Ken Gill, CPI Security: “when it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to stay vigilant both at work and at home”

As more people begin to understand the importance of updating their cybersecurity posture, experts emphasize that the same level of attention should be directed at securing their homes.

Even though having cameras installed around one’s property offer a sense of security, not everyone is on board with the idea of having surveillance devices in every corner of their house. While some have concerns regarding the vulnerabilities of the camera devices themselves, others simply don't feel comfortable with being filmed.

To discuss prevalent misconceptions surrounding smart home gadgets and the benefits of video security solutions, Cybernews invited Ken Gill, CEO and Founder of CPI Security – a company on a mission to secure homes and businesses.

How did the idea of CPI Security originate? What has the journey been like since your launch in 1991?

I’ve been installing security systems since I was in high school. After high school and a short stint in the hotel industry, I provided security and video systems in south Florida. We installed security systems for the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, the IRS, and Fortune 500 companies. Eventually, opened CPI Security in Charlotte, N.C., my hometown. Since we began in 1991, CPI has expanded to 11 locations across the southeast and protects more than a quarter of a million homes and businesses. The journey has been exciting, challenging, but most of all, rewarding. The industry and the technology we use to protect our customers have evolved significantly in the last three decades. Still, our mission has remained the same, to make our communities safer.

Can you introduce us to your smart home solutions? What are their key features?

We have a variety of smart home solutions that make our customers’ lives more efficient and convenient. Each smart home device is integrated into our security systems, which can all be controlled from a single app or the security panel on the wall.

Our CPI video doorbell pro is one of the best defenses to protect your home and online purchases. Our interface allows customers to lock their door or arm their system while observing or communicating with whoever is at the front door, even if you aren’t home. Bonus: All CPI video solutions are encrypted, and access is restricted to the account holder or a person the account holder gives access.

One of our most popular smart home solutions is our keyless smart lock. Customers can lock or unlock their door remotely or assign unique codes to the babysitter or dog walker to give them access during certain times of the day.

Our smart thermostat is another fan favorite. If you forget to turn the temperature down after leaving for a long weekend, you can adjust the temperature remotely from the CPI InTouch app. Customers see cheaper electric bills when they set the thermostat to a schedule. Because the smart thermostat is integrated with the entire CPI Security System, if the fire communicator detects smoke, it will automatically cut off the HVAC system to reduce the spread of a fire.

One of our newest smart home devices is our smart water shut-off valve. When paired with our water sensor, the smart water shut-off valve will automatically cut off the water when the sensor detects a leak in your home. With water leaks costing, on average, nearly $11,000 in damage, our smart water shut-off valve can mitigate water damage and save you thousands.

Have you ever driven down the road and wondered if you shut the garage door? Our smart garage door controller is the perfect solution! No need to turn around. You can confirm whether you left it open or closed from the InTouch app on your phone or turn on the “door left open” notification so you never forget to close it. You can also program the garage door to open or close based on an alarm or home automation event, like having it automatically close when you lock the front door.

Our smart plug allows customers to turn the lights on remotely or set them to a schedule to make it appear someone is home, making it the perfect addition to your smart security system.

What are some of the most popular ways for threat actors to bypass various physical security measures?

CPI believes in and supports a layered approach to physical security using video solutions, perimeter, and interior protection.

We see burglars try to break glass windows or doors to get into businesses after hours. We often recommend our customers equip their businesses or homes with glass break detectors and door/window sensors. If someone tries to open the window or throw a rock at it to break it, the alarm will trigger, and our central station operator will respond and get the authorities to the location immediately.

Our most recent security feature can stop intruders before they even get inside. Our latest outdoor cameras feature perimeter alerts. When the camera detects someone on the property, it whistles and flashes a light to warn the person they’re being recorded. We’ve already seen it deterring crime. See it in action here!

In addition to perimeter protection, we have a variety of interior protections, like motion sensors, that will also trigger the alarm. CPI uses encrypted sensors that frequency hop to protect against sophisticated hackers that use RF jamming or replay attacks to compromise the system.

Sometimes we see intruders rip the security panel off the wall or damage it to disable the system. But our security systems feature crash and smash detection. So, even if the intruder damages the panel, we still receive a signal and can dispatch police. It’s like a security system for your security system.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

When the pandemic stopped everyone and everything in its tracks, we turned to technology to keep moving, from virtual health care to school and work. We found new customers reach out to see how they could make their lives more efficient from home, and again technology was the answer. Thankfully, our products were already in place. It was just a matter of introducing the home automation solutions we offer to new customers.

Because we offer professional installation and monitoring, some of our work must still be done in person. We faced one challenge during the pandemic: ensuring our sales representatives, technicians, and customers were safe during on-site visits. Like the rest of the world, we adapted quickly to ensure our team members and customers were protected. We continuously follow the latest guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Aside from health risks, the pandemic also posed a host of other challenges to businesses like supply chain issues. To overcome those shortages, we had to go to other providers for certain components of our security and home automation products. Doing so involved retesting and recertifying the products to ensure they were meeting the high standards we expect and deliver to our customers.

What myths and misconceptions surrounding smart home devices do you come across most often?

Sometimes we find customers are wary of having cameras inside their homes out of fear the cameras could be hacked. At CPI Security, we take our customer's privacy very seriously and have stringent protocols to protect them.

For customers with any video device, we encourage them to turn on two-factor authentication for an additional layer of protection. Two-factor authentication requires the account administrator to approve and authorize access to the device whenever an unregistered device tries to access the account. If the customer doesn't recognize the device or person trying to access the account, they can simply deny access.

In addition, all video streams are encrypted and sent over a VPN connection for added security. So, even if there is no security on the local Wi-Fi network or the customer's Wi-Fi is somehow compromised, cameras always connect over a high-security path, using VPN or HTTPS.

CPI also offers local, remote, and cloud video storage options. We uphold the integrity of these storage options by encrypting them and requiring two proprietary viewers, so the video is safe even in storage.

In addition, some consumers are concerned about the vulnerabilities of our products on their Wi-Fi networks. As shown, our solutions are secure, but many home networks are not. CPI offers mesh network software with malware and anti-virus protection to ensure their networks are secure.

What predictions do you have for the future of technology in the public safety field?

As technology advances, we think public safety will become better, faster, and harder to crack. In the last 30 years, we’ve seen the security industry shift to rely more heavily on video and audio verification. In recent years, video and audio have gotten clearer, giving our law enforcement officers a better chance at catching the bad guys. The clarity of security devices and cameras will continue to improve in time.

We’re already using artificial intelligence to detect and warn customers of potential threats or people, animals, and objects on their property. We predict artificial intelligence will continue to advance and develop, making the detection and verification of security threats even more precise. The better technology gets, the sooner we can be alerted to real dangers, which in turn gives customers more time to get to safety and CPI more time to get the authorities there quickly.

We also anticipate the evolution of Next Generation 911 and deeper integration with our monitoring center. This means a faster and more efficient response to real vs. potential threats and the ability to show audio, visual, and other contextual details directly to the responding agencies or officers.

What tips would you give to those looking to secure not only their homes but also their networks?

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to stay vigilant both at work and at home. Private email and customer accounts are generally more vulnerable to cyber-attacks since residential users tend not to be as aware of cybercrime vulnerabilities, nor do they usually protect themselves as robustly as businesses do. Here are a few tips to keep your personal devices and networks secure to prevent crimes such as identity theft, ransomware, and viruses:

  1. Use 14 character-pass-phases for your logins. They are nearly impossible to crack. However, most people still use 6-8 character passwords that novice hackers can easily crack in less than an hour.
  2. Another tip is to avoid reusing passphrases and never use your work account passphrase for personal logins. Doing so increases the risk to you and your company.
  3. Always set a pass-phase for your home’s wireless network since hackers can drive around the neighborhood or sit in the parking lot of a condo or apartment complex and simply try to find unprotected networks.
  4. When joining a public wireless network, you usually are prompted to decide if you’d like your device to be discoverable by others on the web. Our advice is never to allow this to happen. This is a significant risk in public places like airports and coffee lounges.
  5. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  6. Use trusted professionals that are licensed and can confirm the security of their solutions.

What other aspects of our lives do you hope to see enhanced by technology in the near future?

All of our technology helps our customers live a more convenient and efficient lifestyle. We foresee more technology becoming available to make every aspect of our lives easier, and we will explore new technologies that also protect our customers from safety hazards. For example, I would like to see more products that prevent or mitigate fires, break-ins, and natural disasters. Any technology that protects property and saves lives is worth exploring.

Right now, we are testing wellness solutions like sensors that can be placed in the home and help monitor the health of elderly loved ones. The sensors will monitor sleep, diet, and digestion patterns. Whenever there is a noteworthy change, account holders will be notified so they can take appropriate action.

Tell us, what’s next for CPI Security?

In the next few months, we’re excited to be rolling out new business analytics cameras that will help business owners protect their property and manage their business. By creating and using rules around movement or group gatherings, business owners can transform how they protect their business and gather information to make informed decisions. No more guessing rush times or if customers are waiting in long lines. Know exactly where to place high-value items by tracking which areas customers gravitate to. This is another example of how technology is making life more efficient. We can’t wait to see it in place to help our small business owners succeed!