You Can’t Put A Band-Aid On Smart Home Security

Father’s Day is looming, meaning it’s a time of reflection for me. Becoming a father widened my perspective because I suddenly saw life with fresh eyes; through my children. Being a father, I instinctively assumed the role of ‘protector’ — with a responsibility to ensure our home is my children’s safe haven. It was this natural paternal urge that led to the inspiration behind my company’s product innovation, Dojo. I’d come back from work one day and saw my daughter had stuck a band-aid over her laptop’s camera.

I asked her why and her answer: “My classmate’s dad is a cybersecurity expert. He came to school today and shared tips with us on how to be safe online. He said that the only way to really know someone isn’t watching you is to cover the camera on your computer.”

That’s when it hit me: something must be done about the woeful lack of security and privacy we face while using all those connected devices in our homes. Putting a band-aid on every smart home device you own isn’t an option. You can’t plaster over the vulnerabilities and backdoors that exist in many of the smart connected devices we use at home. When it comes to internet security and privacy we need a sophisticated and efficient tool that can cope with the constantly growing set of risks. And the risks – as the number of devices connecting to the internet soars – will only get bigger. It’s predicted the number of these will reach over 46 billion by 2021.

That moment with my daughter, when I witnessed the anxiety on her face, gave me the motivation and commitment to set up a business to solve the problem properly, and ensure my children and family home are safe and secure. So, if someone is trying to eavesdrop on your family’s personal life, or introduce malware, ransomware or any other cyber threat via your smart connected devices – from your webcam, baby monitor, thermostat, or any other IoT connected devices — Dojo will seamlessly detect and block those attempts, keeping your home network and safeguard your family’s privacy.

Designing Dojo, we soon realised that, despite all the hype surrounding the Internet of Things and how connected devices can transform the running of our houses, security in many cases seems to have been forgotten. Or, an afterthought, at least. Not by us.

Hackers are modern day burglars who slip into our households uninvited and, largely unnoticed, and they steal our data, or our privacy, or hold it for ransom. Hence the coining of the phrase ‘ransomware,’ a particularly nasty kind of malware which takes data and threatens to publish or delete it, unless a ransom is paid quickly.

The worrying thing is that these ‘burglars’ don’t have to be that smart to run malware operations to successfully break into our homes. Worse still, these invisible criminals are beginning to work in a coordinated, global way because the fruits of their labour are just so lucrative.

The devastating effects of ransomware were seen in the WannaCry cyber attacks, which wreaked havoc worldwide. For example, it attacked the UK’s National Health Service, making the scam a potential threat to human life too, causing hospitals to cancel life-saving treatments and turn emergency cases away. It’s estimated that WannaCry affected more than 150 countries, including large corporations that you would expect to have internet security covered, such as FedEx, Telefonica, and Renault.

In each instance, the cyber criminals demanded at least $300 in Bitcoins, the digital currency where you can make private, anonymous payments without leaving traces. No wonder why it is popular among cyber criminals.

While the spark of the idea for Dojo came from a deeply personal desire to protect my daughter and my family from these unsavoury characters and situations, it is relevant to anyone who wants to protect their family from criminals lurking out there in the ether. I want a world where all children and families can feel safe and secure in their homes – without the fear of being watched by a complete stranger, without the fear of having their personal information stolen, without the fear of having their smart home held hostage, and without growing up to believe that this level of intrusion is ‘normal’.

Band-aids may help physical “boo-boos” heal faster, and sure they can cover a camera to stop prying eyes – but at the end of the day, they’re just band-aids and not a viable solution to secure and protect an entire household of smart connected things. It’s up to us — fathers and mothers — to protect and defend our families and homes from cyber crimes as diligently as we defend them from real-world physical crimes.

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