Review: Envisalink EVL-3

evl3Note: The EVL-4 is now shipping, which is identical as the EVL-3 (shown here) except the following hardware changes:

  • Added support for Vista 128
  • Blue PCB, was green
  • 10/100BaseT, was 10BaseT
  • LED layout/meaning changes
  • Faster microcontroller
  • DSC downloading via DLS2002 or DLS5
  • Future support for GSM

So this review is still relevant, as the Envisalink.com back-end is the same for both, so all services are identical.

The Envisalink EVL-3 is a easy way to add a internet and mobile functionality to your alarm system. I have it hooked up to a Honeywell Vista 20P, so my review is tailored for this setup, but the EVL-3 works with a variety of Honeywell Ademco Vista panels as well as DSC panels.

For about $119, a little setup and programming, you can access your panel without monthly access fees. You can self monitor your panel, or you can add additional functionality to a monitor panel with email alerts.

Features:

  • Honeywell Compatability
    • Vista 10P, 15P, 20P, 21iP, 128P & 250P
  • DSC PowerSeries
    • 1555, 1555 MX, 1575, 5010 (832), 5020 (864), 1616, 1832, 1864
  • Ethernet connectivity to allow remote access on network and internet
  • 4 wire connection to panel, connects via keypad bus
  • Serves up a webpage on local network
  • Connects to Eyezon servers for email alerts, remote setup

Hardware Installation:

Installation is straightforward, just connect 4 wires from EVL-3 to your panel. I mounted mine right next to my panel by drilling a couple of holes and using standoffs. Then I connected a CAT5E patch cable to my network.

evl1

System Setup:

The instructions are fairly detailed and easy to follow and detailed here. The basics are

  • Program your alarm panel. You will need the installer code for this.If you don’t have it, you will have to takeover the panel or get it from whoever programmed it last. If this is your alarm installation or monitoring company, they may not give it to you. If you takeover the panel, you will wipe out all settings and have to reconfigure it.
  • Setup IP address. You can do DCHP auto or the better way is to give it a fixed IP address
  • Configure the local device
  • Configure settings on eyezon.com
  • Setup mobile devices

The setup can take a while the first time. Perhaps a hour or more, I recommend reading the instructions and following the instructions carefully.

System Use:

Once installed, the EVL-3 behaves like a keypad on your alarm panel, so it doesn’t know it is there, but it’s listening to the communications and injecting its own commands.

Local Webpage:

The local device serves up a webpage. Once you login, you get an pair of webpages which are not encrypted. So be sure to never access these pages outside your your network, i.e. don’t open up any outside access to this device in your router (port forward, DMZ, etc).

Home Page

evl2

Zone Status

This page gives you the status of your zones. The red boxes with black letters indicate open zones. The red boxes with white letters indicate a recently open, but now closed zone. If you mouseover the zone numbers, it will tell you how many minutes ago it was open.

Unfortunately if your Ademco system is armed, you won’t see zone updates, more on this later.

System Status

This indicates the status of the partition (armed/disarmed) and if there are troubles.

Security Settings

These are configured during setup, no need to change them once you are configured.

Network Page

evl3

This page is mostly for setup and status, no need to check this page unless something is wrong. It does tell you the IP address, which I have set to a fixed IP address. I akso have the DHCP list in my router set this same IP address based on the MAC. This is not necessary, but make sure your fixed IP address is outside the DHCP pool.

This page tells you your firmware version, but there is no way to update it or stop updates, updates are pushed out by the Envisalink server.

As you can see, the local webserver is not really useful on a daily basis, just nice to check it when things are not working.

EVL-3 to Eyezon Server communications

The EVL-3 unit sends out info to the Eyezon server using 128bit AES encryption. The EVL-3 always initiates the communication to the server and the server responds. For extra security, you restrict internet access for the EVL-3 to the one Eyezon server in your router.

Eyez-on Website:

The eyezon website serves up an encrypted login page:

evl4

Once you get in, you are greeted with a status page:

evl2main

The good part about this interface is that you can edit the list of zones and give them real world names. Like “Front Door” instead of “Zone 8”.

Here you can setup users, contact info, and other settings.

Another benefit for folks with a dynamic IP and don’t want to use or pay for a DDNS, whenever your ISP changes your IP address, you can come to this page and get your updated IP address. This can be invaluable when you are not home and don’t know your home’s new IP address.

Event Notification 

For users, you can have the server email or SMS you based on events listed below.

evl6

Most of these are alarm panel events, alarm, restore, arm, disarm, trouble, installer.

I’m not sure what misc is.

Network supervision/line cut is nice, the server will alert you when it stops receiving messages from your device. So if your internet goes down, you can get an email/sms.

The interesting one here is zone followers.They allow you to setup one zone to alert you whenever the zone status changes. You can put this on any one zone. So if you put it on a door, you can get an alert whenever it opens or closes, no matter the status of the alarm.

If you want more than one zone follower, you will need to signup and pay a monthly fee for Envisalerts Plus.

SMS Alerts:

If you sign up for SMS alerts, they come in from an non-standard phone number. For example, I was getting them from 1 (410) 100-xxx, where xxx started at 0, then for each alert, it was increment. This proved to be annoying as I couldn’t add it to my contact list unless I put in all possible numbers.

fix
Eventually I disabled SMS except for ALARMs as it was cluttering my SMS.

Email Alerts:

Basically you get an email from Eyezon server giving you the event, location, time and partition, formatted like the SMS message above.

The timing of the alerts is about the same. I get them about 10 seconds after the event is triggered. In the case of a zone follower, you get a zone open and closed event notification. If you have a motion sensor zone that opens and closes in 2-3 seconds, the zone close event notification comes about a minute after the zone open. This is to debounce the notifications, so multiple triggers close together only generate    an email every minute or so.

Apps

Unfortunately Eyezon doesn’t make any apps for mobile devices, but rather want you to use their website. There are 3rd party apps for Android and iOS.

Most of these apps appear to make an unencrypted connection to your device on a local network. To access it remotely, you need to open a port up on your router, which is not advisable for security reasons. Alternatively you can use them only over a secure VPN, which is the only way I recommend using it.

I don’t use these apps as I get what I need using the website only.

Camera Integration

I don’t use it or recommend using it. You have to open up a port in your router (port forward) to allow access to your cameras to the internet. I just don’t trust the security of IP cameras. See my post on how to disable all internet access to your IP cameras.

Mobile Portal Link

To access your webpage without password login, Eyezon offers a mobile link to make it easy to use with any browser. The link is a obscure webpage link like this: https://www.eyez-on.com/EZMOBILE/index.php?mid=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The number is a really long hexadecimal value which is hopefully difficult to find by random chance. Still, it is too insecure (security through obscurity) for my tastes, which is too bad since the mobile webpage it serves up works well on a mobile browser.

TPI -Third Party Interface

The TPI allows for other devices to interface with the EVL-3. Although I don’t use it, there are a few interfaces out there to support home automation. For example, to interface to a Smartthings hub, AlarmServer (for DSC) and HoneyAlarmServer (Honeywell) can be used on a PC or Raspberry Pi as a middleman between the Envisalink and Smartthings.

There is one major flaw in the implementation that makes the TPI useless for Ademco/Honeywell Vista panels. The Ademco panels when armed don’t allow the keypads to query the status of a zone. So if you want to turn on a light based on motion detection of a zone wired to your alarm, it won’t work when the panel is armed.

It turns out, any zone wired to a zone expander will communicate to the panel its zone status and the EVL could be programmed to listen to these messages. And there is a documented workaround to program virtual relays to report the zone status of any zone connected to the panel. The EVL could be programmed to report all zones at all times, but the developers choose not to implement it.

Paid Services

Envisalink/Eyezon offer 2 paid monthly services. Envisalerts Plus and Envisalarm. Envisalerts Plus allows you to have more than one zone follower for $5/month. Use this if you want to follow more than one zone to get notified every time the zone is opened or closed.

Envisalarm is an alarm monitoring option for under $9/month, not including a one time setup fee of $49. You have to prepay for 1 year or 3 years. You do get a UL listed monitoring station, but it lacks a cellular or POTs backup option.

Security – oh no!

I would not recommend exposing this device to the internet, just look at shodan:

https://www.shodan.io/search?query=envisalink

All these devices listed are simply asking for trouble. They have opened up their firewall to allow the local webpage of the EVL to sit on the internet. These units are vulnerable to bad guys arming or disarming their panel.

Here is the key mistakes the developers made.

  1. Ideally the EVL-3/EVL-4  local device should be serving up a HTTPS webpage and not communicating in plaintext.
  2. It should not allow the default password to exist. It only allows for simple 6 digit password. I doubt it locks up after a bunch of password guesses.
  3. It only allows for one username (default). It should set the username to be the same or part of the MAC address, or something unique.
  4. It should not allow saving of the alarm panel pin.

For a device that connects to your alarm panel, they are not very secure.

How to make it safe:

  1. Do not open up any ports that allow you to access it from the internet.
  2. Scan your ports using GRC.COM’s Shields UP
  3. Only access the local webserver over your local network or setup a VPN (OpenVPN) to securely get into your home network to access it.
  4. Use the https://www.eyez-on.com/EZMAIN/login.php portal.

Conclusion

The combination of local and Internet control of your alarm system is a great idea, but this device doesn’t appear to have enterprise level security one would like on any internet connected device, especially one that is connected to your home security system. As long as you are aware of the security weaknesses and avoid the use of the Mobile Portal Link or exposing the device to the Internet with port forwarding, it does offer a simple way to connect your alarm panel locally or remotely over VPN or using the Eyezon website.

If you are interested in the TPI for home automation, be wary of the severe limitation that it won’t report zones on your Vista panel when armed. So once you arm the system, any automation that uses your alarm panel will stop working.

If you are interested in a no-monthly-cost self monitoring solution that will email you when your alarm goes off, then this is the only device I know of. I’ve had this running in my panel for over a year and was self monitoring with no monthly fees. For the price of $120 one time and zero monthly fees, there is nothing else out there.

If you do care about security, will be paying for alarm monitoring, like the idea of cellular backup,  I recommend looking at the IPDatatel CBAT, my review is here: https://wordpress.com/post/diysecurityguy.wordpress.com/138.

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