Nimbull Smart Home in North Sydney has been exploring the most effective methods for keeping a smart home safe from cyber threats. Key to this was to find a way to secure a gamut of different devices, with heavy wifi usage. Many of these are simple interfaces, that unlike laptops, cannot have antivirus directly installed on them. These include smart switches, smart lights, smart cameras and so on.
Trend Micro’s Home Network Security presented itself as a worthy test candidate.
What is it?
Think antivirus, but you only need to install it in one place, instead of on every device. It’s a security system service that helps to protect your devices from potential network intrusion, identity theft, and web threats on your network. It comes with a small black box which you plug into your router that filters the wifi signal for any nasties. You also get 24 months free subscription, so the latest patches are always applied, making sure you are always covered for the latest threats.
What was the test scenario?
For a two month period between August 1 to Sept 30 2018, Nimbull Smart Home used the Trend Micro Home Network Security black box in their showroom. 29 Devices were protected. Their showroom includes a mix of smart home devices including LiFX, Philips Hue, TP-Link, Sengled, Vera, Google, Amazon, Nanoleaf, Eve & Arlo.
In addition Nimbull Smart Home staff were working daily on a mix of wifi connected devices including printers, TVs, monitors and smartphones by Samsung, HP and Apple.
Initial Setup - 5 out of 5
Setup was fast and simple. After plugging the black box into a router, a simple wizard guides you through setup screens. It’s about as hard as entering a “pairing code” from the box, and then assigning all your devices to “family members”.
Ease of Use - 4 out of 5
The interface is quite easy to navigate, with around 5 core sections.
Creating rules around how and who uses the internet is simple using the RULES section. In our first attempt, we were able to create a rule that limited a device to only one hour of internet on Sundays.
Mobility - 4 out of 5
Here’s how the mobile app performed:
Outages and crashes - 0 in 2 months.
Visuals - 4 out of 5. A nice graphical representation of of family members, rules and timelines using wheel charts and other graphics.
Reliability / Stability - 5 out of 5
The black box unit itself did not have an outage or require a restart in the 2 month period. The latest patches were installed automatically, 4 times during the two month period. Any spot checks we performed to see which devices were currently online and protected were always accurate.
Speed - 4 out of 5
When first considering the product, we did have some concerns around it slowing down our wifi speed. Our online research told us to expect a possible 5% slow down in internet speed for these types of devices, but we did some proper field testing ourselves. Using an speed testing app called Speedtest by Ookla, we recorded the following speeds “before and after” the black box unit was plugged in.
Before plugging it into our router:
After plugging it into our router:
In summary, there was a very negligible difference in ping, download and upload speed when the Trend Micro Home Internet Security Black Box was plugged in. We perceived no difference when having the device enabled.
Effectiveness - 5 out of 5
Effectiveness was measured by understanding:
- a) what web threats were blocked on what devices, and how were they reported:
There were 2 web threats blocked during the 2 month period. They were on 2 separate laptops. Interestingly, the chrome browser was able to display a full screen warning when a threat was detected. It also gives a push notification in the app which is very useful. The “Timeline” section of the app can give an audit trail of exactly which devices were attacked and when.
- b) were any devices observed to display any suspected symptoms of cyber threats.
No smart home devices displayed any suspected symptoms of cyber attack.
Affordability - 4 out 5
Comparing the products affordability to regular anti virus which is installed on every device is not an apples to apples comparison. That being said, the $299 price point would be considered good value, especially when compared to the cost of installing anti virus on every one of our applicable devices in the Nimbull Smart Home showroom. At the time of writing the product is $100 cheaper than Norton Core, the closest comparable product on the market, making Trend Micro Home Network Security good value.
Overall Rating - 4 out of 5
Trend Micro Home Network Security performed well in protecting a large array of smart home devices over a 2 month period. Nimbull Smart Home has decided to keep running this device as part of our ongoing protection against cyber threats to our smart home devices.