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Continually updated home security appliance runs Linux

Sep 14, 2015 — by Eric Brown 2,766 views

A startup is launching a “Cujo” home security appliance on Indiegogo starting at $49, that protects devices ranging from PCs to home automation gadgets.

In Stephen King’s book Cujo, a beloved St. Bernard goes bezerk from rabies, embarks on a killing spree, and is finally “put down” with the sharp end of a baseball bat to the eye. Redondo Beach, Calif. startup Cujo presumably named its eponymous home security device after the crazed guard dog to demonstrate the lengths it will go stop hackers, phishers, snoopers, identity thefts, and other evildoers from inflicting harm. Yet, we’d hate to have to take a baseball bat to the cute little gizmo, which has adorable eye features that indicate various modes of operation.

Cujo front and rear views
(click images to enlarge)

Like Norton or McAfee, this is a subscription-based service ($9 a month or $89 a year). However, Cujo is launching on Indiegogo at the rather fetching price of $49 with a year’s free subscription. Unlike these services, Cujo is claimed to protect every digital devices in your house against malware, viruses, and phishing attempts, somewhat like a higher end network security appliance for businesses, such as Nexcom’s NSA 5640 Unified Threat Management (UTM) device.

Cujo’s “eye” features
(click image to enlarge)

The concept behind Cujo is that software-based security only works on your computer, whereas a UTM device connected to your router can protect the growing profusion of hackable computers, phones, tablets, media players, wearables, smart TVs, and home automation equipment used in a typical middle class household. The security features in most WiFi routers are woefully inadequate against all but the most rudimentary of hacks.

Cujo home setup
(click image to enlarge)

Cujo can protect up to 50 WiFi connected devices simultaneously, claims the company. Unlike older security gateways, it can be controlled by an Android or iOS app.

Cujo app examples
(click images to enlarge)

Like most security vendors, Cujo plays the fear card, citing various studies that say that almost half of all Americans were hacked in 2014, and that 70 percent of connected devices are vulnerable to security threats. It quotes The Guardian as saying that 45 percent of home security solutions are ineffective.

Other estimates may differ, but the fact is that consumers are increasingly being targeted by malicious hackers, especially for ID theft. Home automation devices in particular offer an easy entry point for hackers.


Cujo offers few details about its security secret sauce, except to say it combines firewall, anti-malware, and antivirus solutions, and provides deep-packet inspection, as well as machine learning protection. The device has several layers of hardware security, as well as AES-256 bit encryption on communications between the device and the cloud service.

Cujo differentiates itself from competitors by saying it does not rely solely on libraries of known malware issues. Instead, the company says, “we analyze a humongous amount of behavioral data in our cloud and push learnings from one home to all CUJO protected homes.” The service provides regular updates in the background to keep up with new threats, says the company.

Cujo RPi2-based beta (left) and Cavium-based prototype electronics
(click image to enlarge)

The current beta version of Cujo uses a Raspberry Pi 2, but the final version will run Linux 3.8.14 on a modified Cavium SBC equipped with a dual-core, 1GHz Cavium SoC. This may well be the same dual-core, Octeon III 7020 that appeared on the Kickstarter-backed iGuardian from Itus Networks. The iGuardian, which is now sold as the $250 Shield, is somewhat similar to Cujo, but without the cloud service and subscription.

The 3.78 x 2.73-inch Cujo is further equipped with 1GB RAM, 4GB flash, and dual gigabit Ethernet ports, one of which connects to your WiFi router and the other to the Internet. No other tech details were forthcoming.

Engaging with a subscription-based service such as Cujo demands a considerable degree of trust, not to mention a fair amount of money. If the Cujo site itself is breached, then the entire effort is wasted. Consumers will also need to trust there are no back doors to the NSA.

A closed loop, non-cloud based device such as the Shield, perhaps combined with a private file and email server like the Sherlybox and other locally controlled solutions, might give you more control. However, unless you’re a security expert, you’re unlikely to achieve the same level of updated threat protection as what Cujo is promising.

Further information

The Cujo is available on Indiegogo starting at early bird pricing of $49 plus one year free subscription (normally $8.99 a month or $89 a year). After the early bird models, Indiegogo pricing starts at $49 with nine months free service. A variety of bundle packages are also available. The campaign ends Oct. 14, and products are expected to ship in March 2016. Post-campaign pricing will start at $169 with one year subscription. More information may be found at the Cujo Indiegogo page and the website.

(advertise here)

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One response to “Continually updated home security appliance runs Linux”

  1. Max says:

    Neat! I wonder when can we expect to see the first hammer that stops working the instant you fail to pay your monthly subscription to the appropriate HaaS (hammer as a service) provider…?

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