SAN FRANCISCO — A new batch of routers seeks to ward off hacks that leverage your smart home’s computing power for nefarious purposes.
This added protection responds to a growing security threat for households. In October, hackers used a code called Mirai to hijack home devices like DVRs and routers and create a botnet that then took down many popular websites.
Amid the outcry, security firms have seen a need and a market. Multiple devices that offer home protection from hacks are set to hit store shelves beginning in the spring.
One of the big ones comes from Norton, Symantec’s consumer brand. Called the Core, the WiFi router is being announced at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas and will go on sale in the spring for a starting price of $199. It will eventually require a monthly subscription.
It is likely to be the most accessible of several consumer-oriented WiFi routers aiming to protect the devices attached to it, from tablets, laptops, closed-circuit cameras, printers, doorbells and lightbulbs.
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 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.
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 Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerators are so incredibly diverse, using widely varied software, non-business consumers have fewer choices for security guidance, he said.
What these devices have in common is computing power. In October, hackers broke into home networks to hijack some of the computing power from devices, using it to run a robot network, or botnet, to launch a distributed denial of service attack on Dyn, the New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic.
Keeping zombie botnets out of your home network
Fear of exposure
Many Americans have been reluctant to install smart, or Internet of Things, devices specifically because they worry that they can’t secure them. Devices 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 Wi-Fi for the house and all the devices in it. As each connects to Wi-Fi, the Core identifies them, “so you can immediately see everything that’s hanging on your network,” Karim said.
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 by spring, Karim said.