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Avira's new router uses AI for better home network security

Avira's new router learns about and protects every device on your home network using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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The Avira SafeThings router uses artificial intelligence to keep your network safe.

Avira

The Avira SafeThings Wi-Fi Router is designed to protect all the devices in your smart home. It uses an artificial intelligence-driven approach to identify and create profiles for each device on your network. This allows the SafeThings platform to recognize unauthorized or irregular behavior that could be from malware or other breaches of your network.

The idea of a security router isn't new, but there aren't many of them out right now. F-Secure launched its Sense router last year, which features three layers of security through its router, app and cloud service. D-Link just announced a McAfee-powered router with built-in security at CES.

SafeThings is designed to protect everything on your network -- even smart devices such as locks, thermostats and lightbulbs, which don't generally let you install software. It uses machine learning to profile each device's behavior and its Avira Protection Cloud can find new threats by checking what's affecting other routers in Avira's network. When it recognizes a potential threat, it will automatically protect your devices.

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Avira

This ability to learn about your devices is a unique security feature. The Avira assesses risk based on categories of smart devices, so it won't treat every device exactly the same. Having an up-to-date and proactive AI that's designed to work with your different devices will give you a stronger sense of security.

Many "security routers" have real-time virus and malware scanning for all your devices, but Avira seems to have taken security a step further. It claims that SafeThings can discover devices, block vulnerabilities and protect your privacy. It can guard against malware that specifically targets connected devices and prevent their malicious misuse. A reverse firewall helps ensure that data originating within your network never leaves your home.

Avira says the router's specs aren't finalized yet but it's shooting for a high-end router that will cost less than $200 (roughly £145 or AU$255). If you don't want to buy a new router, the Avira software will be available during the second half of 2018. You'll be able to download it and flash it onto an existing router. This will let you add extra security to your home network without having to replace your current hardware.

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Smart bulbs and other connected devices may be vulnerable to malicious attacks, even when you set them up properly.

How secure is your smart home?

Avira says it's tested the SafeThings software in multiple environments, including its lab and smart homes. The results were informative, but it was alarming to see how unsafe many devices are, even if they're set up properly.

Avira tested 89 devices. 49 were smart devices (such as voice assistants, cameras and lighting) and 40 were traditional (tablets, laptops and phones). After testing, they categorized each one as "safe," "vulnerable" or "at risk." Here are the results:

  • 54 devices were safe and running as expected
  • 30 devices were vulnerable and doing things like exposing data directly to the public internet
  • five devices were at risk and had weak, default or missing credentials (one was compromised and SafeThings blocked a Mirai botnet attack)

If these numbers are representative of all devices out there, that means that nearly 40 percent of devices have potential for security issues. Once I have a chance to do a hands-on test of the new Avira SafeThings Wi-Fi router, it will be interesting to see what it can tell me about my own devices and what Avira can do in real-time to protect them. Even if it can just alert me to vulnerabilities, that will be a big help.

The Avira SafeThings Wi-Fi router will be available at the end of June 2018.

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