True story: A co-worker brought his Linksys home router into work and asked me if I could download a firmware upgrade for the device. After updating the firmware, I connected to the router and noticed the SSID on his router was "linksys" and that wireless security was not enabled.

"I know, I know," my co-worker sighed guiltily when I pointed out his router was wide open to neighbours. "The funny part is that the guy who installed this router for me works at Cisco."

Even with advances in technology that make it easier for home users to take advantage of security features, they still aren’t embracing them. We're leading the horses to water, but they ain't drinking.

Easier security - the Buffalo way
But network vendors press on, trying to idiot- proof their wares. Take, for example, Netgear and Buffalo, which recently launched products with the lofty goal of being smarter and easier to install.

Buffalo recently announced the AirStation 125 High Speed Mode Wireless Cable/DSL Smart Router (Model WHR-G54S), boasting improved performance and range, and simpler installation. The router (£73 in the UK, including a PC card - from Dabs), includes a new physical switch that changes the product from a router to an access point at the flick of a button. This can be beneficial for home networks that already have a router acting as a DHCP server, and you just want a wireless access point in another location.

An automatic router configuration feature figures out whether the router is connected to DSL or a cable modem, and adjusts the settings appropriately (for DSL modems, it configures for the proper login information). The 802.11b/g router also includes Buffalo's AirStation One-Touch Secure System (AOSS), which lets users push a button and automatically configure the security settings of other AOSS-enabled devices to create a secure connection based on the highest level of encryption. Other security features include support for Wi-Fi Protected Access, dynamic packet filtering, NAT support and a SPI firewall. Both 64- and 128-bit WEP security are also supported.

And what is Netgear up to?
For its part Netgear recently launched equipment with the goal of improving wireless security installation. Netgear's "Touchless" Wi-Fi Security interface is available on its 108 Mbit/s Wireless Firewall Router (Model WGT624 - £83 at Dabs), and will be extended to its RangeMax, Super G and other 802.11g wireless routers and adapters soon, the company says.

The system uses a Security SmartWizard to set up the system – it asks users for a pass phrase (or encryption key) and then sets up the wireless network security, Netgear says.

Netgear also teamed up with Trend Micro to offer anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-spyware protection to its consumer router product line. Trend Micro's Home Network Security software is included with the Netgear WGT624 router and the forthcoming Super G Wireless Router – Security Edition .

A security dashboard
The software includes a security dashboard application that lets users conduct a network vulnerability assessment scan, look at all networked PCs for security holes, and ensure that all Microsoft security patches and anti-virus subscriptions are up to date, Netgear says. The system will also include network-based parental controls by blocking access to objectionable Web sites at the router, letting parents administer rules once and have the system enforce it across any PC on the network.

The software includes a 60-day trial subscription to Trend Micro's Internet Security Service (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and anti-phishing), and the version on the WGT624SC includes a full one-year subscription to the service. Both routers include a one-year free subscription to the Parental Control services.