devices will rise from 113 million in 2008 to more than 285 million by 2012."

To hear Abhilash Sonwane, senior vice president for Cyberoam, explain the problem this causes, he says, “Wi-Fi security does not come pre-configured in most routers available in the market today, resulting in open wireless routers that offer limited or no security over Wi-Fi. This is leading to unsecure Internet access with network security getting easily compromised. “

To solve this problem the company developed a Wi-Fi router called NetGenie, which combines URL and application blocking coupled with antivirus, Intrusion Protection, firewall and virtual private network (VPN) for small offices and home offices. The company surveyed thousands of working parents and small employers so as to convince management of its market demand.

“At the time when we were mulling over the NetGenie idea, Wi-Fi security was already a concern,” said Sonwane. “ The survey findings revealed that parents wanted the security of antivirus, Intrusion Prevention and parental controls for their kids and over 84% of parents were willing, rather eager, to buy a solution to safeguard users from online threats. The statistics that came out from the survey sufficiently confirmed the demand for a product like this.”

NetGenie administrators can control and protect wireless devices such as iPads and smartphones from wasting company time on non-business related websites while permitting free access during certain pre-allocated times. Admins can also override default settings by adding URLs to a whitelist. Websites that fall under categories such as gaming, adult content, and shopping sites, for example, can be blocked. Access can also be limited to applications such as Skype and Yahoo Messenger, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, job portals, movie downloads, and the like.

The $139 device generates reports on browsing activities and applications used, detailing user attempts made to access blocked websites and applications deemed inappropriate by the administrator. These reports also do a good job of listing attempted virus or intrusion attacks on the network.

On the security side, NetGenie SOHO version throws in a customizable firewall with stateful packet inspection and NAT capabilities, distributed denial of service (DDos) protection, MAC binding and Intrusion Prevention. For peace of mind, all devices connected to NetGenie are protected against viruses, spyware, unwanted downloads and installation of harmful programs. Like most standard routers, it assures secure wireless traffic using WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption standards.

NetGenie settings can be managed through any connected device such as a desktop, laptop, or handheld device from anywhere within the network without the need to install software. With support for 3G, NetGenie allows users to share a USB broadband or 3G modem with multiple users simultaneously.

With employees (and kids) doing more of their Internet browsing on smartphones and tablets, the hardware approach to monitoring and blocking Internet access to non-productive websites makes smart sense.

About the Author

Victor Cruz is a consultant and writer living in Boston whose articles have appeared in Cloud Computing Journal, CommPro.biz, and eSecurity Planet.

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