Today I’ll tell you what I think is the MOST important security feature that your Internet router should have. “Self-updating” is the basement floor of my house of router standards. I can’t imagine using Windows without automatic security updates, and keeping a router’s operating system patched is no less critical. Read on for my recommendations on secure, self-updating routers…
Best Security-Minded Home Routers
Do you know the last time you updated your router’s firmware? Unless you have one that automatically updates itself, you’re probably vulnerable to a few dozen security issues. A recent router security study focusing on Wi-Fi routers from nine well-known manufacturers found over 200 potential security vulnerabilities. “All devices showed significant security vulnerabilities that could make a hacker’s life much easier,” said Florian Lukavsky, CTO of IoT Inspector.
A complete discussion of router security should identify a number of secure routers by make and model. The routers mentioned below are not the only secure routers on the market, but they meet important standards for being considered more secure than the run-of-the-mill home router. If you’re not certain a router can update itself, check specs and reviews. If you don’t get a straight answer, pass on that router.
I say self-updating is a deal maker or breaker knowing full well that a botched router update can make even the “smartest” device as dumb as a brick. That happened in August 2017, when smart lock maker, Locksafe, pushed the wrong update to its RemoteLock L6i devices; hundreds of those $470 locks lost the remote lock/unlock feature that prompted AirBnB to recommend it to hosts. Even worse, the locks could not be repaired remotely, but had to be mailed back and forth; until it was fixed, an L6i was just another deadbolt lock.
Router self-updating needs the ability to roll back a botched patch. (See this article on how to rescue from a failed firmware update.) I have not seen any articles concerning router update problems in the past few years, but I regularly see headlines along the lines of “Millions of routers need security updates right away!” Botched patches are much rarer than router security vulnerabilities or attacks upon them, so I’ll go with self-updating. Let’s take a brief tour of some good quality self-updating routers.
The Asus AX-6000 router (pictured above) might scare away hackers just with its intimidating design. It has an exceptional range and Asus AI Protection, a cloud-based router security service pioneered and operated by security firm Trend Micro. The AX-6000 offers commercial-grade security but is Certified for Humans, meaning setup is made easy for non-experts. Retail price is $349.99, currently on sale at Amazon for $259.99 with free Prime shipping.
Google Wi-Fi is another self-updating router. This is a mesh network router system. It is sold in bundles of 3 small devices that can be placed anywhere in a home, like sachets of potpourri. Each device automatically connects to others in its range, creating a resilient “mesh” of access points that can grow in any direction, providing a coverage surface up to 4500 square feet. Parental controls let set screen time limits, restrict adult content, and pause Wifi to specific devices so your teenage kids can get to sleep before 3am. Retail price is $199.99, currently on sale at Amazon for $177.
The Linksys WRT3200ACM Dual-Band Open Source Routersare self-updating. The OpenWRT open-source firmware on this model is certified for MacOS (10.X or higher) and Windows (7, 8 and 10), and is a favorite of techies who want more flexibility to customize or optimize certain networking functions. In addition to providing WiFi to your desktop, laptop or mobile gadgets, the WRT3200 can connect to eSATA and USB hard drives, network printers, and flash drives. The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app allows you to monitor and control your network from a mobile device. On sale at Amazon for $229.99.
A Patch In Time Saves Bacon
Whatever router manufacturer you prefer, you should check to see how seriously it takes security. One way to do that is to visit the manufacturer’s web site and try to find evidence of past security issues. There should be at least 2-3 firmware updates (sometimes called “patch kits”) per year. Some of the above routers automatically update on a NIGHTLY basis. Likewise, security bulletins and whitepapers should be fresh, not a decade old.
Be prepared to spend a bit more for security. Good programmers, prompt patches as vulnerabilities are discovered, and a mature, reliable self-updating routine are all essential today. Such things cost money, but they may save your bacon.
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