D-Link defends your home network against cyber threats

Defending your home network against external cyber threats is what D-Link's latest consumer router, the D-Fend AC2600 Wi-Fi Router, also known as the DIR-2680, claims to do.

It certainly has the credentials to do so as it comes with cyber security outfit McAfee's Secure Home Platform service, which inspects network traffic for suspicious activity, warns users of known phishing websites and enables parental controls to restrict minors from undesirable content.

The D-Fend router includes a five-year complimentary subscription to the Secure Home Platform service, worth $495.

D-Link further sweetens the offer - every D-Fend router comes with unlimited licences for McAfee's LiveSafe, an antivirus program for computers and mobile devices (iOS and Android), for two years (worth $259.90).

There is a small catch - the devices must have previously used the router's network at least once before a download link for the antivirus software can be sent to the device owner, who could be a family member or a friend.

In short, the D-Fend seems to be an attractive proposition for those who are worried about malware and other cyber threats.

  • FOR

    • Bundled security features 

    • Unconventional design 

    • Parental controls are easy to understand and use 

  • AGAINST 

    • Average performance 

    • D-Link’s mobile app feels bare bones 

  • SPECS 

    PRICE: $299 

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x Gigabit WAN, 3 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN 

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 

    SECURITY: WPA/WPA2 

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI 

  • RATING 

    FEATURES: 4/5 

    DESIGN: 4.5/5 

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5 

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5 

    OVERALL: 4/5

Even its design seems to complement the security slant. Its squarish plastic body has a strongbox-like appearance - there are no external antennas, unlike most routers.

It is not a high-end model. Its dual Wi-Fi bands support the widely used Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) standard, not the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard. It has only three Gigabit LAN ports, one fewer than usual.

Its performance is average at best, with download speeds topping out at around 300Mbps, compared with more than 500Mbps for more expensive routers.

But its selling point is security and the first hint of that came when I received a McAfee-branded warning page after I clicked on a known phishing website. I was also locked out of the router's Web interface for a minute after repeatedly failing to enter the correct password.

Other features that enhance security include automatic firmware upgrades and an Away mode whereby specific devices in the home network will be disconnected from the Internet. The idea for the Away mode is to disable Internet access for non-essential devices, such as smart TVs and media players, when they are unlikely to be used - for instance, when there is no one at home.

To set up and configure the router, you need to download the D-Link Wi-Fi app (available for iOS and Android). However, the router's McAfee-powered security features and parental controls are controlled by a separate D-Fend app. This was a bit jarring initially.

The D-Fend app notifies you when a device joins the router network for the first time. It also prompts you to identify all the devices in the home network, which is helpful to spot devices that do not belong. This process can be a bit tricky because some devices may have obscure model names and the app does not fill in the device names automatically.

Knowing the devices in your home network also helps when setting parental controls using the D-Fend app. This is because to apply parental controls effectively, the app needs to know exactly who owns each device.

You also need to give the app the user's age, which determines the type of content allowed. For instance, gambling websites are banned for teens and children, but social media is allowed for teens.

 

But the parental controls are not foolproof. I easily found websites with undesirable content, particularly online forums, that bypassed the filters. For these cases, I recommend restricting specific websites by adding them to a blacklist in the app.

In addition, you can pause the Internet for users using the app, which is handy if you need them to stop using their devices at certain times, like during meals, for example.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline 'D-Link defends your home network against cyber threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe