Almost every PC, tablet and smartphone has some form of software protection built in or installed, and that’s great. That offers protection for… well… that device. But what about the devices in your house with enough brains to do actual things, but no protection? Smart fridges have been detected sending spam mail by the tens of thousands daily, uncounted security cameras are vulnerable to penetration and subversion – allowing the bad people to use them as their eyes into your home and life, baby monitors have been used to mentally scar children by making them believe they are hearing the voices of angels, demons or monsters thanks to pranksters without a conscience. This is because those devices connect and branch off very early in your home network, well before the software that protects your PC has any sway. Short of connecting a spare laptop directly to your modem, then running your entire home network from that, there is little you can do to protect them.
That’s where this rather eye-catching white, somewhat cube-shaped box comes into play. The D-Link D-Fend router with McAfee protection baked right in. Have all your “Internet of Things” devices connect to this and it will put a guard on them like they were its children. All the security of a PC suite, but right inside the front door of your home network without having to run around setting up and servicing yet another PC. Another layer of protection that wraps around your whole house, as far as your internet is concerned anyway. All devices connected to it are automatically given the advantage of the latest anti-malware systems McAfee has to offer, and the best bit is that you get your first 5 years free, as part of the deal. For parents, there are also a lot of stunning Parental Controls available that can be managed quickly and easily, then left to run in the background. However, should anything unexpected or requiring human decision-making arise, you can handle it from your phone.
The device is easy to install and get running – in most cases you can simply replace your current router and be back and full clip within minutes. Installing this meant taking a few of our office sub-nets offline briefly while they connected and reconfigured themselves to the new WiFi but that was entirely automatic after feeding the new credentials into the various devices. If you have a fairly modern set of gear, you’ll be aware of the 5GHz band now available for high-speed connections to big-bore devices such as game consoles, smart TVs as well as higher-end smartphones, tablets and laptops. This unit offers you both channels – 2.4GHz and 5GHz – under the one SSID, meaning the router can find out what speed your device likes best and assign it without you having to manually adjust it. Should one network suddenly suffer a reduction in service due to interference or channel overload, it will reassign devices to ensure the maximum needs are being serviced with the minimum of hassle. This is the net result of a powerful hybrid of MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Many-In, Many-Out), Smart Beamforming (it can adjust the wave pattern to ensure devices get the strongest signal no matter where they are) and Smart Connect (automatic channel management) technologies. It’s like winning the Home Network trifecta.
So , device management… possibly one of the simplest yet least-understood features of modern infrastructure hardware like this. Every device has a unique set of signature markers, but alas few of them are human-friendly to read. However, with a bit of trial and error, and a good software package such as the one built into this unit, you can spend a bit of time and figure out which is what. Devices with a user-oriented operating system, such as laptops and desktops, will usually include something recognisable that the user who set them up would have decided on as a name. Once you have those out of the way, smartphones are usually the next easiest to identify as they usually include the make and/or model number of the device in their default label. After that, we start getting to the tricky ones – the IoT devices, who aren’t really built to be directly accessed by a person so often don’t have much in the way of easy-to-identify network names. The best trick is to “Remove” all of the unknowns from your network – don’t block them, simply disconnect them all – then power them up one at a time. As each one connects, you can relabel them to suit your needs.
The Parental Controls can be a little tricky to get to grips with, but it doesn’t take long to work through what needs to be done – there are some tutorials online but they are sometimes less than ideal. Still, the best way is to dive in. Worst case scenario, you factory-reset and start again. Here’s a bit of an outline though… One of the most pleasing features was being able to set up user profiles, allowing and disallowing content based on type and user trying to access it. Traffic is assigned a category, and filtered accordingly. While this is neither perfect nor unbeatable, it is a very commendable first-release and I am certain it will improve as the tech matures a bit more. Each user will have to seek admin (your) approval if they want to access websites that fall outside of the pre-approved types, and you can either disallow and block that site by name, or allow them to access it. You can also, with a single click, pause their connection, effectively cutting off their access to the WiFi, and reconnect it after they have finished their dinner/homework/chores/etc. This is perfect for those teenagers who want “…just one more minute…” for the third time in a row, so they can finish one more side-quest or TV show.
There are issues with the tech, of course – how it handles social media being a biggie. You can choose to block access to a wide range of content types, but this only works through browsers it seems. Stand-alone or dedicated apps on smart devices seem to bypass a lot of the filtering, possibly because they connect and draw data through dedicated protocols that don’t clearly identify what domains they are reaching out to. Facebook was one that struck me as decidedly difficult to block, as it has so many facets and alternative connections available to it that the system seemed unable to pin it down long enough to slide a block around. So, for things like that, you may need to rely a little more on the “Pause” button than any filters, and accept that they will be on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram no matter what you say. Apparently, for those with an Alexa box, you can also do this in regular-speak voice-commands via that device.
At the back of the router, there is 1 ethernet port for connecting to your modem or fibre box and 3 Gigabit LAN ports. There’s also a USB port for you to connect a portable hard drive to which will make it act like a basic NAS, or other external devices you want to share with your local network such as a budget inkjet, a 3d printer or laser engraver. I plugged a 5TB portable hard drive into it, and it works really well as a destination drive for all the office backups. It makes for a central repository that can easily be accessed to rebuild any device that gets knocked out. The drive itself has hardware-based encryption built-in so that benefits from the extra penetration-protection offered by this unit.
So… a lot of power and features, but without falling into a long and drawn-out technobabble ramble, there’s really not much more to say about this unit. It does what it claims to do, it does it quite well, and it brings into play some high-end security for a moderate price. You will get most if not all of the features your current unit has but also pick up one of the most flexible and powerful Parental Controls systems I have seen to date… which is something I personally think you can’t overlook any more these days. Things are getting quite bad out there and with cyber-bullying being one of the leading factors in youth suicide, especially in NZ, it’s something that you can not overlook. That said, if you don’t have kids this hardware is still a great idea but may not be top of your must-have list.
Overall, a stunning advancement in family-oriented home security and quite overdue. While it is not the first device to address this market, it is certainly the best I have encountered myself and leaves the other devices I have tried eating its dust. At $600+/- it’s not cheap, but if you have kids it’s an investment you would be wise to give serious consideration to. My only small gripe is the adherence to the current trend of white shells. It’s not the ugliest device I have trialled, but then it’s not meant to sit out in the open. Still, white devices start to show dust and debris within hours, and I am not the best at dusting around the office but this may give me a bit more of a nudge I suppose.
Reposted in partnership with: KIWIreviews.nz
Disclosure Statement: This unit was supplied by D-Link ANZ expressly for the purposes of review. No fee was offered or accepted for this impartial review.
Why buy a Wi-Fi Router for your Internet, a separate firewall for security and a subscription for parental controls when you can do it all with the D-Fend AC2600 Wi-Fi Router with McAfee Protection? Stop hacker and malware at the Router-level, way before they can come close to your connected devices.
Now you can enjoy high-speed, data-intensive activities like steaming HD video and online gaming without worrying about the kids visiting inappropriate content, sacrificing your smart homes’ privacy and security. Give your home network an extra layer of powerful protection with the D-fend AC2600 Wi-Fi Router.
• Keep Kids Safe Online: D-Fend ensures kids can only view age-appropriate content, by automatically blocking websites and web categories
• Control Kids Internet Access: Create profiles for each child, setting Internet access times and curfews, as well as allow you to ‘Pause the Internet’ anytime
• McAfee Secure Home Platform: Automatic protection for all network devices at home such as Smart TVs, IP cameras, Mobile phones and more
• SmartConnect: Automatically directs your devices to the optimal wireless band ensuring faster and hassle-free connectivity
• Concurrent Dual-Band: Delivers blazing fast Wi-Fi speeds of up to 2,533 Mbps (800Mbps at 2.4GHz & 1733Mbps at 5GHz)
• Ultimate Wi-Fi Performance: Simultaneously enjoy blazing fast Wi-Fi speeds with MU-MIMO technology for all users in the home
• Gigabit Ethernet: Also provides fast wired connectivity with one dedicated Gigabit WAN port and 3 Gigabit LAN ports
• Easy Setup and Management: Quickly and easily setup and manage your home network with our free apps
Read the Press Release here.