The Connected Home – Introducing Little Red Boxes…

This will be old news to those of you who took the time to visit McAfee Focus 2012 , but for the rest – my team took the opportunity to introduce the concept of the McAfee “Little Red Box” in the Innovation roadshow.

It’s a prototype project that my team has been working on for some time now, and will go some way to answer the need to protect all the connected devices in your home. 

My house is the classic connected home – I have the usual assortment of PCs and laptops that built up over the years, some relegated to the role of photo frame, others scattered around for occasional browsing and email use. There’s also the odd real photo frame (wirelessly connected to a media server of course), and on that topic, numerous Playstations, XBoxs, and other gaming consoles that my family enjoy.

If that wasn’t enough IP connected equipment, you can add into the mix more than one of every Apple device made – iPads, iPhones, Apple TV’s, even an Apple Mini, oh and a few Samsung internet connected TVs as well.

I often jest that I have an internet-toaster, but I don’t. My wife thought about buying an internet-fridge, but the fact it didn’t support wireless put her off.

I must be forgetting something, as my router DNS server regularly gets maxed out – oh yes, I have Sonos  throughout the house as well, and also a few Apple Airport Express wireless repeaters.

You don’t come to my place if you’re sensitive to EMF…

Why am I bringing this up? Because of all these devices, most are what we call Closed OS – there’s no way McAfee (or any other security company) will ever be able to sell you security software to install on your Sonos media player – but that little white box is a high powered Linux device, it’s as able to be a ‘bot or spam gateway as any other Linux laptop. And of course, Apple don’t let anyone write security software for iOS, neither do Samsung allow us to put security software on their TVs, or Sony/Microsoft on their consoles..

All these high powered devices are in our homes, internet connected, talking to the “cloud”, and exchanging data – and we have very little control or visibility over what’s happening.

So – back to the Little Red Box.  Imagine a simple device which you plug into your wireless router, which instantly provides protection for all devices in your home.

Simple as that – plug it in, power it up, and with zero configuration, it will make sure nothing in your house participates in spam or botnets, that nothing can access known bad web sites or servers, and that your whole family is protected from inappropriate web  content.

I’ve thought how to expand on that description – but that’s about it – that’s what the Little Red Box does. Technically it’s commandeering your network, filtering all DNS and web requests, watching for activities which could be indications of malicious attack, and applying the mass knowledge within the McAfee GTI system to every connected device.

Even if your children have friends visiting, they are not going to be able to access anything inappropriate, or unpalatable…

I had 5 goals when designing this solution:

  1.  Protect all my devices in my home from malware and information loss
  2. Protect my family from inappropriate content no matter how they access the internet
  3. Ensure no device in my home participates in botnet, denial of service, or spam activity
  4. Give me one place where I can monitor and manage the security and policy of all my devices
  5. Make it stupidly easy to use


I hope those who visited our booth at Focus go to see how close we are.

You can’t buy one of these yet – it’s still something we are working on and proving out the concept for the future – It’s one possible solution to the “Connected Home” we believe people are moving towards -technically the Little Red Box exists, and it works. If it’s something you might be interested in we’d love to hear your opinions.

Next time I’ll give you another twist on this story – instead of buying a “Little Red Box” to protect your home – how about if the protection was built into your cable modem?


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