These days, the internet isn’t just something you access from your computer and use to connect to other computers out there in the wider world. Today, home networks encompass not just other computers but a variety of devices, from smartphones and tablets to refrigerators and automated window coverings – the Internet of Things – and more and more homes are becoming fully connected this way. But, as has been true since the infancy of the internet, there are a plethora of malicious threats out there, from phishers attempting to steal your credit card information to infectious viruses that can take control of your machine. Most routers these days come with security systems that fend off simpler threats, but what if that’s not enough?
Thinking In Front Of the Box
One issue with the ‘smart home’ is that your personal data is spread around more devices than any before. Savvy attackers will take advantage of the often weak security around these devices – and the security is weak: research by HP has shown that the 10 most popular smart devices each have an average of 25 vulnerabilities. Basically, they’re terrifyingly easy to crack if you know what you’re doing, and the results could be catastrophic. It’s bad enough to have your personal information stolen, but someone gaining control of your appliances could be really worrisome. Perhaps your thermostat is affected, or your motorized solar shades get rolled up at the wrong time, killing your houseplants. It sounds like a minor annoyance, but… maybe you have a baby monitor on the network and it gets shut off. It’s worth thinking about.
The first line of defence is to make sure that your router has an appropriate firewall, so that the most straightforward attacks are filtered out. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Sophisticated malicious threats are becoming more and more common, and are often specifically crafted so as not to trigger even the most modern router security systems. Various pieces of software that can analyze and identify such threats are available, but they are often difficult to configure and likely too complex for the average consumer. But what if you could buy a device that sat in front of your network and stopped attacks from reaching it in the first place?
Who Guards the Guards
It’s like giving your Doberman guard dog a bulletproof vest: protecting the protector. Corporate security systems have been doing this for a long time; with sensitive customer information and financial data on the line, it’s crucial that just anyone can’t waltz in and take whatever they want. Network intrusion detection systems are a core feature of corporate security. In the same way, a burglar alarm on top of locking the door of your home makes it that much less likely for people to physically enter. So why not put one on your network? There are a couple of products on the market, or close to it, that tackle this problem. They use the same kind of software that the consumer would find tricky to set up, but packaged up in an easy-to-use box that you just have to plug into your network to beef up its security.
Two similar products that perform these functions are the iGuardian (also known as Shield) from Itus Networks, which successfully completed a $125,000 Kickstarter campaign, and has to date raised $175,000; and BOX by BitDefender, which is already on the market. Both devices cost between $100–$200 plus a $100 or so yearly subscription, which enables the company to keep its response to threats current. It might be worth it for the peace of mind you’ll get in your fully networked home, not to mention the money you’ll save if your fridge is turned off and all the food you’ve bought for Thanksgiving spoils.
We’re living in the future, but no matter how technologically advanced we get, if there’s one thing that doesn’t change with time, it’s human behaviour. Protecting yourself is a must no matter what the arena – and the stakes just got a lot higher!