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Review: CUJO smart firewall helps protect the Internet of Things devices in your network

The Internet of Things is here, and while there are various benefits of having our heating, lighting, and more connected to the internet – these devices pose a considerable risk in terms of security, and smart firewalls like CUJO are now on the market to help you keep your network safe.

Top-end modems/routers now come with basic firewalls, and your your laptop, tablet, and smartphone will all contain capable firewall software, but what if you use your ISP’s standard router and have connected lightbulbs, toasters, and fridges? You are at risk. Millions of compromised IoT devices were used to bring down a major network infrastructure player last year with a DDoS attack, with most owners of those devices completely unaware they had been hacked.

Today, many IoT devices still come with a WiFi username and password hard coded into their software, which makes them easy targets for hackers, and once these nefarious individuals are inside your network, maybe they will use your devices for large-scale DDoS attacks, but they could also turn their sights on your personal and banking information. IoT security, then, is a serious problem for both home and businesses users right now.

Like many offices, TechFruit’s home has a raft of connected devices, including web-connected TVs, wireless speakers, and even a few lightbulbs – so when CUJO got in touch to ask us to review their smart firewall and keep us better protected, we were only to happy to oblige. Now, after a couple of months of use – I thought it was about time to share my thoughts.

Looks

The CUJO device is a cute-looking white box, not much bigger than a Bluetooth speaker, with two soft glowing LED eyes that shows you that you are being protected. The device looks like it could be a character from a Pixar movie, but in the end you plug it into your router with an ethernet cable and keep out of the way anyway, so looks are not hugely significant here.

Setup

Most of the setup is handled through a mobile app, so to get started you need to head over to the Apple App Store or Play Store to get the CUJO app.

CUJO protection is handled in the cloud, so you need to sign up for an account through the app. Once that’s done, setup is as simple as plugging the device into your modem/router via an ethernet cable and following the guide on your smartphone.

Most of the more common routers are automatically recognised by the box, and in these cases setup is nearly automatic. Our brand new router was not recognised, so I did have to go through the manual setup guide – but this is pretty straight forward with CUJO running the DHCP server – so rather than network device IP addresses starting 192.168.x.x, they change to 10.0.0.x.

How it works

CUJO is in essence a network-level smart firewall that uses cloud-based intellugence and behavioural analysis to detect and block security threats. It actively protects against malware and can determine whether a device on your network has been compromised and could have become part of a so-called “botnet”, like the one that took down Dydns last year.

For a more comprehensive explanation, the CUJO FAQ describes how it works as thus:

“CUJO acts as a gateway between your devices and for your connection to the Internet. We inspect packets of data coming and leaving your network and block threats before they can reach the target or do damage. We analyze behavior and secure all devices connected to your network. This is critical because newly connected devices don’t have pre-installed security.

“Unlike traditional solutions, CUJO adapts and reacts when your home is attacked and does not rely just on libraries of known malware issues. We analyze a humongous amount of behavioral data in our cloud and push learning’s from one home to all CUJO protected homes.”

In use

Once you’re up and running, CUJO runs silently in the background, blocking hackers from breaching your network and blocking known sources of attack. Over the course of a couple of months, we actually saw very little targeting of our network by any nefarious types, but I was very pleased to see CUJO stepping in and blocking some of those horrible uncloseable popups, which did improve my browsing experience.

The CUJO app lets you see which devices are connected to your network at any time, and enable or disable internet connectivity for them with the click of a button. This type of control may be available on your router already, but it is great to see it clearly p-resented and not hidden behind a thousand menus – so when you need to kick your teenage son off the internet at midnight to get some sleep – that has never been easier.

In fact, at CES 2017 CUJO also demoed a new feature, Parental Controls, that allows parents to monitor and control their children’s online activities from a phone or computer – and the easier this is for parents the better, we’ve argued many times on these pages that it should be parents and not the government that watches what children do online.

It’s hard to test a firewall’s defences when you don’t face constant attacks, and on day-to-day use CUJO only had a few threats to block. But to test it a bit better, ianfette.org, a non-malicious site for testing malware detection, is a useful tool, and CUJO blocks access immediately.


Conclusion

Laptops, tablets, and smartphones offer good firewall protection already, but if you have IoT devices connected to your home or office network, then CUJO will help you keep protected. In particular, if you have webcams or baby monitors in use, then I would highly recommend installing a smart firewall like CUJO to stop hackers gaining access and invading your privacy.

A smart firewall may not yet be an essential item for the home, it will be in a couple of years and it is best to get protected early to avoid having to deal with the consequences of a breach after the fact.

Price at time of review: $99 for the device with a free 180 day trial subscription ($8.99/mo afterwards) or $249 for a device with a lifetime subscription
For a limited time CUJO also offer in-home white glove free installation for those in the US

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