Review: CUJO, a Smart Firewall for Today's Connected Devices
Updated September 28, 2017 - Updated review to reflect new product updates from CUJO which GearBrain tested, along with new pricing.
Keeping your Internet of Things secure is one of the main concerns among consumers. Protecting your connected devices from hackers or unwanted visitors is vital to building a secure smart home or a new connected lifestyle. Many connected devices are vulnerable today and need to be segmented into their own network—or have restricted access to provide the security needed. Until new connected devices build stronger security into their devices, consumers need to find an alternative solution. One alternative solution is CUJO, a new smart firewall. GearBrain was sent a CUJO to test and here is what we found.
CUJO is a smart firewall device that is plug and play. The installation is simple. Take the device, the power cords and Ethernet cable out of the box, power CUJO up and then connect to your router. We downloaded the app and followed those instructions, as we didn't find instructions in the box. If you don't want to follow the instructions on the app, you can go to CUJO website. However, we found the mobile app instructions very easy to follow.
On the app, you will need to open an account and register your CUJO. You will see an instructional video. We recommend watching it, as this will be very helpful in connecting your CUJO to the home router.
Once we had the CUJO connected, and it was in standby mode, we were ready to set up CUJO with our Wi-Fi router. This is when things got difficult, even for tech savvy consumers. CUJO is a gateway between your devices and your connection to the Internet (Router/Modem). There are two types of connection modes offered by CUJO:
- Gateway mode: connection of router/modem to CUJO
- Bridge Mode: connection of your router/modem to CUJO to a secondary router/access point/switch.
CUJO acts like a smart firewall that analyzes your local network traffic data in real time. It's able to do this because it supports both static and DHCP addressing. (In case you don't know what DHCP is—it's a mode that can assign IP addresses to any device connected to your network.) Being able to use these types of IP addressing is critical for CUJO. It allows them see the IP addresses for all your connected devices and update your map in real time. They then take the statistical data (not the actual data) it sees and upload into CUJO's cloud for further analysis. When CUJO sees something that's not right, it will block and then notify you of a threat or unwanted activity through its mobile app. This is simple, but getting to this point was not easy. For our test, we started off with the Gateway mode, which CUJO states is the most stable and convenient way to secure your network.
When we first tried connecting CUJO to our router, we followed the instructions on the app. For some reason, it wasn't working. We decided to call CUJO's Technical Support. (GearBrain recommends keeping CUJO technical support number handy. You will need to speak to them at some point during the setup process.) We were greeted by Todd who was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about CUJO and how the setup should go.
Todd and I spent over an hour on the phone setting up our CUJO and we were finally able to get it to work. The reason it took so long to set up was due to the home network we were using for this test, Verizon FiOS. At this time, CUJO did not work in Gateway mode if your router was also being used for VOIP telephone service and cable. We recently re-tested CUJO with their new software and it worked fine. We didn't have to use the Bridge mode which was not an easy to set up. CUJO told us they were working on a solution so you didn't have to use Bridge mode. That solution is now live and working very well.
If for some reason you do have to setup your CUJO in Bridge mode, you will need to use a second modem. Luckily, when we first tested Bridge mode, we had a secondary Linksys router to use. You will need to make sure you set up the Wi-Fi router the correct way. This can get complicated. We had to go into the router settings and make sure we had the right IP address so we could register it with our CUJO device. If we didn't, CUJO would block it or label it as an unwanted device. This step is not easy for the average consumer unless you are tech savvy—another reason to keep CUJO tech support number handy.
Once we had our secondary router ready to go, we connected it to CUJO's top Ethernet slot. We then connected CUJO via the Ethernet connection to our router. Todd instructed us to insert our Ethernet cable into the top slot in our router. This will make it easier for DHCP mode to work properly.
After Todd confirmed we had the right connections, the eyes on our CUJO were clearly smiling. Yes, CUJO has eyes on the outside of the unit that tell you whether your device is in standby mode (full eyes), protection mode (smiling) or its detected unwanted activity (sad eyes). Now that the eyes were smiling, we started to connect our test devices (i.e. smart lights and security cameras) to the secondary router via a wireless connection. By doing so, these devices were now on secured wireless connections and any unwelcome activity would be noticed.
Once you have the CUJO up and running, what devices do you think it can protect for you? Per CUJO, its hardware has the capacity to handle 99 percent of the home networks on the market and can protect 50+ devices simultaneously. For example, it can protect TVs, iPads, laptops, smartphones, smart lights, connected hubs and any other device connected to CUJO at once. If you want to use CUJO for business, it will detect and block malicious sites and prevent hackers from coming in.
Starting in October, CUJO pricing will change to a flat fee of $249 for a single unit — which will include ongoing monitoring of your device by CUJO and is a change from the multiple pricing tiers that were available in the past. CUJO appears to be the first in its field to move away from a pricing plan and go to one set price for the product and services. Other devices, including Dojo, still have subscription plans available.
As you can see, the setup of CUJO was not easy at first but it has gotten a lot easier. However, we still recommend you need to be a tech savvy to get the device to work, even if you get help from technical support. We are glad Cujo has delivered on it's promise to ease the setup process for consumers. Now, they are offering "in-home white glove installation for free," according to a CUJO spokesperson.
We like where CUJO is heading with their product. Until manufacturers of connected devices build security measures into their products, consumers need protection. CUJO provides a piece of mind and offers a solution to protect your entire smart home. If you are tech savvy, know your way around routers and setting up IP addresses and have many connected devices in your smart home, CUJO is a device for you. If you have a big house and use Wi-Fi extenders (like Eero), CUJO could be a good solution to help you protect your smart home. You just must decide if you have the time and patience to do the setup. If not, no worries. You can now call CUJO to get someone to come and help you set it up. In the end, CUJO gives you great IoT security protection.
Pros: Security, protects 50+ devices simultaneously, price, DHCP mode, works with Wi-Fi extenders, home and business use, works with VOIP routers
Cons: Setup is complicated.
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