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Eli Home Broadband Security Appliance Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £118.00

”’Price 5 users: Appliance, £117.50, one year subscription £84.60 (including 17.5% VAT)”’


Hosted Internet security used to be the preserve of businesses as it has traditionally been too expensive for home users. Eli however, aims to change all that. This bumper package is designed for home users that want the full gamut of anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-phishing, anti-spyware, privacy protection and true web content filtering but also want a complete, hassle free package.


The router itself is a chunky box of above average size that provides a quartet of switched Fast Ethernet ports and an 802.11b/g wireless access point. Now here’s the smart bit – the router not only has an integral ADSL2+ modem but also sports an Ethernet port as well, so it can support a direct ADSL connection or an external ADSL or cable modem. The choice is yours as you just flick a small switch at the rear to choose which port you want activated. Sharing a USB printer over the network is a possibility as well but you can ignore the second USB port as although it’s designed to accept USB network adapters it’s not supported at the moment.


Installation is very simple with the web interface offering nearly forty predefined ISPs or the option to manually configure your account details. The advanced settings page is primarily for use by Eli’s support staff but you can check on the Internet connection status from here. All further appliance configuration is over a secure HTTPS connection to a portal on Eli’s web site where you provide your account details and activate wireless access if required. During this process the router is assigned to one of Eli’s servers from its global network which provides regular updates transparently to the virus scanning and anti-spam engines.


All modifications are made on the web site portal and these are then pushed out to your appliance. This means that Eli’s support staff can see easily how your box is configured without requiring remote access to it. For the UK, Eli has partnered with Unipalm Ltd although it’s not yet running a hosting service so our box was handled from Eli’s site in Germany.


The first visit to the configuration screen shows how simple the Eli is. The General page provides details of the last login, profile details and a summary of the various settings. Next up are router controls where the appliance’s IP address and DHCP server address range can be changed and wireless access configured. For the latter the appliance supports basic security features with 64/128-bit WEP and 256-bit WPA encryption but SSID masking is not available.

The anti-virus component is handled by AntiVir from German company Avira. Contrary to the product manual, we were advised that scanning is carried out locally on the appliance only for the POP3 protocol so only inbound emails will be checked. Any infected attachments will be removed and an advisory email sent to both the sender and recipient. Signature updates are handled automatically back at Eli’s HQ with a minimum of four updates per day being applied. Worry not about virus outbreaks as Eli reckons it can have a signature update from Avira out to your box within the hour. Anti-spam comes courtesy of Mail-Filters.com and is also implemented locally with updates being automatically applied. At present the appliance will only add a tag to the mail subject line so you’ll need to set up rules in your email client that determine how these messages are handled.


Phishing messages will initially be dealt with by the anti-spam component. However, if one does get through and is inadvertently opened the web content filtering will block access to the phishing site. Spyware also gets a tough time as attempts to modify your browser settings or send personal information to sites known to associate with this activity will be blocked.


There’s plenty to play with in the SPI firewall as different types of outbound traffic such as email, FTP and online games can be blocked or allowed with a single mouse click. You can also set up custom policies for specific services by entering a port range and service type. Web content filtering is handled by Blue Coat’s Cerberian hosted service and is particularly good as you have 55 categories to choose from. All web site requests are sent to a remote database to see if the requested URL is listed and if so it will be blocked.

Only VPN pass-through is currently supported, but Eli is working on a feature called ‘VPN-on-the-fly’ for which it has applied for a patent. IPsec VPNs are notoriously complex and this feature aims to allow secure tunnels between Eli appliances to be set up in a matter of minutes without any prior knowledge. Eli also advised us it is working on a VPN client for mobile workers that will have the same philosophy.


”’Verdict”’


The Eli solution is the first of its kind that’s available to home users and it sets a mighty high standard in the process. If you want all your security services in one box and don’t want to worry about updates and general configuration then this is to be recommended as it all comes at an affordable price



The quick start routine offers a good range of predefined ISPs to choose from

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Configuration is via a web portal and wireless encryption setup is aided by automatic key generation

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The Blue Coat hosted service provides high levels of control over web browsing habits

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Anti-spam and anti-virus are easy to activate and spam messages get their headers tagged by the appliance

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Protection against phishing, spyware and personal detail collection is also provided

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