It's been clear for a while now that the old signature and heuristics systems used to detect malware have been woefully inadequate for preventing and detecting online threats. That's resulted in a lot of effort being made to use big data and analytics to prevent and detect attacks. But that effort has primarily been at the enterprise level. Norton Core is a new product that will available in Australia soon that brings intelligence and automation to the home.
The Mirai botnet attack in 2016 highlighted the vulnerabilities present in IoT devices including home routers. Since then, several major router makers have revealed flaws that allow their devices to be taken over. It's against that backdrop that Norton, the consumer division of Symantec, designed the Norton Core.
I've looked at a lot of routers over the years and never seen one that looked like this. The geodesic body is attractive, and was clearly not designed by the engineering team. Industrial designers created the body and then had the engineering team work to that. That design process gave Norton complete control over every element of the device, from the 1.7GHz dual-core process through to the 4 x 4 MIMO antenna arrangement, to the router software.
Security starts with hardware enforced secure boot that uses a custom "crypto chip" according to Bruce McCorkendale, the VP Technology in the Norton Business Unit. That ensures that the device only boots to an operating system that's been signed by Norton. That also goes for firmware updates - which happen in the background without the need for users to check and manually apply.
"We don't want to be part of the problem," said McCorkendale.
Unlike many other routers, that add security software as a "bolt on", the Norton Core is completely Norton's intellectual property.
The intelligence in the device "understands" threats and vulnerabilities, as well as what data is "safe" and whether applications are behaving as expected. It's informed by the data collected through the company's security operations centres.
It also includes some of the best parental controls I've seen on a home router as well as a gamified mobile app that analyses your network and gives a score between zero and 500, telling you how secure your network is and offering advice on what you can do to improve yuour score and make it safer.
Since it's release last year, the Norton Core has blocked 22 threats per household per day in the US.
It's important to note the protection includes IoT devices that typically can't have end-point security software and may be deployed with weak security such as default passwords.
Pricing and availability
The Norton Core will have an upfront cost of $399. As well as the device, that gives licenses for the company's end point software for ten devices for a year. To keep getting the Norton Core's security monitoring features and the end-point licenses, you'll need to pay $17.99 per month.
I did suggest to the Norton folks that this was a pretty steep price. Their response was that the Norton Core is a high-end router and that it's performance and range exceeds most others on the market. And the monthly subscription is good value when you consider what you're getting.
If you choose to not take up the monthly subscription, you still have a premium router.
Symantec said the Norton Core will be available during our winter. I'm looking forward to road testing it then.