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Cujo is a firewall for the connected smart home network

TechCrunch TechCrunch 10/05/2016 Brian Heater

“Cujo protects everything on your network,” the company’s CEO, Einaras Gravrock says, describing his product in the simplest terms possible ahead of its Disrupt NY launch this week. “Think of it as an immunity system for your network.”

The Cujo is surprisingly unassuming, a small plastic stump with light up eyes that stands in adorable contrast to its mad dog name and home security mission statement.

The product is designed to bring the enterprise-level security to the home network, helping to protect against attacks to the increasingly vulnerable world of networked devices, from laptops to smart light bulbs.

“Cujo is, for all intents and purposes, a smart firewall,” explains Gravrock. “It’s very seamless. It’s made for an average user to understand easily. You see every single thing on your network through your app. If you got to bad places or bad things come to you, we will block bad behavior and we will send you a friendly notification that someone tried to access your camera.”

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The company demoed the product at Disrupt today by hacking a baby camera. On a page displaying all of the devices connected to the network, a warning popped up: “We blocked an unauthorized attempt to access device ‘IP camera’ from [IP number].” From there access to the feed can be cut off – or not, if there is no actual threat.

The $99 device (plus an $8.99 monthly service fee for unlimited devices) serves as a peer to a home router, monitoring all network connected devices for malicious activity and sending notifications when something happens, like suspicious file transfers or communications with far away IP addresses. It’s a bit like the Nest app, only for networked security, rather than fire alarms.

Gravrock stresses that exploits are less about individual devices than they are about opening up the entire network through a small and seemingly harmless smart gadget. “You may think, ‘so what, my light bulb is going to get hacked,’ ” the executive explains. “The challenge is what happens next. Once they’re in the network, they can get to the other devices. They can get to your camera, they can get to your PC and extract files, they can film you. The FBI director is on records as taping over his webcam when he goes home. That tells you that we’re very exposed.”

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Part of the company’s current mission is highlighting those exploits for consumers who are likely versed in the threat of PC malware but may be unaware of the growing threat posed by the vulnerability of the Internet of Things.

Though Gravrock adds that in the beta testing the company has been conducting since August, consumer interest/concern had increased notably.

“We’ve sold about 5,000 units directly already,” he explains. “The biggest surprise for me has been that it’s your average user who no longer feels private at home, may put the duct tape over his webcam and just wants something that works — doesn’t want to spend days and months changing things.”

Cujo is available now through Amazon. It’ll be rolling out to “all major retailers” by year’s end. According to Gravrock, the company anticipates breaking even with the device, eventually monetizing the product with the security subscription.

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