This sure doesn’t look like a router. In fact, it looks like an ornament. A little geodesic dome and definitely not a black box covered in antennas. The Norton Core ($449, available August 14) is the first router I’m happy to leave out where people can see it.
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The only things giving away its true purpose are the required power and Ethernet cables, and a softly glowing ring at the base.
The Core is a router and security system rolled into one. It monitors traffic and filters out known malware, and generally keeps your devices and personal data safe. And it’s all controlled via an app on your phone.
It has a list of trusted sites that it won’t scan. Everything else undergoes a security scan. These sites take fractionally longer to load. For example, I noticed a small delay with images loading on Twitter. However, streaming sites, such as Netflix, worked fine. You can change the level of inspection done by the Core, from scanning everything to turning it off completely if you’re feeling brave (or stupid).
The Core’s software is smart enough to stop individual elements on a page without blocking the whole thing. This is helpful as malware can appear on a site via third-party scripts, often delivered through ads. In that instance, the Core loads the page, but omits the ads.
I bravely tried the blocking feature by going to some untrustworthy sites. As a result, the Core found and blocked four botnet attempts on my phone. All the blocked nasties were displayed in the app, along with information about what they were and a short description of what they were trying to do.
The app also tells everything you need to know about your network. Along with showing you every connected device, it also shows you how fast it’s running at any time (powered by Ookla’s Speedtest.net).
The main thing you’ll notice is your “security score”. This number shows how protected your network is. It considers everything from the strength of your password to how many connected devices have security software. My score fell from 270 to 180 after I added devices that didn’t have security. The Norton Core comes with a free year of Norton Core Security Plus, which you can put on up to 10 devices.
Mostly you’ll use the app for controlling who’s using your network and how they use it.
Each device can be assigned to an individual profile. So yours may have a phone, laptop and tablet attached to it, while your child may just have a phone and a laptop. Instead of controlling internet access to a single device, the Core lets you monitor all the devices someone uses via a profile.
For each profile you can set time limits, bedtimes, topic filters (from abortion to webmail) and blocked websites. Being able to put limits on a whole profile means you don’t have to worry about your kids putting down their laptop and picking up their phone to access unauthorised content.
The Core also makes creating a guest network simple. If you’re having friends over, you can add them with a couple of taps. You can also control how long they stay on the network.
The Core’s best feature is how it works for internet-connected appliances. These types of devices are notoriously vulnerable to malware attacks but the Core is constantly monitoring them and keeping them from being co-opted into botnets or used as gateways into your home network.
A downside of the Core is that it’s not also a modem. You can’t plug it directly into your fibre ONT (the box where fibre comes into your house) and so you’ll still need to connect it to a modem, which means the Core can’t get rid of all the ugly bits of tech.
It’s an impressive device. It easily integrated into my home setup and was a reliable and strong WiFi source. Moreover, I felt safer using it. I didn’t check the app all the time, but it was nice to know there was something in the background keeping all my internet-connected devices secure.
This router was loaned to the writer by Norton.
By Hadyn Green