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In an era when internet threats are on the rise, it’s important to get the best secure router that you can buy in order to protect your home network and all of your computers, gaming consoles, smartphones, and IoT devices from hackers, malware, and other online threats.
With many homes running a variety of internet-connected devices, it’s no longer enough to simply install anti-malware and anti-virus software on your PCs; you need to protect your home at the border to keep threats from getting onto your network in the first place.
While there was a time when a basic firewall was more than enough, a modern secure router must also be able to protect against a wider variety of attacks from both inside and outside, including rogue apps running on your computers or other smart devices, malware, botnets, and more, while also offering privacy features such as a VPN and parental controls to keep your kids away from the darker corners of the internet.
It also needs to be able to do all of these things while providing good Wi-Fi coverage and performance and not slowing down your network or getting in the way of your streaming and gaming.
Here's a collection of the best secure routers to keep your home network safe from intruders, viruses, and malware.
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Support
Advanced security without recurring fees
Asus’ RT-AX88U continues the tradition of its predecessor in being one of the best single-unit Wi-Fi routers you can buy right now in general, and with Asus’ strong focus on security features, it’s also easily our top pick for the best secure router. Offering the latest Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology, it can provide up to 6Gbps of bandwidth to all of your devices, while also offering improve range and reliability, especially if you have a lot of devices on your network.
Four beamforming antennas give it enough range to cover a 5,000 square foot home, while around back you’ll find a very generous collection of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for your wired devices, which should be more than enough to save you from needing to add an additional network hub or switch, and a pair of USB 3.1 ports provide fast connections for sharing files or media from an external hard drive.
Like most of Asus’ routers, however, it’s the security features that really set the RT-AX88U apart, with AiProtection Pro powered by Trend Micro to help protect you from internet security threats, especially for your smart home devices, plus advanced parental controls and support for the full spectrum of VPN technologies, and the best part is that unlike some other routers that charge a recurring monthly fee for advanced security features, Asus includes everything you need for the life of the product without costing you an extra cent.
"The AiProtect feature is powered by Trend Micro and brings some useful antivirus and anti-intrusion features to the table... and it's free, so you don’t have to pay any kind of ongoing subscription fee to access it." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Can double as network storage when paired with an external HDD
Fewer Ethernet ports than we'd like
Synology might not be the first name you think of when purchasing a router, but this security-focused unit is good for both homes and small businesses. Incorporating its learnings from the Network Attached Storage (NAS) industry, the Synology RT2600ac offers four 802.11ac antennas for extending signal range and speed up to 2.53Gbps (1,733Mbps 5GHz, 800Mbps 2.4GHz). Added features such as MU-MIMO and beamforming help maintain the boosted speed and allow available bandwidth to be properly shared when multiple devices are connected.
Setup is a snap and within five minutes you’re up and running on both Mac and PC where you’ll gain access to Synology’s Router Management System. It’s here you’ll find options such as parental controls, a blacklist of malicious risky websites and security options. Synology’s biggest bonus is the package center where you can download NAS-grade apps such as VPN Plus or Intrusion Prevention to double up on the built-in security, so you'll have far more peace of mind when it comes to potential attacks.
"This router is worth a look if you want something that’s easy to set up but hides a lot of hidden potential under the hood." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Easy to set up
Great wired speeds
Real-time content filtering & malware protection
Single Ethernet port
Lacks PPPoE support
Content filtering requires monthly subscription
The Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System is pricier than a traditional black router, but it comes with more than enough benefits to justify its higher price tag. Although you can start with a single Eero Pro router to get up to 1,750 square feet of coverage, the mesh Wi-Fi features let you add additional units to expand coverage throughout your entire home, which can be either more Eero Pro devices or Eero Beacons that offer slightly less coverage (1,500 square feet each) but plug discretely into any standard wall socket.
The Eero Pro features tri-band Wi-Fi, with a single 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz bands (5.2GHz and 5.8GHz, respectively) plus MU-MIMO to ensure all of your devices can get on at the fastest possible speeds from anywhere in your home, and if you choose to add additional Eero Pro units, you also get two Gigabit Ethernet ports with each one.
Eero Pro is also ridiculously easy to configure, with all of the setup handled through a mobile iOS or Android app that requires zero knowledge of routers and networking. With a small monthly fee, you can also add Eero Secure for intelligent, real-time content filtering that dynamically blocks out unsafe and unsavoury websites. It's also one of the first Apple HomeKit-enabled routers, which means users of compatible smart home devices gain an intelligent firewall that automatically ensures that access to your IoT accessories only travels through the securely encrypted HomeKit protocol.
"Eero Secure automatically scans for problems, blocks threats, and blocks ads at the DNS level, and you can see details about what it has blocked through the app." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 support
Extremely fast performance
Cutting-edge security features for gamers
Asus’ GT-AX11000 is one of the most powerful gaming routers on the market right now, but it also boasts Asus’ outstanding reputation for security, making it the best of both worlds — a router that won’t interfere with your gaming while making sure that you stay safe from outside threats, while also offering the latest advanced Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology with up to 10Gbps of throughput for all of your Wi-Fi devices.
Many gaming routers can compromise on security in order to provide lag-free gaming, but this is where the power of the GT-AX11000 makes it shine. Thanks to a 1.8GHz quad-core CPU, it’s easily able to monitor your security while still passing through all of your gaming traffic at top speeds without breaking a sweat, with a GameIPS firewall that’s built specifically with gamers in mind. Thanks to its VPN Fusion feature, you can even keep your VPN up and running without worrying about it slowing down your gaming, ensuring that your web surfing and email traffic are protected while keeping your gaming traffic going directly to the fastest gaming servers, thanks to its support for the WTFast Gamers Private Network.
With eight beamforming antennas, offer great coverage and fast Wi-Fi speeds, there are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports to hardware in your gear, plus a specialized 2.5Gbps gaming port, and support for Asus’ AiMesh technology allows you to connect a mix of other Asus routers to create a mesh network to expand coverage throughout your home, although with the coverage that the GT-AX11000 offers by itself, you probably won’t need it.
"The second 5GHz network included with this tri-band router really helps free up bandwidth for mission-critical situations, the range and overall performance are fantastic, and Wi-Fi 6 is an absolute must-have if you’re buying a router in this price range." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Open source firmware
Slow 2.4GHz speeds
The Linksys WRT3200ACM has Tri-Stream 160 technology that doubles bandwidth to help maintain speed better than most dual-band routers. Additional features such as MU-MIMO technology helps each device stay connected to the network at the fastest possible speed without interfering with the performance of other devices.
Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi smartphone app also lets you manage and monitor your network from anywhere at any given time, but it’s the open-source aspect that really shines for security-focused router buyers, since you can easily use “packages” from trustworthy open source distributions such as OpenWRT or DD-WRT and establish a secure VPN, monitor and analyze network traffic or detect network intrusions instantaneously. Since the firmware packages are all open source, that also means that they've been extensively “peer-reviewed” by security experts, making them much more likely to be free of vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
"Guest Access, Parental Controls and Media Prioritization are all easy to setup and use. You can create up to 50 guest networks and password protect them. With Parental Controls you can set up how much time devices on the network have internet access, our outright restrict and block access for specific devices." — Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester
Wi-Fi 6 Support
Tri-Band Wi-Fi with 12 streams
Advanced Wireless Features
Few devices can yet take advantage of it
If you’ve got the money to spare and want the ultimate “future-proof” router, Netgear's Nighthawk RAX200 is a beast that should provide everything you need for years to come, including support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 protocols that will offer wireless speeds in excess of 1Gbps, with enough simultaneous streams to let up to a dozen of your devices get online at maximum possible speeds.
The 64-bit 1.8GHz quad-core CPU also means that it has power to spare, and the eight amplified and beamforming antennas provide massive coverage for even the largest homes. The tri-band Wi-Fi also offers a pair of 5GHz channels, each with MU-MIMO support and 4.8Gbps of bandwidth, so network congestion won’t be a problem even in a large family.
Security-wise, the RAX200 offers a robust set of features, including support for WPA3, the latest Wi-Fi security protocol that not only protects your wireless network from snooping but also features improvements that make it easier to add new ones. There’s also the usual set of firewall capabilities to protect your network from outside intruders, plus the ability to control access to the Wi-Fi networks, block specific sites and services, and set schedules for access. It also features a built-in VPN server, which lets you securely access your home network from your PC, Mac, or even your iPhone or Android device.
"Wi-Fi 6 isn't just about faster speeds—it also automatically provides improved security over older Wi-Fi standards, since all Wi-Fi 6 devices are required to support the newest WPA3 security standard. WPA3 will make it harder for hackers to get at your Wi-Fi network, but also adds features that make it easier for you to get your own devices connected." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Mesh Tri-Band Wi-Fi offers whole home coverage
Easy setup with smartphone app
Advanced malware protection
Some features require a subscription
Lacks advanced configuration settings
While many routers still look like something out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, Gryphon’s Secure Mesh System aims to be the kind of router that would fit comfortably in your kitchen or living room rather than hidden away in a closer, with a white tower design with a stylish twist that makes it as much of a conversation piece as a networking device.
There’s a lot of power packed into its elegant design, however, with mesh tri-band Wi-Fi technology that offers a single 2.4GHz and a pair of 5GHz channels and coverage for about 3,000 square feet of living space, but as its a mesh system, you can double that simply by adding another unit.
As the name implies, it’s also built with security in mind, with built-in malware protection and parental controls that can be easily configured and monitored in the accompanying smartphone app. While the parental controls are free, you’ll need to subscribe to keep the malware protection going after the first year, which uses intelligent AI intrusion detection powered by ESET to automatically protect your network from all of the latest threats, and even protects your internal IoT devices by scanning them for vulnerabilities. A separate HomeBound service also lets you pass all of your smartphone traffic through your Gryphon router even when you’re away from home.
Works as a router or repeater
Multiple wireless SSIDs
No 5GHz support
Not ideal for very fast internet plans
The Asus RT-N12 is a “cheap and cheerful” router that offers very few frills, but gets the job done if you’re simply looking to support shared access to a lower-bandwidth internet connection. It won’t win any performance awards, but what it offers isn’t bad considering the price tag. It only supports a single-band 2.4GHz network, and is probably best for a single floor of your home or an apartment or condo, but at this price you could buy two or three for the cost of a single higher-end router.
The RT-N12 can also work as a router, access point, or range extender, so it’s quite versatile, and provides the ability to configure 4 different SSIDs with different passwords to help control internet access, meaning you can use one SSID for yourself, one for your kids, and one for your Internet-of-Things devices, and manage what can be accessed and even how much bandwidth is allocated to each one. There’s also basic PPTP VPN support, letting you connect securely to your home network while you’re out on the road.
Excellent 5Ghz performance
No access to parental controls over web
Netgear’s Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi router, properly known as the R7000, is a great option if you're looking for solid performance without spending a fortune. Built-in extras such as Dynamic QoS let the R7000 prioritize bandwidth by determining which real-time application requires the most signal, which ensures optimal performance for online gaming, video chat or HD streaming. Setup remains easy with users online and browsing within five minutes of unboxing.
The router supports 600Mbps and 1,300Mbps speeds on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, respectively, and when it comes to security, both parents and security-savvy users will enjoy extras such as parental controls and web filtering levels, while OpenVPN offers secure access to your home network from anywhere you can get online.
Excellent performance at shorter ranges
Below average long range performance
With one of the easiest setups in the secure router space and a pre-configured network available on the bottom of the device, the Linksys EA6900 offers excellent performance for a budget-friendly price. Featuring 600Mbps performance on the 2.4GHz band and 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz band, the dual-band output and beamforming technology make it a formidable competitor to more expensive options. The design has a utilitarian black casing and three large adjustable antennas for equal signal distribution throughout a home or office.
Beyond design, the included Guest Access feature helps maintain network security by limiting users to a separate network that removes access to on-network hardware such as other computers or printers. Security-conscious users will love the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi smartphone app that shows information about home Wi-Fi when on-the-go. You can even set up parent controls, prioritize connected devices and send guests Wi-Fi passwords via text or email. Plus, the router has SPI and NAT firewalls to fend off any network attacks.
The Asus RT-AX88U is a cutting-edge secure router that's packed with advanced online safety and privacy features, and thanks to its advanced Wi-Fi 6 support it's an investment for the future. For users with larger homes, however, a mesh system like the Eero Pro can make sure you get the best coverage where you need it.
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings.
Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.
Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician and writer based in southern Vermont who specializes in solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective. With more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry and an educational background in the arts, he has an eye for well-designed tech products and an understanding of how they fit into our lives.
The modern internet can be a dangerous place, presenting the kind of perils that weren't even dreamt of by the academics who created its foundations over 50 years ago. As a result, it's no longer enough to trust a basic router to protect your home and your family from online threats, especially if you have kids and internet-connected smart devices around your home.
This is where a good secure router comes in, offering features that can protect your home network not only from the traditional dangers of hackers trying to get into your network from outside, but also from malicious apps that might find their way onto your computers, smartphones, or internet-of-things devices. The best secure routers guard the digital borders of your home to keep the bad guys out while ensuring that all of your personal data stays where it's supposed to.
When choosing a secure router, it's important to keep in mind that "secure" can be a pretty broad term; not all secure routers offer the exact same features, and you may not even need everything that's possible with a secure router.
For example, some secure routers can act as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) server, allowing you to access computers and other devices inside your network when you're away from home, but of course if you never need to do this, it's not going to be a priority when choosing a secure router. Similarly, while some routers provide guest networks, these are only useful if you regularly have people visiting your home and want to give them more limited access to your network.
That said, there are a few key components that all secure routers should offer, including wireless encryption to keep your network safe from Wi-Fi hackers in your neighbourhood, a good advanced firewall to block both inbound and outbound traffic, and access control features to block unwanted devices that might show up. Since new internet threats and exploits are appearing all the time, it's also important that your router be able to get regular firmware updates, which should ideally be applied automatically.
Every modern secure router should support Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) as a bare minimum to ensure that the wireless connections between your devices and your router are securely encrypted. This also keeps unwanted devices off your network, since WPA2 requires devices to supply a password before they can connect to your router.
WPA2 is an improvement upon the older WPA standard, however any secure router worth its salt supports both, so there's never any reason to use the less secure WPA. Under no circumstances should you ever buy a router that only supports the much older Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) standard, as it was cracked years ago, and is basically as insecure as having no encryption at all. In fact, if you have a router that only supports WEP, even with its latest firmware, we'd suggest throwing it away and buying a new one with WPA2 support as soon as possible.
Some of the very newest routers, particularly those supporting the latest Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology, include the even better WPA3 encryption standard. This is more secure if you can get a router that offers it, but keep in mind that WPA2 is still fully supported, and should be more than secure enough unless you're being very specifically targeted by skilled hackers. Further, until all of your client devices support WPA3, you'll still need to run your router in compatibility mode to support older WPA2 devices, which takes away some of the advantages of using WPA3.
Also remember that all of these wireless encryption standards are only as good as the password that you choose to secure your network, so if you use something like "password" or your home address as your Wi-Fi password, even WPA3 isn't going to be able to do much to protect your network against intruders.
Most routers support a feature called Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, which is designed to help you quickly and easily connect supported devices by pressing a button on your router or using a PIN that's much shorter and easier to type than your full WPA2 password.
From a security perspective, WPS is a bad idea. There have been a number of security vulnerabilities found with WPS that can let hackers into your network, and although the push button version of WPS is slightly more secure than the easily-hacked PIN method, it's still designed so that whenever you push the button to add a new device, you've created a window during which any WPS device in your neighbourhood will be able to hop onto your network unchallenged.
While most routers have WPS support, good secure routers give you the option to disable the feature, and actually do so when you tell them to. Some routers will also allow you to enable push-button WPS without also turning on PIN-based WPS, which is a good compromise if you really find yourself wanting to use the feature, but there are much safer ways to share Wi-Fi passwords than letting your devices bypass them entirely with WPS.
A Guest Network is a second wireless network that's broadcast by your router, using a different name (SSID) that you can give to friends, extended family, and other visitors to your home when you don't want to hand out your primary Wi-Fi password and prefer to give them more restricted access to your network.
Most routers offer guest networks that can be partitioned off from your main network, preventing your guests from accessing your computers, media servers, and smart devices. Some routers also let you specify different time limits or speed restrictions on your guest network as well, so you can keep visitors from eating up all of your internet bandwidth.
Even though a guest network doesn't normally allow access to your other devices, it still presents a security risk as it lets people use your internet connection, and many hackers look for insecure networks to download illegal material so that it can't be traced back to them. Always use a secure password for your guest network, and turn it off when you don't need it. In fact, some of the better routers let you easily switch your guest network on and off from either a smartphone app or even with Alexa voice commands like "My friends are leaving."
It goes without saying that a good secure router should also provide a good firewall to protect the devices on your network from hackers. However, while almost every router provides a natural barrier from direct intrusion through the use of Network Address Translation and private IP addresses, a proper firewall takes that a few steps further through the use of features like packet inspection that can actually monitor and analyze what's passing into your network to provide virus and malware detection as well.
Also keep in mind that an inbound firewall isn't nearly enough any more, and a good secure router also needs to make sure that it's looking at traffic that's leaving your network, since even the best-managed PCs can occasionally get tripped up by a bit of malware, and there's always the chance that a family member might inadvertently install and run something on their own computer that could poke a hole in your defenses.
While a firewall tends to just work in the background to protect your network, most secure routers also offer varying degrees of access control so that you can lock down individual devices in various ways, restricting what they can access online and when they can access it.
While there's naturally some overlap here with parental control routers, those actually form a more specialized category of their own, since parents are usually looking for age-appropriate controls and the ability to manage screen time—features which aren't inherently necessary in a secure router.
Nonetheless, any secure router should allow you to set basic access controls on a per-device basis, as well as "pausing" the internet for specific devices when you need to cut off access.
The emergence of internet-connected smart home devices has given rise to a whole new set of potential security risks, as many devices that are used for things such as lighting control regularly "phone home" to their own internet services outside of your network, which creates another point of vulnerability; if that service gets hacked or starts acting up, it can take all of your smart home devices along for the ride.
This has created a new category of secure routers that are able to manage potential problems from smart home devices, keeping them from being compromised and making internet connections that they shouldn't. While most of these solutions are a bit more generic right now, Apple has gone so far as to begin working with some router manufacturers such as Eero and Linksys to certify them as secure for its own HomeKit ecosystem; we suspect it won't be long before we see Amazon and Google following suit with their own secure router programs.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, can be used for several different purposes, but it's basically a way of creating a secure network that encrypts your network traffic between two points to keep it safe from the prying eyes of your ISP or anybody else who may happen to be monitoring it.
There are actually two different aspects to a VPN, however. A VPN server allows your secure router to act as a gateway to allow you to get back into your network when you're away from home, while a VPN client allows you to establish a connection to another VPN service, whether it's to access secure systems at your workplace or simply a commercial VPN provider to help protect your privacy.
Using a VPN can also have additional benefits, such as letting you bypass geographic content restrictions and preventing your ISP from monitoring and slowing down, or "throttling," certain types of internet traffic. When using a VPN, all your ISP sees is unidentifiable encrypted data.
Some secure routers can serve as both VPN clients and VPN servers, while others may only do one or the other. Almost all of them can pass VPN connections through from your individual network devices, however, so you may not need VPN client support on your router unless you want to pass all of your outbound traffic through a VPN.
The internet is a rapidly changing place, and new vulnerabilities are always being discovered in even some of the most secure operating systems and routers, with new threats and exploits being developed to go along with them. Hence it's crucially important that you pick a secure router that's going to be able to provide you with new firmware updates as quickly as possible to plug holes when new exploits are discovered.
This not only means the manufacturers should have an aggressive update schedule, but that your router should also be able to install these updates automatically without requiring your intervention, both to save you the trouble of managing it, but also to make sure these updates get applied as quickly as possible. While many router firmware updates are fairly routine, you don't want to be caught off guard when a major exploit does surface.
If you like to tinker, or simply want more advanced security features, an open-source router that uses OpenWrt or DD-WRT can open up access to some really sophisticated solutions, since they offer a modular design with a wide variety of packages you can install to customize them for your needs. Popular open-source firmware systems can also theoretically be more secure as they have more people around the world scrutinizing them for flaws, as opposed to the closed-source solutions that don't get reviewed beyond the manufacturer's own engineers.
That said, however, as long as you're buying a router from a company with a solid track record, we wouldn't worry too much about open source firmware. If you want to tinker, an open source router is a great choice, but if you want something that just works, you're better off staying with one of the more standard solutions.
Asus has become one of the leading brands in secure routers, offering strong firewall and VPN support for both client and server connections, fully configurable guest networks, and an AiProtection Pro suite of malware security features powered by Trend Micro that is included at no additional charge for the life of your router. This is all backed up by some of the best performance and coverage specs available, and they make especially great routers for gamers when it comes to security and VPN features. The only real downside is that Asus' routers are so configurable that some users might find the wealth of options to be somewhat intimidating.
Netgear has been building routers for almost two decades, and it's one of the leaders in adopting new W-Fi technologies. In fact, its Nighthawk RAX80 was one of the first Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax routers available, and it's built on that early success with its RAX120 and RAX200 models. It also offers the top-rated Orbi mesh system that can blanket even the largest homes with strong Wi-Fi coverage. Netgear's routers provide all of the security features you'd expect, with a more streamlined approach to setting them up. There's not much here for tinkerers to play with, so those with networking experience might be a bit frustrated by the lack of options, but you don't necessarily need to be able to fine-tune your security features for them to work well.
Almost twenty years ago, Linksys led the way in the world of open source routers with the launch of its venerable WRT54G, which is still seen by many networking enthusiasts as one of the legendary routers of its era. It's an obsolete router nowadays, but Linksys has released newer versions that not only share the same open source principles, but even reflect the classic design, and for users who like to have a lot of options and customization, Linksys' WRT3200ACM is hard to beat.
A relative newcomer, Eero has taken the internet by storm with its mesh Wi-FI system, which provides solid whole-home coverage in a set of routers that are incredibly easy to setup and configure, thanks to its reliance on full-featured smartphone apps rather than a web browser interface. The best part of Eero is that you won't need to do anything to ensure that it's configured for basic security—in fact it's even one of the first systems to get on board with Apple's HomeKit Router program—but for a small monthly fee you can also add Eero Secure to get powerful real-time content filtering and parental controls.
You no longer need to be a network expert to secure your home against internet threats, thanks to modern secure routers that do most of the heavy lifting for you. While there are still some great solutions for advanced users to dig in and adjust settings to their hearts' content, this is no longer necessary with most secure routers, which can have you up and running with a well-defended network perimeter within minutes.
Always keep in mind, however, that installing a secure router is no substitute for practicing good security habits, such as choosing strong passwords, using malware protection on your computers, and being careful about wandering into some of the more questionable corners of the internet. Still, while there are many facets to defending your home network, a good secure router can be one of the best tools in your arsenal by blocking as many threats as possible before they even get in the front door.