Published on August 2nd, 2017 | by Greg0
CUJO Firewall: Secure Your Internet Of Things, At A Cost
The promise of ever-increasing connectivity is clear- we will soon all be able to control our thermostats and televisions with our voice or from afar, our locks will unlock without needing us to even think about pulling out a key, and our home theater system will play our favorite music as we enter the home. Of course, the reality is quite different at the moment- each of these things requires a delicate balance of different vendors and solutions, with competing companies and incompatible protocols, not to mention the usual issues of battery life and difficult setup scenarios that need you to have three degrees and call four companies for five hours every time the system resets. And then there are the security issues- as we add more devices, there are ever more ways into our networks and more ways to cause trouble.
The CUJO Smart Firewall aims to hit that last problem squarely, in a small physical hardware package supported by some fancy cloud systems and offering a couple of purchasing options- a one-time upfront fee, or a smaller cost along with a subscription-based model similar to most anti-virus companies. They couldn’t have made the device more appealing aesthetically- the small glowing white orb looks kind of like a futuristic air freshener, and features a cute face that smiles when all is well and warns you by looking sad. Ideally, you’ll plug it into your router or modem, create a required account, make a couple of changes in your router, and then check in as it protects everything on your network from a variety of threats. It’s protection goes far beyond your laptop or desktop computer, but includes all manner of modern devices, from smartphones and tablets, to varied smart home devices like Alexa and Nest, connected lighting systems, cameras and more. And while the damage anyone can do with such gear might seem minor, if you’ve seen Mr. Robot or Black Mirror, you’ll start to fear hackers controlling your TVs or appliances.
For average consumers without a lot of those devices, the benefits of CUJO are obviously limited. For the more security-minded, you probably are avoiding such devices anyway, as they can only be protected so far (IP cameras, especially, represent a wide array of risks that can only be partially handled by third parties). The target market, thus, are the early adopter enthusiasts- folks worried about the security of their smart homes and who are fairly technologically savvy, but don’t necessarily want to dig into their router and manually create DMZs, assign fixed IPs, block unknown MAC addresses, and understand what all of that means. CUJO can be a helpful shorthand way of achieving some of these same protections- and their iOS/Android mobile app is especially handy, as you can see a variety of alerts and notifications cleanly and clearly. And if your router is limited or hard to use, you can setup parental controls and such with CUJO instead.
We tested on an existing installation, as we heard Verizon FIOS setups can be heard to configure (Google Mesh networks are also unsupported at this time). Despite using a whole lot of devices, we noticed no network congestion or speed issues while downloading files or enjoying Netflix streaming, but gamers may notice some additional latency (as with any time you add some more hops) and serious professionals might find themselves with issues around some functionality (like port forwarding). The ultimate question- is it worth it? At the moment, with limited threats to your IoT systems and most routers serving as decent basic firewalls, it’s hard to say- and there are always risks with making a relatively-unknown company responsible for your security. If you are the type who doesn’t mind custom firmware and is OK modifying your advanced router settings, then you probably don’t need CUJO. If you want a little extra protection (and quite a bit more information on potential threats), without the hassles, then CUJO is certainly an easy and fairly sophisticated solution- and available online for around $249 (without future subscription fees) or $99 with a monthly charge.