Netgear Builds In Security

By Eric Griffith

July 26, 2005

The infrastructure vendor has a new initiative to provide advanced (and affordable) security for home and small business PCs from the router.

While big organizations can usually supply all of their computer users with adequate security, having multiple PCs at home that you need to protect from snoopers, virus, spyware, etc., can be a lot more difficult. Not to mention expensive.

Netgear hopes to come to your rescue. The company is building advanced software wizards into some of its routers—and all of its major wireless client hardware—to make setting up wireless security faster and easier. Plus, the company has a partnership with Trend Micro to supply every PC in your home with security software, including anti-virus, anti-spyware and parental controls, at prices much lower than buying individual software for each computer.

The Wi-Fi security part will appear first with the 108Mbps Wireless Firewall Router, model WGT624, version 3, both out of the box and as a firmware upgrade. While it sounds similar to what chipmakers like Broadcom and Atheros offer, as well as Netgear's direct competitor Buffalo Technology, the company says it is eschewing the "one-button push" security setup favored by others.

"We want a common Netgear experience," says David Henry, product line manger at Netgear for consumer routers. "We want it for low-end, mid-range, and high-end routers—and we might have different chipsets in each, so we're not going with a proprietary chipset solution." Using software wizards, he says, the company can provide the same setup across all of its product lines.

The wizard, called "Touchless Security," will allow easy setup of keys for use with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) or Wi-Fi Protected Access with Pre-Shared Keys (WPA-PSK, also known as WPA-Home). There's no automatic sync between the router and a client, however, not even the Netgear clients, but the client wizard will look at all available networks. If you choose to connect to your secure home network, it will prompt you for your pass phrase or hex key, whichever is needed.

"Another important step is that it tells you if you have a live connection to the Internet," says Henry. "Nothing is more frustrating than connecting to a router and then finding no Internet connection."

Henry admits that all of these features have been around for a while, but he says Netgear is handing security out to mainstream consumers on a silver platter to make it easier.

The Trend Micro Home Network Security software goes beyond wireless security to provide software through Netgear for use by all computers in the home. This software is, by necessity, based on the PC—you don't want to be doing a firmware upgrade to a router every time you need new virus definitions—but the program charges $40 per year for running the software on two PCs or $60 for four PCs, and you can incrementally add PCs as you go (if you buy a new router, one PC gets to use it for free for a year).

The price for additional systems is prorated based on the time left in your yearly subscription. "We want all the PCs [subscriptions] to expire the same day," says Beau Roberts, director of marketing for home networking security at Trend Micro. This is to prevent the problem found today where every PC in the home has different expiration times for different software installed.

One PC using the Trend Micro dashboard software can track the security updates found on all of the other Windows-based computers on the home network.

Trend's parental controls, unlike the other tools in the suite, do integrate with the router so you can set up profiles on what sites are okay for what users. As children in the home go to any PC, they must log on, so the router will know who the user is, and will block any indicated sites.

In addition to adding Touchless Security and the Trend Micro programs to the WGT624, which costs $90 list, Henry says Netgear will be creating a new product soon using the security features.

The partnership is not exclusive to either company. In fact, Trend's Web page indicates that the software is also available from ZyXel with its 802.11g Wireless Firewall Router, model P-334WT.



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