I recently discovered that there is a maximum time one can be on hold with my Wi-Fi broadband provider. You’ll be surprised to learn that it was five hours. Five hours of listening to the same three records over and again while being reminded that my call was important and that someone would be with me soon.
(Sony Experia if you’re impressed that the battery could hold up that long on loudspeaker and are wondering what phone I was using.)
The problem I needed to talk to them about was a faulty router. After about six months of relatively stable, but not perfect signal the router kept dropping out and needed to be turned off and on again every few hours to get back onto the internet. This was a known fault and a call to the help line was supposed to get me back online with a software patch or to arrange for a newer, better Wi-Fi router.
To save yourself from that particular circle of Hell known as Hold there are a number of tricks you can try before submitting defeat and picking up the phone. (Ironic, isn’t it, that my broadband provider also provides telephone service, and yet it seems the last thing they want to actually do is talk to you?) Read more
Buying Smart Home CCTV Or Security Systems For Christmas Could Come With An Unpleasant Surprise If You Don’t Take Precautions
You may have seen an article taken from WMC, a television station in the States, which has been shared on social media, of a hacker infiltrating the home camera which the LeMay family put into the bedroom of their three daughters. WMC Action News 5 presenter Jessica Holley says that the family had only recently installed the Ring security camera system when all kinds of strange things started happening. Those strange occurrences included voices and music coming through the speaker attached to the camera. The hacker claims to be 8 year old Alyssa’s “best friend” and “Santa Clause” after playing Tiny Tim’s version of Tiptoe Through The Tulips.
After running a couple of segments of footage where the clearly distressed child is alarmed by the voice of the hacker, which it’s claimed also instruct her to carry out destructive behaviour (not shown) Holley follows up by informing us that Alyssa’s parents hadn’t carried out all Ring’s recommended steps needed to fully secure the device against possible hacking and security breaches.
While Briant Communications would never ‘victim blame’ we feel it’s important that we use the LeMay family’s example of why it’s so important to take ALL the steps we, and manufacturers recommend to prevent hacking whenever you’re installing security devices around or inside the home.
Using Smart Home Technology To Keep In Touch With Family
Mrs LeMay bought the Ring camera during the Black Friday sales after seeing a colleague using the app on her phone to see and talk to their own kids at home and thought this would be great for her as she works as a nurse in a nearby hospital. However, only four days after the camera was installed Alyssa LeMay heard banging and music coming from her room and when she went to investigate she was spoken to by the hacker.
Home cameras are really handy devices to have around the house, whether you have a young family, pets, or not. They are an important and useful addition to a smart burglar alarm system and augment your CCTV camera surveillance too. If you have kids who misbehave you can keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not fighting when you’re away from home, or you can use them to watch over an elderly relative who you’re worried about but who doesn’t want to move out of their home into a retirement village.
In all of these instances it’s a real bonus to have an indoor home camera, but, as this story highlights, it is vitally important that you take care of their security settings as soon as you install them.
All The Security Steps You Need To Take To Secure Your Smart Technology From Hackers
One of the benefits of simple synchronisation is also one of its drawbacks. If you find it easy to add devices to your home network so will a hacker. And once a part of that network they can potentially switch from device to device making changes, watching footage, ordering things online, or unlocking your doors or disabling your alarms when you’re not home. All of the devices you buy will have additional security measures available to you, and you should definitely take advantage of them. The tips we run through below apply to all of your Smart Home Automation devices, not just cameras, alarms or CCTV. They should apply equally to lights, thermostats, smart home hubs and all of your voice or touch controlled Smart installations.
1 Give Your Router a Name
Giving your router a name means that it is hard to identify, consequently it’s hard for hackers to use any of the default settings and password that your particular brand of router shipped with. And that default password was probably ‘admin’ anyway. If you haven’t done so already, CHANGE THE NAME AND PASSWORD NOW!
2 Use Strong Security Settings
Wi-Fi routers have WPA2 built in, so use it! WPA or Wireless Protected Access encrypts the data that your router and your devices send to one another, and the web at large. When you look in your security settings you may also find WPA3, a more recent update, and if you have that option, use it!
3 Apply Passwords To Everything
As well as your router, each device you have should be password protected. Again they generally ship with ‘admin’ as a default password, or one of a very few six digit numbers. These passwords are available to anyone who cares to look hard enough on the internet, including hackers, as people unthinkingly reveal what the default was when discussing user issues online. The best device names simply say want the device is, such as ‘lounge light’ or ‘master bedroom thermostat’ making them easier for you to use while not giving away any manufacturer details to hackers. Passwords should be long and complex. Use a variety of special characters and numbers and make sure they’re at least 8 characters long if you have to remember them, and much longer if you use a password generator.
And don’t use the same password for everything! It’s human nature to keep things simple, and once you’ve decided on a brilliant password, to apply it to all of your online accounts such as email, Insta, Facebook and Twitter. But then using that same password with your home network means that all of them will be vulnerable to hackers too. This is down to the fact that your Smart System is fundamentally a domestic appliance. Your kids will use it, your partner, your extended family, your neighbour or your kids’ friends when they pop round and want to get onto the internet to play games, online or show you a video on Youtube…
4 Set Up a Guest Network
Setting up a guest network is a very simple thing to do to prevent hackers as it separates your internet data from your home automation system. When those friends of the children or the video loving neighbour pop by you can let them go on the guest network using a dedicated password and though they’re using your data there is no way for them, or anyone that they might let that password slip to, to get into your Smart Home controls.
5 Disable Features You Don’t Want And Enable Two Factor Verification
Features such as remote or guest access may be turned on as default. It’s important to check, and think about how you’re going to use each device. If you have no intention of ever using it from afar or letting anyone else control it, shut those options off immediately.
However, when it comes to two factor verification, that’s something you definitely want turned on if you’re serious about securing your network. Two factor verification means that you don’t get access simply by knowing the user name and password. Instead all that knowing these details means is that you get a unique short duration code either emailed or sent via SMS to your phone. You then use the code, within the allotted time-frame, to access the particular device. Because it’s time sensitive any hacker getting hold of it, writing it down and trying to use it again later will be disappointed, and because the code is sent to your phone number or email address you are the only person who’s going to have access to it.
6 Keep Up To Date With Security Updates
Sign up to the manufacturer’s newsletter and watch out for software updates for your phone, computer, tablet et cetera. If there are any significant security breeches or patches which need to be applied to keep your Smart device safe the first way the makers will try to contact you is via their newsletter. Sure they’ll try to sell you the latest version of the thing you just bought, but if anything goes wrong their end it’s the fastest, most reliable way for them to get in touch with you. Always be aware of phishing scams though, and if there is anything to give you cause to think the email isn’t genuine, don’t click on anything but search for the latest manufacturer updates on your favourite search engine.
Briant Communications are here to help. If you’re interested in installing security cameras, Smart burglar alarms, Smart thermostats and environmental controls we offer a free initial consultation and cost estimate service, we install and securely synchronise all of your Smart Home Automation with guarantees for parts and labour. Give us a call on 01273 465377 now or get in touch via our Contact Us page to book your appointment.
For many of us Christmas means a long car ride to see relatives back home or entertaining them in your house for a few days. Many people dread it, many relish it. Many also use the holiday season as an excuse to get away somewhere warm instead of facing another cold, wet, windy week of enforced joviality and sociability.And of you’re lucky enough to be one of those people who are going to be jetting off to sun, sea, sand and sangria (or a yogic retreat, nobody’s judging), you need to ensure that your home is properly prepared. Not long ago boosting your security would be leaving some lights on and asking a neighbour to bring the mail in and look after the cat. Today much of your home prep can be done automatically so you always know exactly what’s going on at home wherever you are in the world.
Managing your home remotely isn’t only for Christmas, although it does take a huge burden off during the most wonderful time of the year. The great thing about home automation is that there is so much you can do with it that rather than being worrisome, you can relax knowing that if anything does happen it won’t happened without your knowing about it.
Before You Go Away
Firstly, if you’re leaving your house unattended for more than a day or two it may be necessary to make sure that the pipes don’t burst, or your goldfish freeze. In that case a Smart thermostat is a handy item to have attached to the central heating system. With a smart thermostat you can decide which rooms need heating without having to get down to all the valves every time you want to adjust a particular radiator. Instead you can do it simply from a control panel or app, and you can control the temperature far more subtly.
Secure Against All Kinds Of Emergency
The fact that your thermostat is smart means it will detect by itself when you’re away and essentially go to ‘standby’ or ‘threshold settings’ by itself. If you’re going away for longer, a few weeks say, it may be necessary to check what the lowest settings are, but if you forget, you can always do it remotely. Read more
It’s less than a month until the last Christmas day of the decade, and of course that means we’re going to give you Briant Communications‘ recommendations for the best Smart Tech Automated Home devices which are currently available.
Smart technology really is a practical application for many people as it allows almost unlimited management through very simple interfaces that almost anybody can use. If you’re able to speak or use a touch screen then you’re probably going to be able to control many, if not most Smart home devices, making them perfect no only for the too-busy-to-do-stuff but those with disabilities and who may not have the strength to get up every time they need to answer the door, turn on a light or adjust the heating. Read more
The convenience of wireless it that you can take your networked devices anywhere with you. Desktop computers no longer outcompete laptops, except that they don’t need recharging and the screen size isn’t limited to the dimensions of a laptop. Phones work everywhere, and Wi Fi enabled speakers can be set up anywhere you want throughout the home to enjoy hifi quality sound in every room. The only drawback was that stray too far from the router, into the garden for example, and your wireless connected devices would start to misbehave. Sound stutters, downloads pause and streaming TV or movies pause (invariably at the moment where the action gets exciting).
While this is irritating for those of us who use Wi-Fi strictly for entertainment, for those of us who have Smart Home Automation a poor Wi-Fi signal means that devices such as burglar alarms and CCTV can’t be relied upon. If you work from home as a writer, designer, musician, or any other profession which requires instant and dependable access to digital communication, including internet, Skype, or file transfer platforms a poor signal in the home is a problem. And if you’ve set up your office or studio in an outbuilding or converted the garage into a workshop then one option is running a cable from your Wi-Fi or internet router to your laptop or desktop. A far from perfect solution. Read more
As October draws on it’s a good time to think about preparing your home for the storms and snow that houses in the south east of England face this winter.
People who live on the south coast and along the South Downs will be more than familiar with the gales which can batter the region for days any time between October and April. We’re inured to it and laugh inwardly at those who are new to the area, who think that an umbrella will be of any consequence against weather which is coming in sideways.
But right now is the perfect time to prepare your house for winter, and all that it brings. Summer is a time when we’re all out enjoying the benefits of living in southern England, but now, as the nights draw in and the thermometer falls, it’s time to plan for the worst it has to offer.
Maintenance and Repairs
Autumn is the perfect time to carry out domestic repairs as the jobs which need doing reveal themselves. You won’t have noticed the rattling draughty windows during summer as they were all flung open to let the fresh air in, but now you’ve closed them you notice how much care they need. The same goes for many maintenance jobs.
Sash windows are prone to rattle and let in drafts. Wedges in the corners will hold them still and reduce a lot of the drafts, however, a draft excluder designed for small gaps inserted where the bottom and upper sash meet fill the equivalent of a two inch square home in every window in the house. Read more
One of the most popular home gadgets of recent years has been the home camera. They’re sold as a baby, pet or security monitor which allow you to watch what is going on at home from wherever you are. People love them because as a baby monitor you can see as well as hear what your child is doing, letting you judge if you have to dash upstairs to prevent disaster, or take it easy, it was just a doll falling out of the cot.
They’re handy as a pet monitor too. Dogs left at home get bored, and can often be anxious if left alone for too long. Their feelings can manifest themselves in destructive behaviour, or making a mess of your home. A pet monitor here lets you know if the dog is behaving, and if you opt for a camera with a mic attached then you can tell Fido that you’re watching and not to misbehave!
They’re also handy as security devices too. They may not be a visible deterrent to burglars preventing a break in from taking place, but they do let you see what’s going on at home and, if necessary, you can use them to record footage of any intruders walking around your house and call the authorities based on the images you see coming from your camera. Read more
As Smart Home installation engineers we meet people at every stage of their Home Automation journey. From those just starting out to those who are fully cognisant with the tech but need help with the labour it takes safely and securely fit the Smart devices they want in their homes.
Many people still don’t grasp what a connected home has to offer. They see the devices fitted with Smart technology as simply gadgets, knick-knacks which you put around your house for entertainment’s sake, but have no real practical use. It’s only when we explain the many different applications these devices can be put to, the way they can be controlled and control one another that the potential benefits become clear.
The ideal place to begin is to explain what practical tools a Smart Home can be started off with. Once the concept and application have been grasped the possibilities explode! Everyone’s needs and wants are different, so the fact that Smart Home Technology can be so adaptive and expandable is just what the doctor ordered!
So, if you’re one of those people who’s heard about Home Automation, who likes labour saving, energy efficient tools, but you’re not sure what the Smart Home has to offer you, read on.
Intercoms are nothing new. From old buildings converted to flats to businesses in office blocks we’ve all buzzed and struggled to hear the voice coming from the panel on the door frame. But today’s Smart access control is very different. Now there’s no need to go to the handset on the wall to let people in, you can admit anyone you want from wherever you are instead. Not only can you speak to people on the doorstep, you can see them, but they can’t see you. That means that if you’re in the bath, in the garden, on the sofa, even away from home, you can see who’s calling and either let them in or ask them to come back another time. Read more
Smart Home systems are the tech revolution the world seems to have been waiting for since the invention of science fiction, maybe even longer. The ability to simply ask a robot to carry out all of the mundane tasks, to have everything controlled from a simple device, and to be able to see and do things from anywhere we like was always on the cards, because we could see people doing it on Star Trek, and we knew that one day science reality would catch up with science fiction.
But with so many things the surface is glossy and works perfectly, but underneath there is a whole raft of issues which need dealing with before your tech can work properly. And one of the main considerations for people looking for whole-home connectivity is signal strength.
Clearly, in order to work effectively, the Connected Home needs to be connected. In the past if there was a spot where signal was weak then we just wouldn’t try to connect to the internet from that room. Today however, with Smart Home devices being what they are, it’s not reasonable for anyone who’s interested in making their home Smart to simply write off a room, the garden or an outbuilding because of poor wifi signal. Read more
Like any technology that is made to be used daily by consumers, Smart Home Tech can get a bit uppity, run slowly, crash or perform strangely. This can be caused by any number of issues, but mostly they can be easily fixed by following the mantra “Have you tried turning it off and on again!?”
(Here’s an interesting fact, Tommy Flowers, the man who designed and built Colossus, the bedroom sized computer which Alan Turing used to break the Enigma code recommended that his machine was never turned off, as it would take more than 3 days to start again! PC users know the feeling.)
But what if a ‘dynamic power cycle’ (unplugging it without turning it off) doesn’t have the desired effect? Is there anything else you can do or is your Smart device kaput?
Chances are that there isn’t really anything wrong with it at all, and here’s what you can do to fix many of the most common problems Smart Home Tech users experience.Read more