Not too long ago an elderly relative asked me about an email message she received. Even though the message purported to be from Apple, she was leery about clicking on the link and reluctant to supply whatever information the sender sought. She said she had forwarded the message to me for my review. I hadn’t received anything at all. She attempted to send it again. I received nothing.
While that email message purported to be from Apple, it was not. It was a thinly veiled phishing attempt. Kudos to my relative for not falling for the trick.
We’ve had “that talk” more than once.
So why didn't the forwarded message make its way to me? It's because I have deployed a variety of network level threat management tools – and one of them blocked it. In this case, one that leverages technology to identify likely phishing attempts.
I realized a long time ago that there was no way I'd be able to take precautions to protect each device that might connect to my network. So I supplement reasonable device-specific antivirus tools and firewalls with network level intrusion prevention, phish blocking, antivirus and content filtering tools.
I’ve used these so-called "unified threat management systems" on my home network for many years – starting with when my children were very young. While they are not typically deployed in home systems, there’s no reason why that needs to be the case. There are good choices for home use.
My current favorite is Untangle. Untangle can be deployed on a small, silent, inexpensive appliance with a variety of free and licensed modules. You can put the software on your own hardware or purchase a purpose built appliance from Untangle or other vendors. I bought mine from Nexgen Appliances. Right now both Untangle and Nexgen offer appliances that are ideal for home networks. I will not hesitate to do business with Untangle or Nexgen. It all comes down to what offering makes the most sense at the time of purchase. Untangle employees actively participate in online forums and the user community is very supportive. And I can't say enough great things about my experience as a Nexgen Appliances customer. When I've had questions, Nexgen has responded in the most helpful way I can think of. It's an embarrassment of riches.
The Untangle free configuration is very nice. Nevertheless, the licensed modules are a step up. Untangle recently started to offer a home use license for $5 a month, with discounts for longer subscriptions. Home users can get the benefit of the full suite of modules offered by Untangle for that very low fee.
So now, my elderly relative will be getting an Untangle. And with any luck, so will other members of my family.
Is this overkill for a home network? Not in my book.