Smart Home Security with the Cujo Smart Firewall
Update April 17, 2020: Cujo AI discontinued the CUJO AI smart firewall at the end of 2017. If you are using smart home devices, we recommend you consider securing your home network, either through a stand-alone product or through your Internet service provider.
As we have installed more and more devices in our home, we have become increasingly concerned about safety. We are pretty careful about what we buy and how we monitor our stuff, but you never know what threats are out there. While we can protect our computers with anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall software, there is not any software you can install on a light bulb, a hub or a smart sprinkler system.
We started looking for something to be able to protect all the ZWave and other devices in our house connected to Wifi. While we were at CES, we met a company called Cujo and decided to try their smart firewall to protect our network.
While the getting started instructions for the Cujo are pretty straightforward, Cujo encourages you to call if you have questions. Since we have an Apple router, we needed to call them for the specialized setup. Cujo recommended we install the system using the direct connection, in DHCP mode. During installation, Cujo will actually comes into the router and adjust the settings, putting Cujo in charge. If you are using a non-Apple router the settings adjustment should be automatic. You can find a list of compatible routers on their website.
Once Cujo is in charge it finds all the devices, categorizes and identifies them as best as it can. It takes a few days for it to identify everything, though you can help it out by identifying devices yourself. The result is that as soon as your Cujo is plugged in and setup your network is protected. We now have more than 70 devices being protected by Cujo in our house.
In our configuration, the Cujo acts as the DHCP server, which means that it assigns the IP addresses for our devices, and it also acts as a traffic cop by intercepting all messages between the router and the internet. This allows Cujo to check both internet messages coming in and out as well as browser requests to make sure you are not visiting dangerous sites. Cujo will warn you if you try to visit bad sites or if there are internet messages trying to get into your network and block them automatically so you do not have to worry.
So far, Cujo has detected a number of threats. For example, one of our iPads tried to visit a known malware site and Cujo stopped it, and also blocked the same site from one of our Macs. It will block those threats unless you allow it to pass through, just in case it is a good site and just misidentified. So far we have kept all of them blocked. Cujo only keeps the last 30 days of threat data; in the last 30 days there have been nine threats blocked. Total traffic protected is 229 GB with more than 330 million packets inspected.
There are other interesting features, such as the access feature (currently in beta), that allows you to identify individual profiles and assign devices to them. This allows you to set up specific filters and allowed websites for those individuals. We haven’t tested this but see this as a valuable feature for parents to use to protect their children or restrict their access from specific sites.
The one thing we were worried about was Cujo impacting the performance of our internet. So far we haven’t noticed any difference in performance or degradation of video streaming to our tvs or other devices. The speed tests seem to indicate 5 percent or less overhead from the Cujo.
When we first started using Cujo we had a lot of questions. They have a telephone number you can call and their support staff are very technical and responsive, and great at following up on questions.
In order for the Cujo to work, you need to have a subscription to their service. Cujo used to offer two ways to buy – you could buy just the device for $99, then buy a monthly or annual subscription, or you could buy a lifetime subscription with the device for $249. Now the device comes with the lifetime subscription only, and at a reasonable price. It’s not too different than an anti-virus subscription – in order for something like this to work you need to keep it up to date to help it protect you from the latest threats. Cujo continually updates their threat database and your Cujo device automatically.
So far we have been really pleased with the Cujo. It doesn’t necessarily replace anti-virus software on your computers but it adds an extra level of protection to the whole network and makes us feel much safer with all our connected gadgets in the house.