Home Analysis Service providers have a head-start when it comes to securing the smart...

Service providers have a head-start when it comes to securing the smart home

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Communications service providers are already looking beyond broadband access speeds to where they can differentiate in the home and secure customer loyalty and generate new revenues. A new report outlines three distinct but parallel opportunities beyond the broadband connection itself, namely connectivity+ (services ranging from premium managed Wi-Fi to pet/bag/vehicle tracking, chore automation, baby monitoring and digital butlers), the smart home (from smart door locks and alarms to health monitoring and digital assistants) and the smart city (from digital kiosks to parking optimisation and even gunshot detection).

However, before anyone can establish a greater presence in consumer homes and lives, they must ensure they can keep people, their data and their privacy safe. And the ‘Broadband and Beyond’ report, commissioned by EPAM (a leading global development, digital platform engineering, digital and product design agency) suggests that communications service providers (CSPs) are well-placed to take on this foundational role, as well as many others.

As in medicine, the golden rule in the connected and smart home should be ‘first, do no harm.’ Gartner estimates that there will be 25 billion IoT devices in use by 2021, many lacking sufficient security features. Online hackers can exploit these devices and steal personal data by attacking home networks, and consumers may not have the skills or tools to protect themselves from such attacks.

There have already been warnings. Smart home security hit the national headlines in 2014 with the disturbing discovery that footage from security cameras in homes (and gyms, and offices) was being streamed live on rogue websites, including footage from baby monitors showing children sleeping in their cribs. One showed a small boy watching television in Woking, United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, hacked CCTV cameras and printers were among the devices used by the Mirai malware to launch a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on the Dyn DNS service in 2016 – pointing to how weak home security can quickly become a global network issue.

CSPs that deploy cybersecurity technology can provide protection to all smart devices in homes on their networks without any action required by consumers. And partnering with cybersecurity vendors – as Telenet did with Israeli vendor SAM, as one example of work in this field – enriches the business value proposition for network operators by delivering network visibility, management capabilities and creating new revenue streams with additional services.

The research firm Parks Associates has found that 71% of U.S. smart home households are concerned about cybersecurity (and that concerns can intensify with device adoption). Speaking ahead of a Parks Associates connected home event last year, Derrick Dicoi, VP, Strategy and Product Management at Comcast Cable, noted the need to keep the entire home – both digital and physical – secure.

“With heightened consumer awareness around privacy, convergence between digital and physical security, in a way that does not overburden consumers, will be key,” the exec commented.

CSPs can make security one of their competitive differentiators. Together with established ecosystem partners, they have experience in:

  • Protecting high value data streams (e.g. premium video content )
  • Managing security across multiple devices cost-effectively (e.g. multi-DRM)
  • Minimising the software/processing footprint for security
  • Implementing cloud-based (and multi-territory) security implementations
  • Dynamic security (adjusting security levels to match threat exposure)
  • Partnering at a deep level with silicon and device developers and manufacturers
  • Firewalling apps from firmware and hardware (e.g. on STBs)
  • Auditing security design and implementation
  • Monitoring evolving threats at a global level
  • Proactively updating security clients (hardware and software)
  • Managing privacy-sensitive data
  • Full GDPR (and equivalent) compliance.

CSPs understand the concept of ‘security as a managed service’. They rely on ongoing relationships with consumers meaning that they have never been able to ‘sell and forget’. For many of their smart home rivals, like retailers, this will be brand new territory.

It is worth noting that some major security solution vendors that CSPs have worked with for many years on their Pay TV operations are themselves expanding into the smart home and IoT space. Irdeto, for example, has a Trusted Home solution that protects the connected home beyond the router, partly harnessing fingerprinting technology.

The Kudelski Group, which has a standalone cybersecurity unit, recently announced that it has joined Deutsche Telekom’s nuSIM initiative, which moves SIM functionality from the physical SIM card directly to the chipset. nuSIM is aimed at the IoT market where devices like trackers and sensors have new size, power and bandwidth constraints. Kudelski has over two decades of experience in embedded security.

For Deutsche Telekom, a key aim for nuSIM is enabling IoT devices and applications to be delivered cost-effectively at scale. That will be a challenge for everyone. It helps communication service providers that they are part of an ecosystem that already contains the know-how and talent that will be needed.


Broadband and beyond: the next steps for service providers

This is an edited excerpt from the new Videonet report, ‘Broadband and beyond’, which explores the opportunities for service providers in connectivity+, the smart home and smart city. It investigates the skills and technologies needed to succeed in these markets, existing service provider strengths and the transformations they need in order to do better (including the move to a data-driven culture, plus agile device and service development).

You can download the (free) report here.

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