Protect that refrigerator! IoT security comes home

Protect that refrigerator! IoT security comes home

The Norton Core, a WiFi router that also provides security for Internet of Things devices.

SAN FRANCISCO – After the rise of the Mirai botnet that took down many popular websites on the internet on the East Coast in October for a day, there was little security experts could offer consumers wanting to protect their home networks beyond demanding that manufacturers step up to the plate and build security into their products.

Thus far “there are no silver bullets,” for connected home devices, said Michael Belton, vice president of research and development at security firm Optiv. Because products that range from webcams to thermostats to WiFi-enabled refrigerators are so incredibly diverse, using widely varied software, non-business consumers have fewer choices for security guidance, he said.

That is beginning to change as security firms have seen a need, and a market. Multiple devices that offer such protection are set to hit store shelves beginning in the spring.

One of the big ones is being announced Tuesday. It comes from Norton, Symantec’s consumer brand. It is likely to be the most accessible of several consumer-oriented WiFi routers coming to protect the devices attached to it, from tablets, laptops, closed-circuit cameras, printers, doorbells and lightbulbs.

Called the Core, the WiFi router will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. However, it won’t go on sale until the spring. Priced at $199, it fills a much-needed product hole for home users.

At least four other IoT securing-WiFi routers are also scheduled to go on sale this year. They include one each from Luma and Cujo, Finnish F-Secure's SENSE and the Israeli Dojo.


The dangers of IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT), also known as connected devices, has arrived with a vengeance in Americans homes. Today, a tech-heavy household might have several laptops, tablets and smart phones, a thermostat, smart TV, webcams, door lock, automatic lawn sprinkler system, refrigerator and even coffee pot, all connected via a wireless router.

Every one of those devices contains a remarkable amount of computing power and all are vulnerable to hacking.

They are vulnerable to intrusions into the home’s network that could steal data from computers linked to it and also track the owner’s movements, such as when they’re away, when they sleep and even when they watch TV.

Even more likely is that hackers would break into the network to hijack some of the computing power from the devices, using it to run a robot network, or botnet such as the one that launched the October attack on Dyn, the New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic.

Dyn was hit with a large-scale distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which its servers were flooded with millions of fake requests for information sent from a botnet, knocking them offline. It was the first major attack launched using a botnet powered by Internet-connected devices.


Fear of exposure

Many Americans have been reluctant to install IoT devices specifically because they worry that they can’t secure them, so device that offer strong but easy-to-use protection will be crucial to the market opening still further, said Ameer Karim, general manager of Norton’s IoT division.

“Putting in a door lock so I don’t have to fuss with my keys is great, but it opens up additional access points to other parts of my life,” he said.

Norton's Core will protect every device that links to it by providing WiFi for the house and all the devices in it. As each connects to WiFi, the Core identifies them, “so you can immediately see everything that’s hanging on your network,” said Karim.

If there’s something that’s already been compromised “we quarantine it off and put it in its own segregated network so nothing else is affected,” he said.

The router can protect up to 20 computers and an unlimited number of IoT devices. It will cost $199 when it’s first introduced, though that price will rise to $279 eventually, Karim said. The Norton security network that it runs will be free for the first year, then will cost $9.99 each month. While Norton doesn’t know exactly where it will be available, it’s expected to be in all major retail outlets come spring, Karim said.



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