Contributing writer: Dan Tennant
Antivirus maker Bitdefender unveiled a new piece of hardware at CES 2017: the second generation of its Bitdefender Box, a home network security appliance and Wi-Fi router that defends smart home devices from malware and hackers. It will be available in the U.S. by the end of the year and should find its way to Europe and Japan after that.
Unlike the previous iteration of the Bitdefender Box, which merely blocked connections to malicious URLs and scanned local devices for vulnerabilities, the new Box inspects network traffic, detects network intrusions and lets the user block any new device attempting to connect to their network. From what we can tell, the second-generation Box is the device the first Box promised to be but – thus far – hasn't quite become.
The new Box shares many features with rival antivirus maker Symantec's Norton Core Wi-Fi router, which was also unveiled at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. While the first-generation Bitdefender Box didn’t work very well as a standalone router – you're supposed to tether it to your existing router as a supplemental device – the new Box has impressive Wi-Fi specifications and should perform solidly on its own.
A service subscription to the old or new Box costs $99 per year, though it’s waived for the first year with your initial purchase of the device. It comes with Bitdefender Total Security antivirus software, which you can install on all your PCs, Macs and Android devices. Any device that leaves the house, including iOS devices, will be protected by Bitdefender's Private Line VPN service when connecting to unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks.
The new Box will have a dual-core 1.2-GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. That's light-years beyond the existing Box, which makes do with a single-core 400MHz MIPS CPU, 16MB of memory and 64MB of storage.
The second-generation Bitdefender Box looks like a tall cylinder, a silhouette that's very different from the first-generation Box, which was a squat square that looked a lot like an Apple TV. The older model is currently $130, but the price for the new Box has yet to be determined.
Starting Price: TBD
Available: End of 2017
First Impressions: We saw the second-generation Bitdefender Box firsthand at CES, and although it’s hard to see it in action without a threat present, it was at least an attractive little device. Roughly the size of a large Bluetooth speaker, the new Box is an upright cylinder with an animated blue circle in the center. You can use the device either as a wireless router (although its range isn’t great) or as a complement to an existing router. Once it’s set up, it will theoretically make your home network a much safer place.
Key Specs: Dual core 1.2-GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPU; 1GB RAM; 4GB flash storage; dual-band 802.11n MIMO 2x2 + 802.11ac MIMO 33 AC1300; two Ethernet ports. Physical dimensions TBD.
What's New: Larger form factor; deep-packet inspection of unencrypted network traffic; network intrusion detection; access controls; much more processing power, memory and storage than the current model.
Why You Should Care: The proliferation of cheap smart-home devices with poor security leaves millions of home networks vulnerable to attack. Investing in a device like the BitDefender Box doesn’t just protect you from attacks – it gives you the freedom to buy just about any smart home device, without worrying about malicious intrusion.
Outlook: Very good. Consumers definitely need this sort of device to protect their home networks, but Symantec's rival Norton Core security router is slated to beat the second-generation Bitdefender Box to market by several months.