Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequent questions and answers
We strongly encourage the use of VPN’s, strong passwords, and network firewalls. Off Hours makes whatever security measures you have in place better by reducing the attack surface of your network. Hackers can only hack when devices are on-line.
To the degree you’re not comfortable sharing your network credentials we built a sliding trust scale into the system. The default trust level is 3, which is full trust, and the system will ask for your SSID & password.
Changing the trust to 2, we’ll only ask for your SSID and we won’t connect to your network. The system will notify you when power is on and when it can “see” your WiFi, but not when the router is connected to the internet.
At trust level 1, we won’t ask for your network name (SSID) or credentials. The system will notify you when the power is on, but no notifications when WiFi is on or when it’s connected to the internet.
At trust level 0, the appliance shuts down all communications, including cellular, and the only functionality is the schedule timer and the ON/OFF button on the face of the appliance.
There are several good reasons to turn off the network when no one is home, and the biggest involve privacy and security. First privacy; your comings and goings are your business. Smart devices have sensors such as microphones, cameras, or infra-red motion sensors, monitor and report activity. It’s not uncommon for device manufacturers not to publish what sensors are included. The bottom line here is that when the network is normally off, these devices are unable to report whether you are home or away.
Second, security; most smart home devices have weak security by design. Good security is expensive, takes longer do develop, and adds complexity to the product. Manufacturers, particularly Chinese manufactures are all about getting inexpensive product to market as quickly as possible. These devices make for ripe targets for hackers. The longer these devices are on-line, the greater the likelihood they will be discovered and compromised where they will be used to do harm to you or to others. Cybersecurity experts call this the threat vector surface area. Keeping the network normally off reduces the threat vector surface area.
In 2016, compromised smart devices where directed by hackers to disrupt internet activity on the Eastern US. The attack was largely successful; taking down the internet for most of a day. Those devices consisted of about 250,000 wireless cameras, DVRs and WiFi routers in people’s homes. Presumably that number has only grown, and they are still being used to do harm to individuals, businesses, and government agencies.
Ironically, the owners of the devices are unaware that they are part of the problem. Keeping the network normally off decreases the likelihood your devices will be discovered. It also makes compromised devices much less valuable to hackers and decreases the likelihood that your devices will be part of the problem.
Yes. If you carry a mobile phone with the Off Hours application installed, the network will always be up when you arrive home, so your WiFi locks will work fine. An added benefit of keeping the network normally off is that your WiFi locks can’t be hacked when they are not connected to the internet.
Yes. The appliance periodically pings a service on the internet that exists for this purpose. The test is run about every 5 minutes.
Just switching the ethernet over the AC power would make for a much simpler and less expensive system. We considered this approach buy rejected it for three main reasons:
- Smart devices connected to the network don’t behave consistently when WiFi is connected but there is no access to the internet. We felt that the unpredictable behavior would be confusing to our customers. When there is no WiFi, all the devices we’ve looked have clear indicators that there is no network.
- If we just switched the ethernet, the router still has lights, and some are still blinking. This means that the user must trust that the system is working. Not trusting technology to solve the problem was our design goal, so just like tape over a network camera, when the network is off there is no trust required to see that it’s working.
- Lastly, just switching the ethernet off leaves the WiFi on and vulnerable to attacks from connected devices from a neighbor, a van parked out front, or anyone within the coverage area of the access point.
If smart home devices where designed to be intermittently connected, the answer would be “possibly”. However, smart home devices are designed to be always connected, and many depend on remote servers to work at all. So, the short answer is NO, information is not collected, stored and shared when the network is reestablished. There are some exceptions to this general rule such as smart camera’s with local storage. Those devices use remote servers (most located in China), to handle alarms and notifications, but we haven’t found any that send stored video after the network is restored.