I just read a book called Dark Territory which described the history, and current state, of government cyber war, crime and defense. By the end of the book I realized that almost no device or network connected to the internet can be 100% secure. And that was a bit scary: if the government has a hard time keeping hackers and criminals at bay, how much more defenseless are normal American citizens?
Just like you wouldn’t leave your front or back door unlocked, you wouldn’t want to leave access points to your home unsecured either. And if you’re like most American homes in 2016 and beyond, you have plenty of digital doors that you probably never even knew you needed to lock down. And it’s not just devices like computers, phones and tablets. If you have a Smart TV, an Xbox or Playstation, a connected baby monitor, smart thermostats (think Nest), home security cameras, a connected printer, network storage devices (connected hard drives), media players (think Roku, Chromecast, Shield or Apple TV), smart lights (think Hue or Lifex) or any other internet-connected appliance or device, you’re home IS at risk. These devices represent “the Internet of Things” (or IoT for short) and in the future you will need to make sure your corner of the IoT is as safe as possible.
Okay, so you want to do everything you can to protect your home, but you’re not a super-technical person. You enjoy your gadgets but you don’t really get inside them or understand how they work. Fair enough: that’s plenty of people — especially people over 30. Thankfully there are several startups and companies bringing products to market that can help average consumers digital lives as secure as possible (the keywords there are as possible).
My advice to you: don’t sit back and wait to be hacked (or, even worse, don’t be oblivious to an attack that could be happening right under your nose) because it’s really a matter of when not if at this point. All you need to do is spend a bit of money to get a device that can help watch your back. Trust me: dealing with these kinds of problems is a lot less painful (financially, emotionally, etc.) BEFORE something goes wrong than AFTER.
The CUJO is a simple white device that protects you from threats in a pretty compelling way. Importantly, it’s plug-n-play which means you just need to plug it into your existing router and every device on your network will fall under CUJO’s protection. As you’ll find with several similar home network security devices, there’s a monthly fee. CUJO’s fee is included for the first 180 days you own it for the purchase of $99. After that it will cost $8.99 a month for protection. As you will see, this is certainly one of the most affordable home network defense options.
CUJO is designed to protect your home network and devices from hacks and malware and makes use of not just rule-based protection (like a standard firewall) but also behavior learning. CUJO also handles updates automatically so as long as you are a paying customer, you won’t need to touch a single thing. CUJO also takes a cloud-based approach to securing your IoT devices: when it detects a possible threat on one CUJO, it let’s all other CUJO devices know about it thus keeping the entire network more secure. Finally, I really like CUJO’s cyber neighborhood watch which lets you see nearby attacks on other CUJO users.
From the very brief glimpse available online, it also appears that CUJO comes with a very nice app both in terms of design and functionality. Of course, not yet having used one, that is hard to verify.
I like the looks of the CUJO alright. The lights that look like eyes are cool because they make it appear that CUJO is intelligent (and hey, even if it’s a placebo effect, that counts for something mentally). The design is a clean white and there’s really nothing bad to say about it!
The F-Secure Sense isn’t just a box that plugs into your existing router; rather, it’s a more secure router in-and-of itself. Similar in theory to the CUJO, the Sense analyses traffic on your network and threats are then blocked using artificial intelligence. The idea here is that threats are “sensed” rather than merely “scanned” for, but in reality I’m not sure there’s much of a difference. One big difference with the Sense is that it also attempts to protect your devices when you leave your home base using an app. The Sense will cost Americans $199 and that price includes the first year of subscription services (which are $8 thereafter).
The Sense blocks connection attempts with a firewall, viruses, malware, phishing and malicious websites and unwanted tracking and comes with a all-inclusive app to manage everything.
Obviously, security is the main concern, but assuming the Sense handles that well, the design is in fact very attractive. It’s almost as if someone skewed the Apple router a bit so it wouldn’t be a perfect rounded square and added a clock on the front.
The Bitdefender BOX works in a similar way to the other home network security devices I’ve mentioned already (analyzes patters in your network and traffic for suspicious activity, but does have some differences worth noting.
I’m going to start with the design. I love the sleek white look of this device and the fun light that shows up underneath the front. This is the network defender a storm trooper would be issued.
But the more interesting feature is probably “private line” which helps to protect your mobile devices when you are out of the house and a bit more vulnerable. Private line strives to keep your device safe and anonymous at the same time when you’re at work or shopping or generally doing stuff outside your abode. While this sounds cool, I’m not sure how well it will work for the average person since the site lists all kinds of disclaimers (may not work on all wireless networks or devices, etc.). I do applaud the effort to sell a more complete and comprehensive product that doesn’t just aim to protect users at home (even though that is obviously a very necessary service these days).
Lastly, the associated app looks pretty complete, useful and user-friendly. You’ll get security notifications, be able to see a list of protected devices (and whether or not they’re at home), see activity reports and, of course, be able to setup your device in the first place.
The Bitdefender BOX is going to set you back $199 initially and will then cost $99 a year thereafter (the first year of service is included).
The Luma is an intriguing product (that is a router system and security box in one). While it does emphasize network security (more on that shortly), it has some other very interested uses and features. While you can buy 1 device, you’re encouraged to buy 3 Luma’s in order to create a mesh network which, in theory, will give you a network with less dead zones and perhaps even a speed boost.
The Luma is a very family-friendly device (depending on whether or not you are a parent or a teenager). The Luma not only lets parents see what each device on the network is looking at (i.e. spy on your kids, in realtime if you’d prefer), but it lets you set a content level for each user. That means if you want your kids to see only “G” rated or “PG” rated content, you can make that happen. Additionally, you can set digital curfews like: no internet access for certain devices after 9 pm.
Now about those security features. Like the other devices here, Luma tries to block hackers from wreaking havoc on your network and detects unknown devices in order to cut off their access if necessary. Still, reading through the FAQs, it doesn’t look to me like Luma’s security is quite up to par with the devices I’ve already listed above. Better than nothing, but I’d like to see more than just the ability to limit IoT connections and detect weak passwords.
I really like the Luma’s looks which are completely different than anything else I’ve ever seen. There are no ugly antennas like you’ll find in many top of the line routers and the hexagonal shape is very unique.
Dojo uses artificial intelligence to detect patterns on your network in order to block malicious activity. That’s not too different than what you’ll find with most of the devices on this list. But where the Dojo really stands out is in the way it handles notifications. You’ll get notifications on your phone but you’ll also get notifications on the Pebble.
The Pebble is a hardware component that looks like a stone with light rings. That “stone” is rechargable and you can bring it with you wherever you go in the house. When something goes wrong the lights on the Pebble will turn red letting you know you should check your app to see what’s going on.
I like the fact that the Dojo app is a chat bot. If you’ve never used a chat bot before, they can be great. Rather than using a menu, you can talk in normal language with the Dojo to learn about what is happening on your network or to change settings. Chat bots use natural language and I’m sure there are plenty of folks that will prefer this type of interface to a more traditional menu-based app.
Like the CUJO, the Dojo only costs $99.
Keezel is sort of a different layer of security than the other devices I’ve been talking about thus far, but in case it’s of interest I’ll go ahead and mention it. Rather than focusing on protecting your network, Keezel is more worried about protecting your identity. Simply put, it wants to keep you anonymous. If that’s of importance to you, it’s worth checking into. Keezel’s aim is to stop your provider (and any network provider) from monitoring your Internet activity. It makes use of VPN technology and blocks third parties to help keep the device you are using with it more secure. Oh, and it also charges your phone.
Basically, Keezel could be one extra layer of protection for your home on top of protecting your connected (IoT) devices. I guess using it in combination with the other devices listed here could be a more comprehensive security approach.
A lot of the devices I’ve listed here are similar in terms of the approach they take to security (namely, monitoring and analyzing network traffic packets while trying to maintain an appropriate level of privacy for users). They’ve also got fairly similar pricing when you add in yearly service subscriptions. With so many of these devices currently available for pre-order, it’s hard to tell which ones will actually perform the best. Personally, I feel like the CUJO, Bitdefender BOX and Dojo are the top candidates for my money. Actually, I went ahead and ordered the CUJO for now just because I felt like it was an all around solid pick. If the Dojo was going to be available sooner, I might have gone with it first. In the end, there’s a good chance it could come down to two things: 1.) looks and 2.) extra features (like the ability to protect devices when they are off-network). What will you choose?