The Trend Micro Home Network Security device seems like an excellent idea. It's a small device designed to plug into your router and will magically protect the entire home network from online threats. It also keeps your children safe via a robust Parental Control feature.
You do need to pay the initial cost of some $110 and an annual fee of $59.95 from the 2nd year onward. And that's the problem: You can get the same type of protection for free if you get an Asus router, including affordable ones like the similarly-priced Blue Cave.
Indeed, all Wi-Fi 5/6 routers from Asus come with AiProtection, also powered by Trend Micro, as a free feature for the life of the device.
But if you're not using a router with built-in security, the Trend Micro Home Network Security box can be a useful add-on device that gets the job done. Just make sure you can handle some unintended oddities that might arise.
Trend Micro Home Network Security: It’s a no brainer
The Trend Micro Home Network Security is a small box measuring 8.21 x 6.36 x 2.21 inches (208.5 x 161.5 x 81.5cm). It's pretty light, at just half a pound (226g). On top, it has the TrendMicro logo, and on one side, there's a Fast Ethernet port next to a reset button.
There's also a power port that works with the included 100-240V power adapter. And there's all to it.
Plug-n-play setup, no customization
Plug the box into power and connect it to your home router (or switch) using a network cable (one included), and you've finished the hardware set up.
The reason it works right away is that the device supports a long list of supported home routers. It automatically applies one of its three pre-programmed operation modes when connecting to a standard router.
Since the list is so comprehensive, chances are you're using one of those routers. By the way, routers from the same vendor tend to work in the same mode. So, the box supports many that are not yet on the list.
But if somehow you're using an unsupported one, you can choose the DHCP Mode, which requires some changes in the router's settings. In this case, the app will open up a webpage that helps you accomplish that. So, setting up TrendMicro's security box generally is a walk in the park.
In return, though, you don't have much control over what the box does. It's a mystery. There's no way to configure it to make exceptions or accommodate a particular service that you might have. At most, you can only turn on or off pre-configured settings.
An intuitive app that requires a Trend Micro account to work
There's no web interface. Instead, you'll need to download the Trend Micro Home mobile app on your phone or tablet.
To use the app, you do need to register an account with Trend Micro and sign in. So, as it seems, the Home Network Security box always connects to TrendMicro, and so does the app on your phone.
And that might lead to some privacy risks -- Trend Micro does collect certain types of data according to its disclosure. But that's the case of all online protection solutions -- the service can't protect you unless it gets to monitor your traffic. Also, the use of the Trend Micro account allows you to monitor your home network from anywhere.
Trend Micro Home Network Security: A good set of features
The Trend Micro Home Network Security box has more to offer than a router's built-in online protection. And the Home Network Security (HNS) app has an intuitive design. You can even use voice commands with it.
Lots of useful information
The first time I ran the HNS app, I noted that the box had done a scanned. It found all connected devices and named them accordingly. It recognized most parties correctly though not without silly mistakes. My Google Pixel 3 XL, for example, somehow got the name "LG Pixel 3 XL".
That is not a huge issue since you change the name to whatever you like. Indeed, tapping on a device and you'll see a host of information about it, including the IP, MAC addresses, and its security report.
You can also choose to block it from accessing the network or assign an owner. Using "owner" is how the app organizes multiple clients into a group for its Parental Control feature -- more on this below.
And finally, the app also shows the number of network ports being open on each device. Open ports are necessary for specific applications and services but, when not accounted for, can cause security issues. For advanced users, this capability will come in handy.
A robust Parental Control feature
You can quickly pause internet access for a group of devices or schedule the online time limit for each using a weekly calendar using the owners' names.
You can also apply web filtering to each group using different content categories, like Adult or Sexual, Communication or Media, Conconversial, and so on. Each category has more sub-categories that you can turn the filtering on via a checkbox. You can also manually block (or allow) a particular website via the Allowed and Denied lists.
I tried all that out, and it worked well. When a device tries to access a restricted website, it'll get a note that the site is blocked, and the user has the option to request access as an exception. I then cold approve or deny that request using the mobile app.
Comprehensive security protection
As a security device, the Trend Micro Home Network Security box has a lot to offer. For one, it scans all devices, including IoT equipment, for known vulnerabilities or security risks, like the default username and password.
The device also blocks access to malicious websites, quarantines an infected computer within a network, and keeps it from spreading viruses or malicious codes. In my trial, it could also detect a remote connection being established in real-time and offer to terminate or block it completely.
Overall, the Trend Micro Home Network Security gives you a sense of being safe and in control.
Router protection and ad-blocking
Using the HNS app, you have the option to turn on Router Access Protection and Ad Block.
RAP will stop anyone from trying to access the local router's web interface. Again, the user has the chance to request access to it, which you can grant or deny using the mobile app. I noted, though, it only worked locally. I could still access my test router remotely, over the Internet, via a Dynamic DNS address.
As the name suggests, Ad-Block will supposedly stop all online advertising from getting into the network. I tried this out, and it worked pretty well, similar to what the Alien router can do. Most ads were blocked, but YouTube videos were still able to play some.
Trend Micro Home Network Security: The nuisance
The way it works, the Trend Micro Home Network Security routs all your internet traffic through itself, and therefore, Trend Micro. And it can't do that the usual way. For that, the box has to be the router itself or placed in between the router and the modem -- it's neither.
I'm not sure how Trend Micro makes it work, but one thing is for sure: Depending on your home network, you'll experience certain unexpected things. Not all of them are good, unfortunately. Following are a few to keep in find:
Slower internet speed, higher latency
If you do a speed test with and without the security box plugged in, you'll notice the slower speed in the former case, sometimes by as much as 50 percent. But this varies, depending on what the box was doing during the test.
One thing is more persistent: the higher the latency. The Home Network Security box adds at least a few milliseconds of lag to your connection. While that doesn't seem like much, it could make online gaming and voice calling a bit less enjoyable. Popular websites can also take a noticeably longer time to load.
Local connection issue
The Trend Micro Home Network Security also seemed to cause an issue with getting a device connected to my Wi-Fi network, especially when I used a mesh system. The seamless hand-off often took longer to happen, and I generally had to try a few times to get a new device connected.
I also had trouble with setting up IoT devices. For example, I needed to unplug the box before setting up a new Arlo Q camera successfully.
Since the device is a mystery box, I couldn't pinpoint precisely what happened. But when I unplugged it from the network, all the issues went away.
Lots and lots of notifications
By default, the Home Network Security app notifies you when something happens within the hardware. There are about a dozen events that will trigger a warning.
Take "Blocking an attack," for example; it's where the app will notify you if the security box has successfully blocked an online attack.
The problem is it counts each port scan -- where the hacker sends a command to check if a popular port on a device is open -- as an attack. In any network, port scans can occur hundreds or even thousands of times a day, translating into the same amount of notifications. And that can drive you nuts.
Even when I unplugged the Home Network Security box, the app still showed notifications now and then telling me to check on the device.
The app does allow for toning down the number of notifications or turning them off completely. But then you might miss some critical warnings.
Trend Micro Home Network Security Firewall Device's Rating
Super easy to set up and use intuitive mobile app
Excellent Parental Controls, helpful network protection features
Can cause network connection and performance issues in specific scenarios
No web interface, or custom configurations, vendor login required
Router access protection doesn't work on the WAN side
In all, the Trend Micro Home Network Security box works as advertised. The issues I had with it -- namely the adverse effects it might have on a particular type of network, especially one with many devices and services -- seemed to be unintended consequences of its effective protection.
That said, if you have a small, simple home network, the Home Network Security is worth consideration. It keeps your network safe and gives you a sense of being in control. But considering the ongoing cost and the oddities I mentioned here, it's probably a better idea to get an Asus router. Its AiProtection feature can, for the most part, keep you similarly safe without driving you bananas.