Sense offers only three LAN ports for wired connections.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Making your smart home more secure was top of mind for F-Secure with its new Sense router that boasts more security options than most 802.11ac routers. At $199 (£169), it performs adequately for speed and range, but the bang for your buck comes in securing connected devices such as phones, laptops and TVs as well as smart locks, appliances and lights using a cloud-based analytics system. 

F-Secure is known for its internet security and anti-virus software, so it’s no surprise they put security at the forefront of their first router, especially in the wake of the Netgear router hacks earlier this year. Just be prepared to pay a subscription for the online security service after the first year.

Sense has a sleek, all white, diamond-shaped design, so you won’t have to hide it behind furniture. It has no visible antennas, only an aesthetically pleasing shape. There’s a digital display that you’ll really only use during setup, but it shows the time so there’s some function to the design.

Sense claims to provide three-layer protection: A security router, a secure app and cloud protection. That’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I found the app very helpful in telling me when a threat was detected and noticed fewer ads linking to external sites when browsing the web on my phone.

One flaw with the Sense was that it offers one USB 3.0 port for network storage and only four Ethernet ports (one WAN and three LAN) for wired devices. Many comparable routers, such as the Synology RT1900AC, have four LAN ports. It doesn’t have a guest Wi-Fi option either, but the company has plans to add it in the future.  

Keep in mind that you’ll have to subscribe for security services. The first year is included in the purchase price, making it a little expensive for its AC1750 classification. Other smart home security devices, such as the Dojo, cost about the same and also include a subscription fee. 

After a year with the Sense, you’ll be able to keep the security features by subscribing for $9.90 (£8.50) per month. Or you can save your money and use it as an ordinary dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz frequencies) router without the extra security. You have a year to decide if it’s worth the investment.  

The app setup requires a mobile device, which is becoming more common with routers lately, although in this case there is no option at all to set it up with a computer. Setup takes little more than downloading the app, connecting Sense to your modem and following the on-screen instructions. It should take about 10 minutes. 

Any newer Android or iOS device will do. You probably want to use your phone initially, as I did, since the first device you set up will act as the “admin” device. From there, you can view how many threats were blocked, and which ones. You can also enable or disable internet access to a device and manage router information. It was all straightforward and user-friendly.

The app also assigns an SSID (network name) and password, but you can change both to match your current network settings, saving you the trouble of reconnecting each smart device. If they don’t automatically connect to the Sense router, you just have to reboot the device or reset the Wi-Fi. Easy enough.

f-secure-screenshots

The admin app lets you manage your devices and see what’s going on on your network.


Dan Dziedzic/CNET

You can add extra security to some of your smart devices, even when you leave your home network, by downloading Sense software to each one. It works like anti-virus and internet security software — blocking malware, unsafe sites and tracking. If you have connected devices that don’t allow apps, such as locks, light bulbs and doorbells, they won’t have this extra security, but Sense will still monitor them for threats in the admin app.

When you install Sense client software on a laptop, it may ask you to uninstall or disable some of your current anti-virus software. But the Sense software has its own anti-virus, anti-bot and anti-tracking capabilities, so you won’t be exposing your computer to harm. It also includes a firewall. The Sense client app works on an unlimited number of Android devices and up to 25 Windows devices. You can use an iOS device to run the admin app, but you can’t install the client security software on iOS devices.

Sense constantly monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic at the network level for security or privacy threats, even on devices that don’t allow apps. According to an F-Secure representative, it will ‘check the http/https traffic destinations and DNS requests and block based on those.’ Most analysis is done without leaving your home network but some goes to F-Secure’s secure cloud. This means the company has access to everything you do. However, its website says that it doesn’t store or share the information with anyone and it makes the data it collects anonymous.

Some other router companies outright state that your information may be shared, so it’s reassuring that F-Secure publicly says what it’s doing to maintain privacy. The CIA may still be snooping on your router though.

Overall, Sense provides peace of mind by offering more security features than most routers. The initial cost is a bit expensive, but the added security is a unique bonus. At the very least, check out the promo video for it on F-Secure’s website. It’s kind of creepy.



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