Crossing the threshold: protecting the connected home

Gartner predicts the average family house will contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022. But as the complexity of the connected home increases, so do the risks involved. It only takes one insecure device and your entire online estate could compromised.

Devices ar unsafe

So what will it take for us to realise the danger? Are we going to wait for the security breaches to get bigger and bigger before someone sits up to pay attention?

We’ve spoken already about the need for Antivirus in our homes. Now it’s time to take the other elements of protecting our connected homes seriously. So here are three key areas that need a closer look.

The doorway is more important than the windows

You wouldn’t go out and leave your windows unlocked. Every connected device we adopt is like creating a new window that we must remember to close. The more vulnerabilities are created, the more people will be able to look into your world.

However, the threat of the windows pales in comparison to the doorway. If you leave your door wide open, not only can people get in but they can easily loot any item of any size from your life.

The same is true digitally. In a world where most of your devices will connect back to your WiFi at home, the entry point for your internet becomes super important. This entry point, where your broadband connects to your router, is potentially the doorway. If they can unlock that, they can get to everything on your network.

Device pile

The risk of attack has moved back from a device by device basis (the windows) to the single device they all connect to. This is the new forefront for security in the connected home.

Confusing interfaces make social engineering easy

The number one threat to your privacy and security is still humans more than technology. There is no known solution to stop people contacting an individual under a false guise and tricking them into making themselves less secure.

However, today’s interfaces can make this easier than it needs to be. How many router owners are intimately familiar with the devices user interface? How many normal people are confident about knowing if the online banking page they land on is real or fake?

Obtuse user interfaces make this easier than it needs to be for hackers because the fact is: most people can’t be confident they are doing the right thing with these products even when they are quite safe.

This is changing. A move to conversational interfaces will make controlling these devices more like a Messenger conversation. Apps like the new Quartz app and Facebook M show the way ahead for an experience that can not only humanise the process but learn from mass data to detect and warn about potential scams.

quartz-app-featured-image

If there’s a pattern of people asking the same questions, the personality in the conversation can learn from this aggregated data and warn the user they may be being scammed. It also introduces possibilities like more sophisticated 2 factor authentication in a trusted way.

Security vs necessity

So many web services are encouraging us to load all our data into them. And understandably — a lifetime of photos at the flick of your hand is a great demonstration of the potential of technology.

However, once something is digital, you are immediately creating a form of availability that did not previously exist. And this habit can be quite all or nothing. If you encourage people to upload their most important assets to be safe, why wouldn’t they also think it’s important to get a document of their passwords and PINs saved somewhere?

Once these are connected, they can leak. Establishing a security state of mind is essential. We must encourage users to think about why they are uploading that data and whether it’s really worthwhile. These can’t be black and white, but they are key to the safety and success of the connected home.

Making the most of it

This is a serious topic that is going to become even bigger in the next few seasons. But if it seems a bit dreary, it’s important to rebalance against the full picture. The reason to be secure and take this area seriously is because of its potential.

When the web started to spread, there was a similar urging of caution. But solutions (like AVG AntiVirus) quickly caught up and became the default defence so people could embrace the power of the web without fear.

We’re going to reach the same point in our homes. It’s just a matter of reducing collateral damage while that process proceeds.

Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and not those of AVG or Innovation Labs.

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