by Swapnil Bhartiya

As cybersecurity becomes a priority, Google launches smart router OnHub

Aug 18, 2015
LinuxOpen Source

Your router is the first device that stands between you and the Wild Wide Web. Do you know when it got a security update? Probably never.

At LinuxCon today, the Linux Foundation announced more programs for its Core Infrastructure Initiative. It’s an ambitious project to create a culture of security within the open source project. As companies and developers work together on this, an Achilles’ heel remains the very device that connects our devices to the Internet: our modem or router. In most cases, it runs on Linux, but the hardware vendors seldom bother to push firmware updates for them.

Currently our modems and routers are like feature phones: dumb devices to connect the local network to the Internet. As ideal as it sounds to keep these devices updated, there is very little incentive for OEMs or ISPs to keep such devices updated.

During the CII meeting, I had a discussion with one of the members, and we agreed that we do need to make routers smarter and create some incentives for stakeholders to keep them up to date. And that’s exactly what Google has done. Today it launched a smart router called OnHub.

Solving a problem

One of the problems with current modems and routers is that they seldom get auto-updates, which creates a serious security issue. Google will be eliminating that problem forever. Usually when you read about new tech products, you don’t hear about software updates; it’s kind of obvious except for routers. Google knows there is a problem, and that’s why its press statement clearly says, “OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, without interrupting your connection.”

The router will be offering more consumer-centric features that traditional devices don’t offer, such as easy setup through Android and iOS devices. It will make it easier for users to keep an eye on bandwidth used by different devices, through apps and troubleshooting if there are any problems. Google says in the future OnHub will support new smart devices whether they use Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, or 802.15.4. One interesting feature is prioritization of devices connected to OnHub, so if you are streaming 4K videos on your TV, you can prioritize it so it gets the fastest speed.

Omnipresent Google

With this device, Google is essentially creating an unthinkable presence right at the gates of the Internet at homes, offices and business, regardless of whether the user lives inside the Google Android or iOS ecosystem. After Nest Alarm, Nest Thermostat and Nest Cam, this is another Google device to be plugged directly into the network. While Apple and Microsoft will fight over the living room through XBox and Apple TV, Google will become the Heimdall standing on the rainbow bridge Bifröst, a.k.a. router. That’s incredible.

Google is working with TP-LINK on this $200 device, which can be ordered online. The company is also working with ASUS for another model of the device, which could be a cheaper version of it.