Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

 

What’s My Line?

I’m often asked, what is it, exactly, that you do”? In some professions, that’s an easy, straightforward answer. For me, well, maybe it’s not so easy. Remember the iconic mid-century “What’s My Line”?  How many clues would it take to uncover my role?  It might be easier to say what I’m not.

I am CEDIA.  As a CEDIA Pro, I’m an Electronics Systems Contractor.  Others may refer to me as a Technologies Systems Integrator.  I have some specialties such as a Home Theater Designer.  And some call me a Residential Systems Integration Firm.  Hollywood gives me a bad rap (White House Down , the bad guys pose as AV Installers!)  Wow, that’s really not what I do!  For what I do, there’s rarely a drop-down selection that comes close because what I do is deliver the life you’ve dreamed of.  Really.

I integrate your home’s systems to perfectly operate as one – your climate, audio, video, security, lighting, shading…it’s automated, to your comfort and for your enjoyment.  My team and I masterfully make the system work as one – that’s the secret to simplifying everything on your end.  Easy, simple, elegant.

As a CEDIA pro, I believe life is best lived at home, simply. And that’s who I am.  I craft the personal home experience that delivers the life you’ve dreamed of for yourself and your family. A life lived best at home.  So, what do I do? I make the complicated simple. I put the lights on and open the shades. Yes, I do windows. More importantly, I let you know when the kids are home, and I keep you comfortable and entertained.

How do I do it?  I listen.  If you asked an architect to design a house, what would it look like?  What would it be made of, how many rooms would it have, do you want a big kitchen?  They’d start with a few questions: tell me about your style, your kids, what you enjoy doing together, do you enjoy cooking?  The same holds true for the technologies inside. They complement your lifestyle and make your house your home.  And that’s what I do. I am CEDIA and I’m listening.

How big is too big? Well, that depends…

While we learned that going big with your screen allows for a phenomenal 4K viewing experience, it can only be truly taken in from the proper distance…and there IS a science to it!  Let’s consult Wikipedia for the concise, scientific answer.  “Optimum HDTV viewing distance is the distance that provides the viewer with the optimum immersive visual HDTV experience. Although opinions vary on the exact screen size to distance relationship, formal research and recommendations suggest closer is preferred to farther, to provide a more immersive experience.[1][2] How close? ‘As close as you can stand it’. Hmmm, not very scientific…but, it’s not exactly wrong either.

As with any viewed screen, flat panel or projection screen, residential or commercial, we consider content, viewing distance and viewing angles.  With HDTV, we understand that the increase in pixels means more details and, hence, a sharper image.  Increasing the size of the screen means more details and overall better picture but….only if the increase does not exceed the visual capabilities of the observer.  Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing!  A key component to the equation is the angular resolution, your eye’s ability to distinguish small details.  As explained in How to Calculate the Optimal TV Screen Size Based on Resolution and Distance, “everyone loses the ability to distinguish fine details once they’re a certain distance from the screen, and everyone can see individual pixels if they get too close.”  Here are the calculations as shared on tekrevue but, bear in mind, as stated so eloquently by Hector Barbossa, “the code is more like guidelines than actual rules.” Argh!  Just call us.

Let the sun shine in!

Welcome (almost) spring!  Time to store the sweaters, uncover  the mower and throw open the windows. And, well…maybe it’s time to update the window coverings. Time to consider integrating motorized shades or drapes?

Automated shades are offered in a stunning array of colors, textures and weaves.  They can either block out light (excellent for home theaters or sleeping in on a Saturday morning!) or lightly filter sunlight, allowing for pleasant, unobstructed views free from harsh glare.  They come in honeycomb….they can cover skylights and custom sunroom windows and even come in battery operated versions to cover doors.  Window shades can be controlled from remotes or incorporated into an automated home’s system and controlled via any touchpanel or control device.  As your integrator, we can walk you through your options and, if you’re working with a designer, we’re happy to work together!

Bonus, they offer great heat and UV blocking, saving you money on cooling costs and protecting your upholstery from fading.  They’re convenient with one touch programming control of scenes that can control individual window coverings or the whole house. And, for added security, just like you do with your lights, you can control your shades to open and close while you’re away, even remotely!

Take the Inside Out!

Enjoy outdoor living at its finest when you combine the conveniences of your home’s interior with the warmth and openness of your home’s patio or deck.  Your outdoor grill or pool area can become a welcoming extension of your living room.  Just add music!

Technologies for outdoor living have quickly evolved in recent years.  All-weather LCDs are now thin and sleek, offering extensive mounting options with excellent viewing angles and anti-glare features.  They are rated for grueling weather conditions and will offer years of enjoyment, displaying everything from gruesome thrillers for your teens’ parties to game-day excitement with your friends and sappy romantic comedies for you and your “better-half” around the fire pit on date night.

And don’t forget the background music.  Well-placed weather-resistant speakers will provide music without blaring. And for extensive yards, meandering gardens or even boat docks, additional ornamental speakers can provide music evenly throughout.  Audio comes disguised in varies forms from the well-known rock and mushroom styles to attractive planters and spotlight styles.

Now is the time to start planning! Maximize your outdoor living this summer. Put down those hedge trimmers and let’s get started!