In an exclusive interview with Internet of Business, Bullguard CEO Paul Lipman discusses his smart home security vision for the company.
A few months back, Paul Lipman, CEO of cybersecurity company Bullguard, decided to experiment by plugging a new product from his company into the WiFi network of his own home. The product, Dojo, which was launched yesterday, is designed to identify and protect connected devices in smart homes.
Dojo quickly got to work. Within minutes, it had spotted no fewer than 35 connected devices in Lipman’s home.
“I was pretty startled,” says Lipman, stressing that he is by no means an outlier who acquires smart devices at a ravenous pace, but actually, pretty average. “I’ve got kids in the house and I’ve got my own stuff too, and it all adds up. There are games consoles, smart TVs, Amazon Alexa devices, various other things – and they’re all talking to the internet in some way, shape or form.”
In other words, even Lipman had no idea how ‘smart’ – or how vulnerable – is own home was. Plenty of consumers are in the same position, he says, which is why Bullguard is on a mission to make smart homes more secure. That’s been the case since Lipman joined Bullguard at the start of 2016 and it’s the idea that drove the company’s acquisition of Israeli start-up Dojo-Labs in August last year.
“My vision for the company, really, from day one was that the growth of the smart home, and the growth of the numbers of devices within the smart home, would result in a real gap in the market for security protection,” he says. That’s an expansion of Bullguard’s current business model, which is mostly focused on internet and mobile security for more standard computing devices: PCs, smartphones and tablets.
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Physical and digital
This is particularly important, Lipman adds, when you start to consider how the lines are blurring rapidly between digital and physical security. As well as the laptops, smartphones and tablets that people use to shop online, conduct internet banking transactions and fill in government forms, there are now a huge number of other devices connected to home WiFi networks that need protection.
Many of them, moreover, relate specifically to the physical security of the home such as smart locks and connected security cameras. The prospect of somebody being able to compromise such devices in order to unlock a front door or spy on a home to check its occupants are out, says Lipman, is a real worry.
So Dojo, which plugs into a home’s WiFi router, focuses on protecting the home network, as well as the devices connected to that network. A green light on the Dojo pebble says all is well. A yellow light might indicate that an attempt was made to connect to the network, but was blocked. A red light alerts the homeowner to take action, via Dojo’s smartphone app – clicking ‘block’, for example.
“What we’ve done is to take enterprise-class network security but deliver it in a way that’s incredibly simple for the average consumer to use,” says Lipman. “Many of these new devices are inherently insecure because manufacturers don’t have any incentive or motivation to secure these devices. They’re focused on time-to-market and on staying ahead of the curve in very fast-moving categories.”
Read more: Smart home revenue to top $ 190bn by 2021
But doesn’t that suggest a situation where the homeowner is potentially bombarded with Dojo alerts, which soon become a stressful and time-consuming distraction from daily routine? Not at all, says Lipman, because there’s some clever intelligence going on the back end that will make every installed Dojo device smarter over time.
“What we’re building here, our secret sauce, if you will, is collective intelligence that works across the entirety of our customer base to learn about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour,” he says.
“For example, you might have a Nest thermostat, which typically sends small amount of data back and forth to Google – but if we see it sending or receiving data to a new location, maybe Russia, we’ll block [that data flow] immediately and apply the same rule across all Dojos in near real time. These learnings about good and bad behaviour, how different devices perform and behave, enables us to take more and more of that need to interact away from the customer. Instead, we provide it as a managed service to them.”
“That makes it easier for them to bring new devices into their own homes without worry. A safer smart home shouldn’t be complicated.”
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