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Open source OpenWRT router has automatic updates

Nov 18, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 4,941 views

CZ.NIC has found Indiegogo success with an open source, OpenWRT “Turris Omnia” router with crypto security, automatic updates, and NAS and server functions.

CZ.NIC, a non-profit organization that runs the .CZ top level domain of the Czech Republic, released its first open source hardware and software router design called Turris in 2014, offering systems to interested hackers on an invitation-only basis. Now, it is expanding to a larger base via Indiegogo with a new Turris Omnia design touted for its high performance, security, automatic updates, and multiple servers.

The project has almost doubled its $100,000 Indiegogo goal, and there are still 54 days left to go in which to order a $189 device, up from a sold-out $179 early bird package, or $99 for the mainboard only. Shipments are expected in April 2016, although a $1,000 prototype package will get you set up by January.

Turris Omnia
(click image to enlarge)

The Omnia design moves from the 1.2GHz, PowerPC-based Freescale P2020 that powers the current Turris design to a 1.6GHz dual-core ARM SoC: Marvell’s Armada-385. The Armada-385 is a member of Marvell’s recently announced, 28nm-fabricated Armada 38x family of networking SoCs. The SoC is accompanied here with a cryptography chip that offers secure random number generation.

The Turris Omnia runs an OpenWRT Linux based distribution called TurrisOS. Like the Turris, the Omnia will be offered as a fully open source hardware and software design.

The device is loaded with 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB flash, and delivers mini-PCIe based 3×3 MIMO 802.11ac and 2×2 MIMO 802.11b/g/n WiFi, projected with three antennas. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a GbE WAN port, and an SFP interface for optical communications.

Turris Omnia mainboard
(click image to enlarge)

The 208 x 135mm Turris Omnia is further equipped with dual USB 3.0 ports, dual mini-PCIe slots, and mini-PCIe based mSATA interface. You also get a SIM card slot for creating a cellular backup service, as well as an RTC with battery backup, dimmable LEDs, and headers for I/O including GPIO, I2C, SPI.

Aside from being fully open source, the most notable feature of the Omnia is its ability to update firmware automatically in order to protect it against new malware threats. With a huge installed base of aging home WiFi routers that require manual updates — and rarely receive them — router security is increasingly seen as a key vulnerability in the modern digital household.

A number of new routers, including the Gentoo Linux based OnHub from Google and TP-Link, have been touted for their own similar automatic update functions. Recently, an apparently friendly Linux.Wifatch threat was revealed that uses an XOR botnet to invade unprotected, Linux-based routers in order to improve their security by distributing threat updates.

The Turris Omnia provides home server, print-server, backup server, DLNA media server, and virtual servers built-in, and the device can double as a network-attached storage system. The device can also run honeypots to simulate a vulnerable system in order to lure and defeat hackers.

The Turris Omnia is also touted for its internal network setup, which is said to be unique for home routers. The setup scheme uses three GbE lines for better performance and more configuration options, says CZ.NIC.

An entertaining overview of Turris Omnia

Video tour of Turris Omnia mainboard

Further information

The Turris Omnia is available for order on Indiegogo starting at $189 — a discount from the eventual $285 retail price — or $99 for the mainboard only. Shipments are due in April, 2016. More information may be found at Turris Omnia Indiegogo page, as well as CZ.NIC’s Project Turris website.

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One response to “Open source OpenWRT router has automatic updates”

  1. Fox says:

    Sounds like a very interesting device. It may be a time for me to get rid of my ancient 802.1g box, although OpenWRT gave it many new features like NAS, VPN, DLNA etc.

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