Our Favorite IoT Devices for the Home

Posted on

The internet of things industry is growing rapidly, and every day there are new products being introduced. With this fast development, it can be confusing for shoppers to find quality products. We want our customers to choose devices that are high performing, affordable, and secure. This list of smart home products highlights devices that our team members have enjoyed using and have positive online reviews in order to advise readers.

Best Smart Speaker

Because of its early development, Amazon’s Echo is a very popular smart speaker that has earned our choice for top smart speaker. This device, like all smart speakers, can play music, narrate news, control smart home assets, and answer questions.  We favor this specific speaker because it is able to connect to a larger variety of smart home devices and perform a larger number of functions. These functions are being added to every day, and currently, we enjoy its ability to order pizza, read recipes, and request an Uber. Each of these functions is performed with the help of a high-quality speaker, which produces impressive sound quality.

Best Smart Lighting

The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19- Gen 3 is our top pick for smart lighting because of its abilities and connectivity. Users will need to install a hue system that will allow them to ultimately control their lighting via an application. Through this app, users will be able to turn lights on and off, dim the lights, and change their color to one of 16 million options.  This can be done in real-time or set to schedules. Additionally, this bulb is designed to integrate with a variety of other apps and smart-home systems. Popular systems that can be synced include Amazon’s Alexa, Nest, and Apple’s Siri.

Best Smart Security

Although there are a variety of smart cameras and smoke/flood/etc. detectors, our team wanted to focus on the best all-encompassing security systems. We put the Abode Starter Kit at the top of our list because of its ability to be customized and integrated with a variety of systems. Included in this kit are a hub with a siren and backup battery, two door/window sensors, a security camera, a motion detector, and a key fob which arms and disarms the system. Although the camera doesn’t offer live streaming, it takes three pictures when it detects motion. Both free and paid access to these images are available, depending on how long and where you want them stored. This technology can pair with Amazon’s Alexa and Nest, among others and be controlled through both Android and iOS apps. We chose this as our top pick because of its affordability and ability to be customized through device additions and plans.

Best Smart Thermostat

For the many households that have used this technology, it is no surprise that the Nest Learning Thermostat earned a place at the top of our list. This device can be controlled through smartphones, computers, and other smart home devices.  Within a week of using the device, the Nest will learn your temperature preferences and adjust itself accordingly. When the home is unoccupied, the nest will turn itself down to help save energy, which is just one factor that contributed to the device’s Energy Star rating. The device itself also has a superior face, which will light up when it detects motion to show the time, temperature, or weather.

Best Smart Vacuum

With every smart vacuum developed, there are new features and abilities. We think that the Neato Botvac deserves its title of “Best Smart Vacuum” because of its power and connectivity.  This device can be started, scheduled, or steered from both its LCD screen and iOS and Android devices. It has superior suction power, leaving behind a reliable clean. To navigate, the robot uses lasers for assistance and is able to compute an efficient path around each room.  If you have a larger house that competes with the battery life, you can switch from “Turbo” to “Eco” mode.  During “Eco” mode, we found the room to be quieter but still powerful enough to amply clean.

Best Smart Blinds

Hunter Douglas Shades have made their way to the top of our list because of their affordability, quality control, and abilities. These devices are controllable via a very user-friendly smartphone app as well as the two remotes. Connections to home control systems are available as well, most notably to the Crestron, Control4, and Savant systems. Users can select which individual blinds are adjusted when making changes, allowing for customized environments in each room. These changes can be made in real-time or scheduled “scenes” can be created.

This list highlights smart systems that are most popularly used and that our team members have experience with. If you have any questions about these devices, please feel free to reach out! Stay tuned to our blog to find out more about the technology industry, recommended IT practices, and company highlights!

How Information Security is adapting to the IoT

Posted on

Gartner, Inc. predicts that there will be 8.4 billion connected devices around the world by the end of 2017. By 2020, other studies estimate this number will reach more than 50 billion. These devices will be used in cars, homes, businesses, cities, doctors’ offices, manufacturers, and more. They will store credit card information, medical information, your home’s layout and occupancy habits, and other private data. Commercially, AT&T reports that 85% of surveyed enterprises intend to deploy IoT devices. With this industry emerging and beginning to grow so quickly, it is important to step back and realize the effects these devices will cause and begin addressing IoT security.

A recent HP study estimates that 70% of the most commonly used devices contain vulnerabilities. Ensuring the security of these devices is critical protecting this sensitive information. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission filed a suit against an IoT device manufacturer who sold insecure products. They allege that this company failed to provide adequate security and also misrepresented their level of security. This is not the first suit of this type, which shows their commitment to protecting customers from vulnerabilities and companies who produce dangerous goods. The FTC also published a report titled “Internet of Things, Privacy, and Security in a Connected World,” which described threats and gave recommendations for the IoT industry.

An IoT device is only as secure as the network it is connected to. That is why it is important to create a comprehensive security plan before the IoT devices are put into place in order to ensure their sustainability. Not only will this null any existing vulnerabilities, but it will also be less expensive than incorporating these devices later.  This includes not only purchasing secure devices, but also ensuring the network and applications’ vulnerabilities are addressed. Our team predicts that as this industry grows, it will implement common security practices that will become standard for these devices and the companies and homes that implement them.

With the growth of the IoT industry, it is critical that both software and service providers create standards that will ensure security. These practices should not only protect against hackers, but also random product malfunctions.  We believe in the benefits of IoT devices and look forward to seeing what industry standards will be created and what product and security improvements will be made. To learn more about online security, technology tips and tricks, industry news, and company highlights, stay tuned to our blog!

The WannaCry Virus

Recently, a cyber-attack known as WannaCry took hostage hundreds of thousands of public and private Microsoft computers around the world. Computers were affected in more than 150 countries, making this the largest recorded ransomware attack. This virus is a form of ransomware, which encrypts files until a monetary ransom is paid. Often, these ransoms will double after a certain period of time and if they are not paid within the set time, all of the files will remain encrypted. Once the ransom is paid, a key is provided that will unlock the files. In this case, the requested ransom was around $300.

Victims of these attacks include a healthcare company in Britain, where patients had to be turned away from more than 36 hospitals, doctor’s offices, and ambulance companies. Thankfully, patient data was not compromised during this attack. In Russia, the Interior Ministry’s computers were frozen. In the United States, FedEx became a target.

These types of attacks are usually triggered by malicious attachments in emails that are designed to mimic legitimate sources. Microsoft was aware of this vulnerability and had released software updates to protect customers from these types of attacks. However, many people have outdated software which allowed them to remain vulnerable. It has yet to be reported the total amount victims paid.

It is rumored that the strategy of this attack is rooted in the N.S.A. because of the comments made when the plans were posted online previous to the attack. A group who identifies itself as the “Shadow Brokers” claimed that the numerous hacking tools they posted online were stolen from the U.S. Government. These tools targeted firewalls, anti-virus programs, and Microsoft products. This is especially concerning because the N.S.A. is taxpayer funded. The N.S.A. has denied this allegation but some sources claim that former officials have suggested the content looks similar to other N.S.A. documents.

The United States has used cyber-attacks against other governments in the past and it is known that they have classified information on these types of vulnerabilities. Former President Obama’s administration developed a process to determine which of these vulnerabilities should be kept in a classified setting and which ones should be reported to the companies so they can be fixed.

Our team strives to provide prompt, cloud based updates to our customers so that their software is always up to date. We also employ both network security and email filtration measures in order to further reduce the risks of these types of attacks. If you are curious about how we have helped protect other companies or are ready to trust us with your technical security, contact us today to get started.