Gryphon Connect Smart Router for Family Safety

Written by Kevin Cheng on . Posted in Miscellaneous

Gryphon ConnectI first came across Gryphon Connect Smart Router when it was still a Kickstarter campaign. The gestation period for it to become a shipping product took a while but it did arrive in my eager hands about 12 months ago. It has been undergoing an extended live test since.

 

 

Introduction
Gryphon App HomeSome two years ago I started thinking about how I need to manage Internet content that my children would be able to access. Banning them from using devices was not practical, neither was hovering over them like a hawk watching everything. The sales pitch from Gryphon Connect sounded good, although at the time there was no product.

I am generally cautious when it comes to being a Kickstarter guinea pig (not going to name and shame them though). I did a fair bit of reading and research and ultimately the credentials of John Wu, the CEO of Gryphon Online Safety gave me sufficient comfort. John Wu has been a key player in the wireless and IoT industry, not just "someone" with an idea jumping onto the Kickstarter bandwagon.

 

Gryphon App SettingsFirst Impressions
The Gryphon Connect router was nothing I have ever seen or used before. It looks like a white sculpture more suited as a home decoration than a router. There are no bristling antennas sticking out, just a spectacular clean stylish monolithic block that is begging to be put on display.

The next surprise for me is the complete lack of web browser interface for configuration. This would eventually do my head in as someone with a technical background - more on that later. Configuration is via the Gryphon app, easily downloaded from your respective app store.

When the Gryphon was shipped initially, the app provided very basic amounts of control. The core feature of content filtering was in place, but it had none of the standard features I have come to expect of a (relatively) expensive router. In fact I was not even able to change the subnet that the Gryphon assigns to my network, and I had to reconfigure my network to suit it. The only thing I could change was the router IP, talk about the tail wagging the dog!

At the most simplistic level, the Gryphon Connect router works - the content filtering worked straight out of the box. I could assign devices to different user profiles, set the schedule for turning off the internet and homework time, etc. For an average home it was sufficient.

Gryphon App Network ViewThe ability to configure the Gryphon in the early days was so limited that I removed it from the network after the set up was completed. It broke the core functionalities that I needed on a day to day basis, namely port forwarding. I did contact Gryphon support but a CLI is just not available and I parked it for a few weeks.

 

Production Use
A few weeks after I shelved the Gryphon, the app updated and I gave it another go. This time port forwarding functionality has been added and I could get my network running the way I need it to with the Gryphon in place.

From a day to day basis, the Gryphon was set and forget. I know that it is working as I want it to every night at 8pm when it suspended internet access for my partner's son, in the middle of a Fortnite battle usually.

Over the past year Gryphon has steadily increased functionality in the app, and firmware pushed out on a fairly regular basis. It was not without hiccups as things broke randomly, and I was lucky enough to discover some bugs which broke my configuration. By this time I was far too invested with the Gryphon to replace it until things could be fixed.

There were two major "production down time" incidences since I put the Gryphon in the core of my network. The Gryphon rule set randomly broke port forwarding to my Synology NAS device. It was a Catch-22 as port forwarding was only available (at the time) for a managed device, and as a managed device, the Synology NAS was protected from malicious traffic. Eventually I played with the configuration so much that I broke the app when it came to trying to the Synology NAS.

User ProfileThe second down time came when an overnight firmware update caused the Gryphon wifi to drop out every few seconds.

The good part is, Gryphon Connect support is incredibly responsive. When the firmware update broke my wifi, they were able to remotely push a new version of software to address the problem after reviewing the logs.

The issue with the port forwarding took a bit longer, months longer. The team was able to use detailed diagnostic information that I gathered and resulted in functionality updates which fixed the issue I encountered.

It is important to note that there are no remote access ports on the Gryphon. In order to allow Gryphon support to fix my issue, I had to physically access the Gryphon and reboot it into a different mode first. The company stresses their stance in taking their users' privacy very seriously.

Each time I contacted the support team, I have had competent and helpful support and a quick response. It is something that I appreciated.

 

Content Filtering
As I stated at the start, content filtering was what drove my decision to explore the Gryphon router. The app allows me to create a profile for each child with age level restrictions appropriate to their individual needs. Devices can be assigned to a profile, with internet time limits set individually.

Malware and network intrusions are flagged as notifications on the app in real time.

Gryphon app filteringIf there is a legitimate reason to access a blocked website, a request can be sent to the parent in real time. A preview of the website requested is shown to assist with decision making. Crowd Ranking also helps to see what other parents have decided.

A request can also be sent to extend online time.

The app provides control to force Safe Search / YouTube per user or device, hiding inappropriate content by automatically filtering search engine results.

The app also stores browsing history, regardless of either the history was deleted on the browser or if private / incognito mode is used.

 

HistoryOther Features
The user profiles permits scheduling of screen time by pausing internet for devices at a scheduled time. An exception can be put in for a defined homework time.

One feature I really appreciate is the granular app control. Via the app I can control each profile's access to: Amazon Prime, Animal Jam, Discord, Facetime / iMessage, FB / FB Messenger / Instagram, Fortnite, Groupme, Hulu, Kik, Minecraft, Musical.ly, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Pandora, Pinterest, Reddit, Skype, Snapchat, Spotify, Tumblr, Twitter, Whatsapp and YouTube.

The options on app control can be set to always block, allow during normal time or allow during homework time.

And for the smart kids who think they can bypass the content filtering, VPN access can be disabled on the profiles.

 

gryphon app8WiFi Performance
With a single device located in the home, the wifi coverage is spectacular, reaching both ends of a long skinny house with ease. This is the same in my brother's house, I eliminated the need for wifi repeaters by placing the Gryphon in a better location and now his entire house has far better coverage and speed than he has ever achieved.

For those who have the need, the Gryphon routers can be meshed to extend coverage.

Gripes
The lack of CLI or expert interface still bugs me. I understand why it is done this way but does not mean I have to like it. At the very least I would like to be able to access router logs so I can track down an issue with a ruleset.

 

Conclusions
Despite the initial hiccups with the Gryphon Connect Router, the product has matured over the last 12 months to be an immensely useful device on my network.

Content filtering is not an exact science, there are always hits and misses. But without doubt the Gryphon has achieved what I was looking for - content control over the varying needs of the children that I have in my care. The ability to grant exceptions on the fly, force safe searches and regulate screen time automatically are all now a set and forget requirement through the app.

Reluctantly, kicking and screaming the Gryphon has ripped the propeller off this tech head, leaving behind a much simpler world. In this simpler world, I can share secondary admin rights to my partner to navigate the treacherous waters of the internet. The app is intuitive enough that the learning time is near zero, and Gryphon has a large library of short videos for those who need help.

The Gryphon Connect smart router is available here for USD$219.99 for one, or $419.99 for a pair. There is an optional Advanced Network Protection subscription for AI intrusion detection, malware and ransomware protection with ESET, and Homebound™. This is available free for the first year then USD$9.99/month or USD$99/year.

 

Technical Specifications
WiFi Features:
802.11bgn
802.11AC
Simultaneous tri-band radios (2.4GHZ, 2x 5GHz)
4×4 MU-MIMO
Antenna Beamforming
Wireless Mesh
6 high power internal antenna
Guest WiFi
3Gbps overall throughput
Comprehensive WiFi security
Bluetooth LE
Power Supply:
12v DC

Memory:
512MB RAM, 4GB Flash

Smartphone App Specs:
IOS, Android

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