Alexa, ask McAfee to scan my network

At Mobile World Congress 2018, McAfee said it plans to launch Secure Home Platform (SHP) for Amazon Alexa, so a connected home’s network security can be managed via voice.

McAfee Secure Home Platform for Amazon Alexa
Martyn Williams

Since so many IoT devices have pathetic-to-no security, how would you like to manage your connected home's network security using your voice? At Mobile World Congress 2018, McAfee said it plans to launch an Amazon Alexa Skill for its Secure Home Platform (SHP).

Announced during CES 2018, SHP is "the answer to the IoT boom," McAfee said.

Components needed to run SHP through Alexa

Lots of smart devices require a hub, and although the company said you don't need yet another piece of hardware, SHP won't work with just any router. During CES, D-Link announced its AC2600 Wi-Fi Router powered by McAfee. There's also the ARRIS SURFboard SBG7580-AC, which McAfee said is "one of the first routers with SHP."

A router with SHP software installed is one of three components required for McAfee's SHP to work. Cloud services from McAfee allow for parental controls and can block a site based on host reputation. A mobile app manages connected devices — but once the Alexa Skill commands are ready, you can control it with your voice.

Any devices, those with or without screens, that are connected to the SHP-enabled router are protected at the network gateway. Just a little FYI, SHP currently "cannot provide security to connected devices on a Virtual Private Network (VPN)."

Network security questions you can ask Alexa

If you have SHP and an Alexa-enabled device, you can control the security portion via your voice. According to the press release for McAfee's connected home security Mobile World Congress 2018 announcement, here are examples of what you could manage:

  • "Alexa, ask McAfee how many devices are online right now?" Customers can easily discover devices on their home network and be informed when a new device joins.
  • "Alexa, ask McAfee to scan my network." This will run a network scan on all connected devices in the home and receive a notification through Alexa on any device that has vulnerabilities identified. In case of a botnet attack, McAfee SHP blocks the attack and informs the user through an Alexa notification and via the McAfee mobile app.
  • "Alexa, ask McAfee what is the status of my network?" This provides a summary of all the devices connected to the home network, if they are blocked or unblocked, which devices have notifications, and more.
  • "Alexa, ask McAfee to block/unblock {Device1}." This allows customers to block or unblock a device on the network using the device name as a parameter.
  • "Alexa, ask McAfee to pause the internet for {kid1}." This allows customers to block access to the internet as desired, on an individual or group basis. Parents also have the ability to select time controls on a per-child basis.

McAfee told PCMag that it is starting with 10 commands for Alexa. Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee, said the company was starting with Alexa, since it was the "leader of the pack" of home automation devices.

"We started with Alexa, but devices by Google and Apple are gaining critical mass as well. We want to see how the Alexa launch goes and see how many skills we can create, and then quickly re-purpose them for other platforms," he said.

McAfee's SHP skill for Amazon Alexa is not available yet, but it "will be available to customers in the U.S. in the coming months with support for additional countries and territories following soon." Once the skill is live, you can search for and enable it from the Amazon Alexa app or the Alexa Skills store.

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