Your small business or home office has a network that is in constant use by you and others. In theory, only those that should be using your bandwidth are. However, everyone knows that in theory doesn't always equate to reality. To that end, you never know if someone is attempting to hop onto your network, and either steal some bandwidth or (much worse) some data.
In a perfect world, you would have the right combination of software and hardware on your network, so that ne'er-do-wells wouldn't stand a chance at hopping on board. Unfortunately, where there's a will, there's a way. That means you need to have something in place to alert you when a new device attaches itself to your network.
Fingbox might well be that device.
I was sent a Fingbox a few weeks ago for review. I have to confess, upon unboxing the product my hopes were not that high. The device was a white and blue plastic hockey-puck sized piece of hardware that couldn't possibly deliver on its promises. Said promises? From the Fing website:
Fingbox is the home network security system that watches over your network to detect intruders, block devices and analyze the quality of your Wi-Fi and Internet connection.
Much to my surprise, my first impressions were very wrong. After making use of this device for the last two weeks, I am happy to report that helping of crow I ate might stem the tide of the upcoming Thanksgiving binge. The Fingbox does, in fact, live up to its marketing. This little box does an outstanding job of keeping you in the know, with regards to your network. And, with the help of a handy mobile app (available for both iOS and Android), you can be alerted when devices join the network and then act accordingly. If a device doesn't belong, blocking is but a tap away. The app is free, the Fingbox itself is $129.00 USD.
The setup for a Fingbox is incredibly simple: Plug it into your network and to an electrical outlet, give the device a moment to boot up, open the mobile app, tap on the Fingbox tab, and then tap the + button in the top right corner (Figure A).
You will be required to sign into your account (or create one if you haven't already). Once you've signed in, the app will locate your new Fingbox, and you're ready to go. You will notice the Fingbox does not have the ability to join via wireless—this is hardwired only.
Once the app has connected to the Fingbox, it will automatically start watching your network. When a new device joins the network, it will register with the app and an email will be sent to the address you have associated with your Fing account (and a notification will appear on your mobile device). Open the app, tap the Fingbox tab, and check out what devices have recently joined (Figure B).
From that listing of devices, you can assign the device to a user, block the device, or OK the device. Assigning the device to a user is a bit misleading. What this really means is to give the device a name and assign the device to a category. To do this, tap ASSIGN TO USER, type a name in the User's name space (Figure C), and then assign the device a category. You have four categories to choose from:
Tap SAVE and the assigning is done. Once you've created a user for a device, that user will be available for other devices. Since I do a lot with virtual machines on my network, I created a user named Virtual Machine. I can then assign all of my VMs to that user or create a new user (Figure D).
If you block a device, it can remain connected to your wireless network, but cannot connect to anything (while on that network). You can easily unblock the device by doing the following:
- Tap on the Recent events button (in the Fingbox tab)
- Tap on the blocked device from the provided list
- Tap the blocked entry from the device history
- Tap Unblock device (Figure E)
My only criticism
If there was one nit to pick about Fingbox is that it would be nice if notification alerts were a bit more instant. I've noticed a lag wherein I will receive email notifications before notifications in the Android Notification Shade. Considering we're talking about the security of a network, immediacy is crucial. Why there is a delay (of up to two minutes I've witnessed), I do not know. Unfortunately, that delay could mean the difference between an attacker reaching your data or not. If this can be made more immediate, there would not be a single negative to be found with Fingbox.
An inexpensive solution
Fingbox makes for a very inexpensive solution to a costly problem. The last thing you want is an unknown user attaching a device to your network, and stealing either your bandwidth or your data. If cost is an issue, and your network is small, Fingbox might be the ideal first line of defense against attackers.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.