In director Michael Mann’s 2015 film Blackhat, a major breach of security is made on a supposedly failsafe international shipping port via a humble drinks vending machine. No longer Hollywood fiction, it’s clear that hackers will seek the weakest link in the chain and with more and more devices connected to the internet that chain is growing exponentially.
There’s no place more vulnerable than the home where all manner of seemingly innocuous appliances and devices, from your fridge to energy and lighting systems, present a web of opportunity for personal invasion.
Though still in their infancy, IoT and smart homes are gaining traction. By 2020, Gartner Research forecasts approximately 20.8 billion IoT enabled devices worldwide, while IDC projects a $1.7 trillion global IoT market.
One of the problems is that there are so many potential end points for hackers to attack. Previously, a common model for IoT devices was to build, ship and forget. This has resulted in a flood of unsecured consumer devices in homes and a challenge in retrofitting security.
Another is the lack of any agreed standard joining IoT devices together. The multiplication of apps intended to hand the consumer lifestyle convenience ends up complicating the benefits of whole-home connectivity and compromising security.
Into the breach have stepped utility companies, internet giants like Amazon and Google, security specialists, telcos and pay TV operators. All are competing for control of the smart home by offering gateways to access personal devices typically unified under a single app.
There’s a genuine business opportunity for service providers in this space which some, including Deutsche Telekom and Comcast, are busy taking advantage of.
“Pay TV operators and telcos are battling to be the trusted interface between the consumer and world of IoT,” says Jim Phillipoff, Head of Business Development, Media & Entertainment, Irdeto.
The key here is trust. Pay TV operators in particular are in a decent position to capitalize on the smart home potential by building on the solid relationship they have with customers. This is immediately at risk if security isn’t tight.
“A connected home is a very personal environment,” says Phillipoff. “From camera’s monitoring your door to nanny-cams taking care of your children, the risk of images ending up on the internet is too high. Everything has to be protected.”
Irdeto says operators can make it extremely difficult for hackers if the operator has control of the gateway and the companion mobile IoT apps are secured with its Cloakware Software Protection (CSP).
“We can essentially secure any potential environment inside or outside the firewall including the gateway combined with CSP to harden the app,” explains Phillipoff.
Operators wanting a turnkey home gateway solution might opt for Indentive’s home IoT gateway device and suite of IoT consumer services – pre-integrated with Irdeto Cloakware security.
Consumers really do care about this. A survey by PwC ‘Smart home, seamless life’ found that safety and security (peace of mind) commands the highest price for smart home devices among consumers, regardless of income.
The majority of people who have not adopted smart home technology – nor plan to – list price as their biggest hesitation, closely followed by security concerns, according to PwC.
Smart home products with strong safety features command the highest prices at retail. Yet while more consumers will buy a money-saving product, the survey reveals that more of them are willing to spend more for safety.
The implications of this for the keen-eyed service provider CFO and CTO shouldn’t be hard to spot.