Unified Threat Management — Now for your Digital Smart Home


Unified Threat Management — better known as UTM — is an overall term for an enterprise level Internet security solution currently leveraged by businesses large and small. Essentially a firewall on steroids, UTM products generally offer a wide range of security functionality, including gateway anti-virus, anti-spam and intrusion protection, content filters, and data leak prevention. Even general utility functionality like load balancing is possible with many UTM appliances.

So you are thinking, that’s all great, but why do I need an enterprise-ready super firewall on my home network? The typical home network’s growth in functionality, driven by the Internet of Things, as well as Home Security and Home Automation applications, has frankly raised the stakes for the venerable router. Hackers now enjoy the possibility of gaining access a whole host of devices if they are able to break into your network — you remember the news about the hacked refrigerator sending hundreds of thousands of nefarious emails?

This is the environment that is making Unified Threat Management devices for the home network a reality. With many digital smart homes boasting a home network as robust as many small to medium businesses (SMB), it makes sense that an equipment manufacturer in this space is marketing their UTM solution for the home market. Let’s take a closer look.

ZyXEL brings UTM level Security to the Home Network

Network equipment manufacturer, ZyXEL, is known for their UTM products for the SMB market. The company recently introduced a version of their UTM appliance for SMBs for today’s digital smart home. The USG40HE is an advanced firewall capable of providing similar level of threat protection enjoyed by many businesses.

The USG40HE is the home network version of ZyXEL’s USG40 product (HE = “home edition”) which is aimed at the SMB firewall market. The company feels it is a perfect solution for homeowners wanting to protect a home network that includes Home Automation and/or Home Security devices. It is optimized for HA setups, especially any security cameras and other Internet connected appliances that are the new frontier for hackers and cyber thieves.

Like many other consumer-level firewalls, the USG40HE lets you block certain websites and IP addresses known for hacking activity or for any other reason. It also adds high-end IDP (intrusion detection and prevention) functionality more typical of business-level firewalls. Anti-spam and anti-virus functionality can also be added to the system for an additional price, but if this market grows as expected, competition will likely force ZyXEL to include that protection as a standard feature.

Other enterprise-level features of the USG40HE include an easy to use interface allowing you to develop and manage a unified security policy in one place. The device leverages ZyXEL’s Cloud-based database containing over 140 billion URLs for easy content filtering, allowing you to protect your children from accessing inappropriate Internet material or dangerous websites for your home network. This database is constantly being analyzed and updated.

It handles Throughput up to 400 Mbps

The firewall’s throughput is a robust 400 Mbps, which should suffice until “one gig” Internet service rolls out to more locations. When using the device’s VPN functionality, the throughput is 100 Mbps, and it can handle up to 20,000 simultaneous sessions — more than enough for nearly all home networks. The USG40HE provides one WAN port, one port for both WAN and LAN, and three ports for the LAN or DMZ.

Note that the USG40HE comes with one-year of IDP and content filtering functionality at no charge, with following years available for an additional licensing fee. Once again, as the competition in the fledgling home UTM market grows, expect these additional costs to become less expensive or even disappear entirely.

As the home network becomes more complex, with Home Automation and its plethora of Internet-enabled devices, it stands to reason that hackers will come calling. Smart homeowners need to pay attention to products like the USG40HE to truly protect their investments. Early adopters will find the USG40HE to be a worthy product, but expect other companies to enter this market shortly, which should lower prices.

Photo Credit: Leonardo Rizzi