The first of its kind brings a deeper level of security
Norton’s security products are well established, have a great reputation and routinely do exceptionally well in our annual PC & Tech Authority magazine security group test.
Its Core product is new, and unique. At a basic level it’s an AC2600 router housed in a very cool looking geodesic dome-style housing, which, they tell us, is inspired by military radar housings, which was nice to hear because that’s the first thing I thought of. It uses 4x4 MU-MIMO technology, too, which effectively allows the Wi-Fi signal to follow a device around the house for optimum signal strength.
But with it comes subscription-based hardware-level security with real-time monitoring that communicates with Norton’s servers for verification as traffic comes in, and that’s the big thing. It scans and monitors all network traffic and actively blocks threats. Any traffic is assigned a threat level as it hits the router, which then applies different levels of filtering depending on the perceived danger. We understand that it works using a combination of Norton’s well evolved whitelists as well as using hardware to actively determine new threats.
The hardware also uses encryption to block any hack attempts of the router itself when the router is booting, requiring the device to authenticate with Norton’s servers each boot, preventing a vulnerability that has affected routers in the past.
Interestingly there is no browser control of the device, it instead uses an Android or iOS app to do all that. Unlike its standard security products you won’t be able to whitelist your own apps – say, adding a game’s .exe to your whitelist – but it can prioritise traffic using constant communication like media or gaming, and for gaming you can also set the Core to prioritise UDP traffic, being what most games use.
It comes with a similar set of parental controls we’re used to seeing in regular security suite products.
Norton suggest that the Core should not replace a standard software security product, but instead use it to add another layer of protection – it’s almost enterprise level in that regard.
The rub is that it’s not going to be cheap. The base cost is $399 for the router and with that you get a one year subscription to the service. After that it’s $18 a month. If you choose not to pay the router simply reverts back to being a router sans the extra security features. While that cost is relatively high over the course of a year, it does cover a generous 10 devices, and, you also get a subscription to the regular Norton Security product, also covering 10 devices. Norton Security currently sells for $105 for five devices, so really that represents a decent bonus.
Core is scheduled for release later this year. It’s been onsale in the U.S. for about a year, and Australia and New Zealand are the second global territories to get the device.
We will, of course, do a full review once a unit is made available to us, paying particular attention to its impact on internet speeds which the company tells us is minimal.