With everything from fridges to washing machines connecting to your WiFi these days the number of devices jumping on and off your network has more than trebled in the past few years. In my home alone there are no less than – and I’m not making this up – 40 devices that connect to it. Sure I’m probably a little on the extreme side but it quickly adds up, especially for a family. Laptops, tablets, phones, TVs, gaming consoles, smart home devices, hell, even my smoke alarm connects to my WiFi! With so many devices and more on the way keeping a track of everything gets a little daunting and when all of a sudden you can’t stream Netflix and your partner is screaming at you to fix it but you can’t find what’s sucking up all your bandwidth because your ten IoT Hue bulbs are doing a firmware update you’ll get on your knees and praise sweet-baby-jesus for the Fingbox.
The Fingbox is made up of two components. An app called “Fing” which is freely available and can operate without additional hardware to scan your network and then the Fingbox hardware itself, that once connected to your network allows it to be monitored continuously.
The app alone is super helpful and something I recommend everyone get, especially as it’s free. I actually had it installed prior to review when I was trying to figure out why some rogue phone kept trying to stream content to my TV. Turned out it was a neighbour with a Samsung phone and a similar Samsung TV that instead of connecting to their own, kept trying to connected to mine. It was via Bluetooth, not on my WiFi but regardless, the Fing app help me narrow it down.
The Fingbox is a small, ice hockey puck shaped device that you plug into your network and can be hidden away in a cupboard or anywhere you like really, as long as it has an ethernet connection onto your network. Once connected it acts as a guard dog of sorts, constantly monitoring it can detect rogue connections, block devices and pause their connections as well as offer analysis on the quality of your network and the internet connection to it.
Getting the Fingbox up and running is quite literally “plug and play”. And no I don’t mean the 2000’s version of plug, install a driver because it didn’t do it automatically, reboot, wait an hour, reinstall another driver, go away in frustration, come back and throw it out play. This is literally, open it up, take the ethernet cord that comes with the Fingbox and connect it to your router. Now, when you open up the Fing app, it picks up the Fingbox you’ve attached and goes on its merry, monitoring way.
Once you’re connected and devices begin to show up in the app’s list you can further customise how you’d like the Fingbox to operate. For example, devices can be grouped and attached to a “user” that you create. Users can be people from your phone’s address book or simply people’s name you manually enter, but in allocating devices to them you can then easily control that one persons connection. Say pausing their internet for, to use a Monty Python quote, being “a very naughty boy”.
As you drill down into devices and users the configuration options grow allowing you to setup alerts when a device is connected or schedule access to a user. The options available are incredibly robust and smartly implemented operating on a network level meaning that despite being an independent device it can control your existing network without messy and heavily complicated setups that you might have paid a professional to implement previously.
On deeper device levels within the app you can also see details around potential security risks devices might pose to your network. Listed against them you’ll find open ports and routes that you may wish to close off or disable either by reconfiguring the device or in your router’s configuration. That’s getting a little deep for a lot of home users though and while it’s not information that leaps out at you unless you go looking for it in the Fing app it does highlight what some may find a little overwhelming when using the Fing app.
At no fault to the Fingbox product itself the Fing app was and still is predominately aimed at those whom are likely to be a little more involved in IT and networking than most. As a product now being marketed towards families the app could do with a bit of a refresh to provide a more family friendly user experience that does away with deeper info that feels superfluous and confusing. I’m not saying that information should go entirely, instead be available by switching into an “advanced” mode or similar.
The Fingbox also has the ability to analyse and scan your network for not only the best position of your router and WiFi but what devices are sucking up the most bandwidth. It also provides a historical reference for you should you wish to refer to it when comparing positioning and other variables.
After having the Fingbox sitting on my network now for a few weeks I’ve almost forgotten that it’s there at all, which I think, is ideally what you want. Occasionally I’ll receive a push notification to say that a new device has joined my network and I’ll pop it open to find it’s something I just haven’t turned on in forever. The new device shows up beautifully categorised with an icon next to it showing me exactly what it is and then I’ll add it to the relevant group and let the Fingbox continue to do its thing.
It’s what you want from a good network security device. Reliably working in the background and only prompting you to interact with it when there’s something you need to attend to.
For me, living alone in an apartment Fingbox is probably a bit of overkill. Although, now when I have a Netflix streaming house guest sucking up all my bandwidth I’ll very much enjoy having the ability to confirm my suspicions and better yet, pause their access just to be annoying! Sorry sis, mwahahaha!
Where I think Fingbox fits best is small business and family households. Situations where more expensive network hardware isn’t in use and without a Fingbox the ability for parental control and network access would fall back to confiscating devices or trying to wrestle with archaic router configurations.
The UI for the Fing app may be a little overwhelming at first but it wont be long before you’ve grown accustomed to it and little Timmy is forced to finish his math homework before his PlayStation will connect again.
It’s also incredibly cheap for what it offers and because it has no tie in subscription costs like many other network security devices out there, is even more attractive at just A$169.