NEWS / BLOG

Outsmarting Cyber Crimes Against Smart Technologies

Adoption of new technologies is on the rise, and so are cybersecurity threats. Gartner reports that in five years our typical households could contain several hundred smart devices. While it’s important to be cognizant of cybersecurity issues, rest assured that LaScala is staying ahead of the cyber criminals to keep you and your family safe. Let’s explore the potential vulnerabilities of smart devices and measures taken to make them secure.

We’ve all heard about baby monitors being hacked, but according to Fox News contributor and CyberGuy Kurt Knutsson, the leading causes for the hacks might surprise you. The simple, avoidable reasons include: parents simply not changing the default password, the home Wi-Fi network password being easily-guessed and security flaws with the monitoring device itself. Knutsson’s article goes on to share steps that parents can take to deter hackers, but there are dozens of other smart devices and appliances that may not immediately come to mind and are beyond the abilities of the average do-it-yourself homeowner to secure—such as cable boxes, video game consoles and even HVAC systems. Professional-level security measures should be taken to ensure that your network is secure and that the equipment is safe and up to standards.

At LaScala, our clients’ security is critical. In addition to working in partnership with our manufacturers, we collaborate with fellow members across the country as a CEDIA (Consumer Electronics Design & Installation Association) Electronics Systems Contractor to ensure we stay current on threats, as well as trends, in technology. To keep your systems secure from hackers, here are some precautions we recommend.

Networks:

  • Have a certified automation/security pro set-up an encrypted network. Always change the SSID (network name) and use the most up-to-date encryption (WPA2 currently) with a custom, strong password.
  • Safeguard your guest network. Establish parameters such as controlling time-of-day access, MAC (Media Access Control) addresses of specific devices and restricting the number of devices allowed.
  • Regardless of protocol, use only certified equipment.
  • Change all factory-set passwords.
  • While we do not recommend that you share passwords, we do suggest you record them in a secure place. We create a passcode document for our clients, should they forget or lose them.
  • Use temporary passwords for occasional use access by housekeepers, etc.
  • Set up a separate network for your automation system.
  • If you need to allow access to various devices from outside (typically called port forwarding) such as being able to control your security or automation system via an app, never use the same inbound and outbound port.
  • Set up “parent/child” relationships, allowing you to share a specific username and password with access to designated devices (like the music server so your friend can stream on your system) and at the times you specify to prevent people from having access to your system without your knowledge.
  • A VPN (Virtual Private Network), such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection, is another solution. This is a “private tunnel” to give you, or anyone you deem, access to your network from anywhere in the world.

Equipment:

  • Never leave the generic username and password on any network device. Devices include routers and access points, as well as camera DVRs (digital video recorders), NAS (network access server) drives and any other piece of gear that resides on the network.
  • Replace any outdated or incompatible components.
  • Buy only reputable brands, which are more likely to have a high level of security and regular updates. The National Security Alliance advises “Do your research: read reviews and learn about consumers’ experiences with the products from a security and privacy perspective.”
  • Keep all devices updated with the most current software, and download any patches to mitigate risk.
  • Turn off listening devices when not in use.

Mobile:

  • Install security software on mobile phones and tablets used to control IoT devices.
  • Restrict application access on your phone. Be aware of privacy settings and sharing capabilities on apps, such as calendars, email, location and photos.
  • We recommend passcode apps to keep passwords secure.

First and foremost, work with a known, trusted networked home/security provider. As a CEDIA Electronics Systems Contractor, LaScala has access to up-to-the-minute industry news and solutions. CEDIA leverages the expertise of global technology leaders and manufacturers to educate its membership on key topics such as cybersecurity and the connected home and have recently worked in collaboration with InfoComm International to present at ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) on the subject.

Be aware, be smart and count on trusted professionals when needed. Please contact us with your questions and concerns – your safety and security is our utmost concern!

 

Seek Professional Help! From a Certified Specialist, that is!

Resist!  It’s a sunny afternoon and you find yourself in your favorite home improvement store.  You stroll down the electrical aisle in search of a replacement wall plate and, BAM, there it is, DIY lighting control.  Dimmers, outdoor lighting…Oh, just imagine…”Honey, did you turn off the basement lights? No? Ok [picks up remote], I got it.”  Bliss. Sigh. You round the corner and on the end-cap display, spotlighted as if the clouds have parted and sopranos are welcoming a new dawn….motorized window shades!  With a remote! Simple, elegant…You’ve been dreaming about blackouts for the Master Bedroom and Home Theater…maybe a lighter weave for the family room to protect the furniture, ease glare on the TV and block the heat…sounds perfect but….not so fast!

While DIY has its place, we caution you when it comes to automated lighting control and motorized window shades.  We’ve recently experienced many homeowners calling to ask us to re-program their lighting and window treatments, integrating their weekend project into their system, only to find out that what they’ve installed is a single-room solution.  For us, the beauty of whole-home lighting and shade is just that – a whole-house integrated system.  Pre-set configurations; all-on/all-off, entertain, away, Good Morning!, Goodnight! modes– Portrait lights on while the shades are down, can lights on with shades at 50%….elegance, control and options galore!

So, be tempted by that jaw-dropping display…be inspired…but before placing anything in your cart, please check with us to learn your options.  We want to be sure you’re happy with your investment. Put the drill down and pick up the phone. We got this!

Transforming an Integrated System into an Integrated Lifestyle

More than incorporating various electronic components, an electronics systems contractor integrates lifestyle – in your home and in your office.  In today’s digital world, it’s what we’ve come to expect.  Don’t let those expectations fall short.

Proven methods ensure positive outcomes

A true differentiator in the digital environment, as a CEDIA Designer we subscribe to a proven design-build process: Discovery, Systems Design, Engineering, Implementation, Service & Support.  This process begins with a thorough discovery that allows us to understand your current and future needs and wants, along with your budget and timeline.  This is a critical step that drives design.  Equally as important is the documentation that communicates that design.

More than a list of gear

When presented with a design, it is critical that you understand how the system will perform.  Too often a business or homeowner is presented with a list of components.  That gets you to the bottom line, but what will the system do?  How will it function in each space and how can you trust it will perform as specified?  Along with expert system design and engineering, you should be presented with a comprehensive document package that demonstrates proven design; project drawings, schematics, easy-to-understand scope-of-work, hardware and labor requirements.  Once approved, this package communicates the design to the installation team, programmer, architect, interior designer, plumber, electrician, millwork carpenter, etc.

Lifecycle to Lifestyle

Once engaged, the implementation process begins.  We manage the project throughout its lifecycle, communicating during each phase to keep you informed and in charge! Our R&D Process further aligns results with expectations.

Designing your integrated lifestyle is more than a list of stuff, it’s how your devices and applications work together seamlessly throughout your day.  We want you to know what to expect. Expect to be blown away!

OLED is Flexing its Muscles, and its Design Capabilities!

On-Wall displays, once avoided by the Interior Design Professional at all costs, has thrust itself into the realm of stunning artwork, worthy of being featured, not hidden.  OLEDs of 2017, consuming less power than LED TVs, offer striking blacks and brilliant whites from surfaces that are no thicker than a credit card!

While the video technology’s curved, flat or even “wallpaper” configurations allow for incredible flexibility in design options, audio solutions have become equally as creative.

For example, LG’s newest OLED Wall-Paper, introduced at CES earlier this year, is so thin and light, it actually mounts to the wall with magnets, leaving no room within the display unit for AV control, connection ports or audio.  Their solution is an external shelf-like sound bar, mounted just below the video display which boasts Active HDR with Dolby Vision as well as spectacular Dolby Atmos for the sound.  You may imagine that professional installation is needed.  While some embrace the sleek design, others would prefer a less conspicuous solution: and perhaps it’s in the works.

Sony jumped back into the OLED arena, introducing its new Bravia A1 OLED TV, which turns the glass front into a speaker! The “Acoustic Surface” vibrates to create audio. The super-thin design also means there’s no need for a traditional stand. Instead, it features a pop-out lean stand similar to that of a much smaller tablet.

Samsung deviated from OLED by developing QLED which features “reinvented Quantum Dot technology.”  Truly designer-friendly, it comes with “invisible connection” for nearly undetectable cabling. For audio they’ve developed the Sound+ soundbar with subwoofer, complementing their line of flat and curved units both aesthetically and acoustically.

Interior Designers can now embrace technology in design with OLED TVs that are beautiful whether on or off.  So, which is right for you?  Give us a call – we’ll help you navigate OLED!

Virtual & Augmented Reality: Ready for Take-off?

We’ve heard about it for decades, but is Virtual Reality, with its sleek companion Augmented Reality, finally ready for prime-time?  Over the holidays, we all watched the commercials with people of all ages laughing, gasping, stunned as they were submerged into a deeper reality.  It’s only now that we’re seeing the potential, and how amazing VR & AR truly are.

Prevalent in the gaming world, augmented reality blends real-world with virtual world, allowing users to interact with virtual content in a real setting.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Imagine where that will take us.  Here’s just a sampling from the floor of CES2017.

AR goes beyond any other experience and its applications are as infinite as its experiences.  We’ll explore the gear in another post.  For now, just fathom where this incredible technology can transport you to…..

At home: Take a destination vacation, virtually

At work: Recruiting, training, visualization and providing a real connection for your remote workforce.

At play:  Pokemon was the tip of the gaming iceberg. Coming soon to an Xbox near you (2018) is mixed reality! And Six Flags partners with Samsung to launch a VR Roller coaster!

In retail:  VR/AR enhances experiential marketing and customer engagement

In healthcare: Imagine if your surgical team had access to augmented reality?   And for those experiencing low vision (blurry vision, tunnel vision or blind spots that can’t be corrected), a University of California, Berkeley Professor is working to bring a lower cost aid to this community, helping to restore their sight.

In education: True abstract learning at all levels.

In worship: Imagine.

Ready for take-off?  At the speed of sound! Mr. Sulu, set course for Earth. Punch it!

Recommended Sources:

https://www.cnet.com/news/gaming-vr-virtual-reality-ar-augmented-reality-help-restore-sight/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-virtual-reality-gaming/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-helps-reinventing-customer-engagement/