Q: I just got a Roku 3 and set it up on my home network. I love the device, and it works properly, but every time I log on to Wi-Fi with my laptop now, I see the Roku on the list of available Wi-Fi networks. I thought the Roku was supposed to join an existing network, not create a new one. Would this allow an outsider to tap into my home network?
A: What you’re seeing on your computer is actually information meant for the Roku’s remote control. The remote for Roku’s latest video-streaming device connects via Wi-Fi Direct, which is a high-bandwidth connection based on the Wi-Fi protocol. The Roku remote needs that bandwidth because of its audio-streaming capability, which lets users plug headphones into the remote and hear the audio track from their device without using their home-theatre speakers – this is sometimes known as let-your-spouse-sleep mode. The connection between the Roku and your remote is an ad hoc, device-to-device connection, so logging on to that network shouldn’t allow access to your home network.
According to Kevin Robinson of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi Direct devices can simultaneously maintain a peer-to-peer connection and a connection to a conventional Wi-Fi network. So, technically, such a network could serve as a bridge to your home network. But a Roku representative assured PM that the Roku 3 has security measures that prevent any non-Roku hardware from pairing with the main device, and the device is not configured to act as a bridge between networks. In fact, the Roku rep suggested that the company may be able to make the network invisible to third-party devices with a future software update.