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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 9, 2017

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CES 2017: The top 5 trends in security tech

IoT developers will literally put a computer chip in anything but the camera still reigns supreme for media coverage when it comes to security products.

As CES 2017 closes its doors for another year, let’s take a look at some of the trends that have emerged, or accelerated, this time around.

1. Is the IoT industry finally taking cyber vulnerabilities seriously?

“The sharks have smelled the blood in the water and they’re now circling to use your IoT device for further attacks,” James Lyne, global head of security research for Sophos, told CNBC.

“Chances are right now if you’re buying an Internet of Things device, you’re more likely to be buying something insecure, than secure,” continued Lyne, who has demonstrated on YouTube how to hack a security camera.

Ominous words indeed. With the number of IoT devices projected to grow from 12 billion to about 30 billion by 2020, the vectors of cyber attack are multiplying faster than cyber security professionals (of whom there are all too few) can keep up with.

Security is little more than an afterthought on too many devices, with criminals able to guess default usernames and passwords by trawling Google.

If this year’s CES was anything to go by, the industry may belatedly be waking up to the threat.

Symantec Norton unveiled what it claims is the most secure router in the world. A geodesic orb, it looks like it could be an object of portentous power in a sci-fi fantasy film.

And it is powerful: boasting a 1.7GHz dual-core chip processor and 802.11ac Wi-Fi broadcasting on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, with a maximum throughput of 2,500Mbps. Core will inspect every packet of data for known malware and will automatically quarantine any device running firmware known to be a security risk.

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Securifi, meanwhile, launched a mobile app that highlights vulnerabilities like easy to guess passwords or open ports and shows users how to remedy them.

The next-generation of Bitdefender BOX was launched in Las Vegas too. Bitdefender’s IoT security hardware protects against malware, hackers, ransomware, phishing and other online threats with data anonymization, malware scanning, machine-learning algorithms and network intrusion prevention technology.

Fortress UTM from Fortress Cyber Security was the first solution of its type, a residential unified threat management (UTM) that combats data theft, ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and the commandeering of corporate IT resource to distribute stolen content or sexually explicit material.

microwave-cooking-for-one

The 1980s: anything and everything went in the microwave

2. Developers will literally put a chip in anything

When microwave ovens became popular in the 1980s many people got so excited they cooked literally anything and everything in them – from  bacon to whole chickens (no doubt many people still do) – and were egged on by ostensibly authoritative cookbooks dedicated to the art of microwave cooking.

The still fairly novel concept of connecting everyday objects to the internet has set loose a comparable mania for applying the IoT concept as widely as possible.

I drew up a list of the most banal ‘things’ I could think of and Googled them with the prefix ‘smart’. Of the seven I Googled, four had already been ‘enhanced’ with a computer chip and Wi-Fi connection

From homeware to clothing and personal accessories, no ‘thing’ is too humdrum that someone hasn’t already put a computer chip in it – or eventually will.

For every transformative invention there are countless downright daft ones – it’s very much about throwing the proverbial mud against the proverbial wall at this juncture.

To put this to the test I drew up a list of the most common-or-garden ‘things’ I could think of and Googled them with the prefix ‘smart’. Of the seven I Googled, four had already been ‘enhanced’ with a computer chip and Wi-Fi connection:

  • Toilet roll holder – bingo!
  • Duvet cover – bullseye!
  • Cushion – of course 
  • Sofa – alas, no!
  • Breadbin – no, but it’s only a matter of time
  • Shoehorn – Surely not? Not. Yet.
  • Mirror – surely facial analysis is the last thing you need?

Twenty years from now we’ll look back and marvel at a handful of technologies that had a profound impact on reducing drudgery and enhancing our leisure times. And then we’ll consider the smart hairbrush (something the satirical account @theinternetofshit has already railed against). Or the smart suitcase cover.

Either way, the staggering proliferation in connected things also represents a growth in the number of bridgeheads from where hackers can invade your network and infect your network with malware.

It will be fascinating to see which ones sink without a trace (later to re-emerge on ‘what were they thinking?’ type TV programmes), which ones sell well and which ones have a meaningful impact on society. And it probably isn’t as obvious which ones fall into which category as you might think.

3. Cameras are king – just as in the commercial security world…

Walk around any major security trade show and CCTV cameras still dominate. The emergence of video analytics and ever higher resolutions have sustained interest in cameras long after countries like the UK reached saturation point with network camera coverage.

Now surveillance cameras have been repackaged for the consumer market they’re eclipsing other security technologies in terms of media coverage and number of products launched there too.

Trawl Google, Twitter and other platforms for CES 2017 related security tech and cameras and you’ll see what I mean.

Here are just five of the numerous security cameras launched at CEs 2017:

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4. …and many of them are embedded in lightbulbs, lamps and floodlights

If cameras are king then one type of camera in particular has been apparent this year: the surveillance camera-cum-lamp, bulb or outdoor floodlight.

Light bulb maker Bell & Wyson launched a light bulb with a concealed camera at CES 2017. The low energy (11W) LED bulb-cum-camera has a TF slot and two-way microphone and will stream footage to tablets and smartphones via Wi-Fi.

Ring also launched an outdoor floodlight camera. A motion-activated security camera the Floodlight Cam features built-in 3K lumen LED floodlights, a 270-degree field-of-view, facial recognition, a 110-decibel siren alarm, two-way audio and infrared night vision.

And lighting manufacturer Maximus debuted a floodlight with integrated security camera and two-way speaker. The camera streams video in 1080p HD video, while the motion sensor can detect motion as far as 70 feet away.

 

5. DIY installation a potential threat to service providers

For installers, home automation has long meant installing high-spec systems for highly affluent customers or technophiles who could just about stretch to the prohibitive cost.

The falling cost of the technology means this is changing, but just as a new opportunity presents itself, another threat becomes apparent.

Most IoT kit can be installed by the user and doing so is only becoming easier, as the tech on show at CES 2017 has demonstrated. So why part with cash for professional installation or  monthly fees for round-the-clock monitoring?

Thankfully for installers, 79% of smart-home customers told Alarm.com that installation is best left to the professionals, with professional installations potentially offering lower insurance rates.

To stay relevant installers “should allow homeowners more freedom to customise systems with the devices and services they really want, else they lose more customers to the DIY market,” according to Bryn Huntpalmer.

 

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