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Ask Dennis: Why should I know what’s on my home network?

There are probably dozens of devices on your home network. Do you know them all?

About Dennis Devlin: Beginning in the early 1970s, when large-scale cybersecurity practices were still being defined, Dennis Devlin was already starting to work with major institutions like Hoechst, Harvard, Thomson-Reuters, Brandeis, and George Washington University to help them secure their networks. Though he is now retired, Dennis is still passionate about cybersecurity and safety, especially as the responsibilities of maintaining a network shift from institutions to the individual. Now a proud parent and grandparent, he freelances as a consumer security advocate with home and family safety in mind. You can read more about what led him to Gryphon here.

Why should I know what’s on my home network?

By: Dennis Devlin, Consumer Security Advocate

In December 2020, a widespread Internet attack took place that involved a product from a very reputable company called Solar Winds, which was used widely on many large enterprise networks. The product itself was compromised and then used to attack multiple critical US government agencies and major corporations. This is what’s known as a “supply chain attack” and illustrates the fact that it is critical to know what is on your home network

This initial issue of Ask Dennis will address this topic for our readers. Like the TV commercial says, it’s important to know what’s in your wallet, and in many ways it’s even more important to know what’s on your network. 

But only networks in big organizations get attacked. Right?

Highly publicized attacks usually involve large, well known organizations with “information worth stealing.” Many individuals falsely assume that no one would ever attack their home computers and networks.

Attacks against large, well-known organizations are known as directed attacks, with clear targets in mind. 

There is another type of attack that simply scans every Internet address (also known as IP or Internet Protocol address) it can find to see if any vulnerabilities exist that can be exploited to gain access. These are crimes of opportunity, like trying to open car doors until you find one that is unlocked. This is why network security is so important, even in an individual household. 

But I don’t have anything worth attacking on my home network. Do I?

Every home network is an entry point to almost everything else these days: your place of work, your children’s school, your bank, your credit cards, your doctor, your merchants and more. This makes home network security more vital now than ever. In addition, a crime using your home network address covers the criminal’s tracks because it looks like you committed the crime. 

But I have a firewall! Isn’t my network protected?

Well, sort of. A firewall is like a one-way mirror. Insiders can see out and get out. In general, outsiders cannot see in and can only get in when they are invited in. Devices and software inside your network are often considered “trusted,” but in many cases they probably shouldn’t be. 

This is because while your network router and firewall do a good job turning away outsiders who try to get in, the devices you allow to attach to your network may invite them in. You bought a new computer, printer, iPad, iPhone, smart TV, smart thermostat, web camera, garage door opener, baby monitor… The list goes on and on. The day of installation it seemed like a good decision. After that, you probably forgot all about it. The device did not forget, however, and keeps doing its thing, 24/7. 

How do I know if I’m vulnerable to an attack? 

What do you know about each device on your network? Is it from a reputable manufacturer? Was it well-tested? Does it receive security patches when vulnerabilities are discovered? What exactly does the device send to a server outside your network? What exactly does the device allow back into your network? Remember, firewalls can allow external access to your network when that access is invited by a device inside your network.

On the day you first installed your home router and firewall, your home network was probably very “stealthy” when it came to your network’s presence on the Internet. As mentioned earlier, hackers continuously scan the Internet for discoverable addresses that advertise they are open and available to connect to. Available networks expose what are known as “ports” and “services” to the Internet to enable outside devices and servers to find and connect to them. 

What kind of devices can compromise my network security? Are there really that many opportunities for hackers to target my household? 

When I was a Chief Information Security Officer for large corporations and major universities, we followed multiple international information security frameworks to reduce our risk. In every framework the first step was to identify information assets, starting with which devices were connected to our networks. These were networks with tens of thousands of devices attached to them! 

My wife and I are retired now and live a much simpler life than when we were both information technology executives. When I did a scan of our home network, I discovered 37 different IP addresses that have been used at least once! Frankly, I was a bit shocked. What was going on?

I went on to identify and enumerate each device using its IP address. We have an Internet-attached picture frame from our grandchildren, a smart thermostat, our garage door opener, a weather station, desktop computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, smart watches, printers, network-attached storage devices, scanners, and security cameras. All of the devices were legitimate! 

Think of your homes with young children: you use school devices, home devices, work devices, media players, guest devices that visitors and friends bring, home automation devices, light switches, speakers, etc. There are now even Internet-connected light bulbs and refrigerators!

Every one of those devices is a computer that could potentially open an outbound connection through your router firewall and upload and download information you never know anything about. Every one of those devices could also potentially compromise your network security if it is vulnerable, exposed to the Internet and not patched.

What if I can connect to my home network from outside my home? Does that make me safer, or more vulnerable? 

If you can connect to your home network from outside your home, your situation becomes even more complicated and potentially risky. If you can connect to your home network and devices from outside your home you are probably using something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN provides you with a safe, encrypted “tunnel” between your device and your home network. It is functionally similar to the HTTPS addresses you use to communicate securely with your bank over the web.

To make such a connection possible, your home network must expose and advertise one or more ports (with names like Port 443) and associated services to allow it to happen. Your home network then requires some sort of authentication—a user ID and password, a onetime code sent to your mobile phone, or something similar—to prove that you are you. 

If you can see your home network from the outside, so can hackers. If you can access your home network from the outside, hackers will also try to do so. If your authentication is an easy to guess password like “abc123,” hackers are also probably already accessing your home network. Always use the complex passwords and more than one method of authentication if you can!  

How can Gryphon help me secure my home network?

Gryphon routers were designed with you in mind by information security professionals who are parents (and grandparents) themselves. Remember that home network security includes knowing which devices are on your network. Gryphon makes it easy for you to identify every device connected to your network, and then explicitly configure and administer the who, what, when, where and why of how each device uses your network. 

Gryphon also incorporates active malware protection using both signatures and machine learning to quickly detect and stop malicious behavior by any device connected to your network. And it watches your network seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Beyond the Router: Meet the Team

As much as we’d like to boast otherwise, our routers aren’t a catch-all solution to every issue—rather, they’re a tool in your arsenal to help you navigate the sticky, ever-evolving world of technology. Our tech problems are changing and growing all the time. Children are being introduced to screens at earlier and earlier ages. COVID has moved our business and education experiences to the digital realm without us really comprehending what goes on there. The most effective way to combat these issues is really with information: You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it in the first place. 

This blog exists to provide that information. We’ll write what we know from years of tech experience. We’ll do the research on emerging issues and condense everything so you don’t have to struggle under a mountain of technical jargon. We hope that this can be your go-to site for understanding how to protect yourself and your family from online threats. Helping people with their digital experiences is what Gryphon set out to do, and our work here is an extension of that. 

The individuals on our team operate from a wide variety of perspectives and experiences. Digital parenting and cybersecurity are important to all of us for different reasons, but always on a personal level. We think these issues matter—that’s why we’re here. We wanted to introduce ourselves so that you could get an idea of where we’re coming from and what we can offer you. We hope that, with time, we can become more familiar with our readers too, and work together to better curate the content that you want and need. 

Allan Chua, Director of Marketing

Allan has personal experience with the difficulties of digital parenting

When my son was eight years old, he had an encounter with adult content online. It was completely heartbreaking. I felt like the moment he saw what he saw, a part of the innocence of his childhood was lost and we could never get it back.

I reviewed his browsing history and saw that he was not looking for any of it. Just by being a kid doing kid stuff online, he saw things no kid his age should see. It was at this point I realized that when it comes to protecting our kids online, we need to be vigilant. We need to assume that they will come across things they shouldn’t see if we don’t do anything about it. Not doing something to prevent it absolutely makes me, as his parent, a serious part of the problem.  

In the process of searching for solutions, I found Gryphon through their Kickstarter campaign even before I ever met John and Arup. Amazingly, less than one year after the tragic incident with my son, I found myself on the marketing and business development side of the company. 

Gryphon is also important to me because, while I love technology and feel able to wield all the benefits and opportunities it presents, this is not the case with my family. We can control our entire house by voice and even my BBQ grill has a WiFi connection—but my family doesn’t have the same comfort with tech. They don’t feel safe with it. I can see through the digital dynamics of my family that there’s a tremendous need to give people the power to feel safe within the technology that runs their lives.

Tara Langager, Social Media Manager

Tara grew up in the transition period of digital parenting

My parents had to learn to navigate the uncharted territory of what we now call digital parenting alone. Their version of parental controls was simply unplugging and hiding the router. I know now how helpless they felt trying to protect their children—even in those days, the Internet seemed like a force that could not be tamed.

It still does, and parents still feel a sense of urgency to protect their children’s safety. Thankfully, today there are more resources available to protect them from online threats, and Gryphon is among them.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with countless families who tried every type of parental control product, only to have their child bypass each one—except for Gryphon. We provide families with a product that not only protects their children but restores their sense of peace and safety, and that’s something I want to share with every family.

As we launch this blog, I look forward to offering parents a fresh new look and approach to digital parenting.  With the perspective of someone who has navigated the world of a digitally connected childhood, and understands the struggles for both children and parents, I hope I can provide you with a unique set of tools to help you and your family. 

Our goal is to empower parents by providing them with the most up-to-date trends and threats facing digital infrastructure. This space requires parents to always remain two steps ahead of their children. We want to foster an environment that encourages an open dialogue between parents. Technology is ever-evolving—there will always be a new source of danger and new obstacles to overcome—but not having to do it alone is a great reassurance.

Isabelle Rupani, Content Writer

I’ve been online since the age of eight, and as a child was constantly overriding my parents’ attempts to control my screen time. Now I’m struggling to monitor my own young brother as he enters a digital world that’s much more complicated and manipulative than the one I knew.

My experiences, along with those of my peers, have provided me with an intimate insight into young people’s messy, psychological relationship with the Internet. I’m familiar with the ways it can help and the ways it can hinder. I’ve learned that parents are often worried about the wrong things: For instance, making a toxic friend of the same age is much more probable than entering into a relationship with a predator, and the growing pressure to excel at and monetize hobbies can smother your child’s creativity much more thoroughly than a little online gaming.

As much as I want to warn you about the dangers of the Internet, I also want to help you see the ways in which it is valuable. I want you to understand how your children perceive it, and how you can alleviate their resentment of how you monitor their lives online. I love kids and I want to help you protect yours while also protecting your relationship with them. I know how fragile that connection can be, especially in their adolescence, and I don’t want any misconceptions about their experience to be what severs it.

I find that Gryphon makes some of the most stressful parts of digital parenting easier, so that you can focus on what really matters. I hope that through my research and experience I can help you ensure that your child has a healthy relationship with themselves, with their devices, and with the world around them.

Dennis Devlin, Consumer Security Advocate

Dennis is a cybersecurity advocate

I have been working with computers and networks ever since I was a student at UPenn in the 1960s. I spent my career managing information technology, security, and privacy at large international corporations such as Thomson (now Thomson-Reuters), and higher learning institutions like Harvard, Brandeis, and George Washington University. For most of my career, computer and network risks were something that institutions worried about. They hired professionals like me to make sure that computing and network technology risks were identified, understood, managed, and minimized.

Since then, the world of computers has changed dramatically. The responsibilities for identifying, understanding, managing, and minimizing technology risk have largely shifted from institutions to the individual consumer. This shift has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and almost no one is fully equipped to handle it, though these risks affect everyone: parents, business owners, employees, students.

I learned of the Gryphon Guardian while my daughter was searching for a way to protect my granddaughters on the Internet. The product intrigued me, and the more I learned about Gryphon the more impressed I became. I have worked with technology all my life. Technologists like me expect (and too often enjoy) complexity and detailed jargon. But I found extraordinarily little of that. Instead, I found a network security solution that seemed to be written for consumers and parents to empower them to identify, understand and manage the people and devices connected to their home networks, and by doing so minimize many of the risks. Moreover, Gryphon is not just a product, but a service that combines anti-malware protection and the rapid detection of anomalies. 

I was so impressed that I contacted the founder, John Wu, and asked how I might be able to help. The rest, as they say is history.

What Will Smart Homes Look Like 10 Years From Now?

Gryphon - Internet of Things - IoT Devices

Current smart home devices are primarily responsive to people’s commands, like checking the weather or playing music. But based on current trends, the IoT (Internet of Things) industry is steadily moving towards a future where smart devices will not simply follow through on requests, but anticipate and fulfill needs based on preferences and presets. For example, devices will potentially be able to predetermine things like the temperature people will want in their rooms, what antibiotics they might need, and more. 

This trajectory also means more new homes are being built with IoT technology, and researchers predict that 63 million American homes will be “smart” by 2022. With this increase in internet connectivity and automation in the home, there will also be an increase in technology’s access to personal information—leaving people’s private lives even more vulnerable to hackers. 

Gryphon Online Safety provides IoT device protection to accommodate this trajectory. Every connected device on the Gryphon network is protected 24/7. No software installs are needed on any of the devices in the home to be secure. When you’re Gryphon connected, you’re Gryphon protected. 

Portions of this content are a summary of an article published by TIME on July 25, 2019.

Learn more by reading the original article “What Will Smart Homes Look Like 10 Years From Now?” (https://time.com/5634791/smart-homes-future/) and/or visiting: https://gryphonconnect.com/internet-security/

Citibank Email Scam

Portions of this content are a summary of an article published by Fox News on January 23, 2020.

There is a new and dangerous scam hitting Citibank customers’ email inboxes in a hacker’s attempt to trick people into giving up personal data: first bank login information, then details like date of birth and social security number.

What makes this scam so believable?

First, the attackers went to elaborate efforts to make the email look like it was from Citibank. The design and content look genuine enough that there is no obvious reason for people to it give it a second thought—so they click on the link.

From there, people end up on a site where the scammers provided fields for customers to enter their information. The scammers even used standard Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate security measures to make it look as if Citibank took steps to protect their customers’ data, when really information was being stolen.

What is Gryphon doing to help?

If you are a Citibank customer, we are protecting you and your data from this scam targeting you by blocking connections to the scammer’s URL. So if you do accidentally click on a bad link, you won’t be able to get to the site.

But this scam isn’t the only one of its kind, and we have measures in place to protect you and your family every day from people out for your data. One of these steps we take is to automatically filter out from your browser dangerous malware attempting to gather your personal information (also known as phishing).

As a best practice to avoid scams like this, we recommend you avoid clicking on email or text links from your bank, even if it looks legitimate—call them to confirm.

Learn more by reading the original article: [New scary email scam goes after your banking info.](https://www.foxnews.com/tech/new-email-scam-goes-after-banking-info)

For more about how Gryphon can protect you and your family on the internet: https://gryphonconnect.com/internet-security/

Another Ring Camera hacked to spy on an 8-year-old: What to do now

Gryphon Blog - Another Ring Camera hacked to spy on an 8-year-old - What to do now

The hackers in this case was able to hacking in this person’s Ring account by using an existing database of already exposed emails and passwords.

There are a few very simple steps to take to avoid being a victim.

1) Update your Ring password
2) Use a more complicated password with symbols and numbers
3) Don’t use the same password as another account
4) Turn on 2 factor authentication for your Ring account if you will be using Ring for sensitive areas

This content is a summary of an article published by the Tom’s Guide on December 12, 2019.

FULL ARTICLE LINK

Virus Attacking Routers Much Worse Than First Thought

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DESIGNED BY INDUSTRY LEADERS:

With over 20 years of experience in networking technology and security, the Gryphon co-founders led the team that invented the revolutionary MiFi mobile hotspot technology. As much as we appreciate the benefits and convenience of being connected, we also deeply understand the associated threats.

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