Slush Helsinki: IoT security on the rise, physical security becoming more prevalent

News by Roi Perez

As this year's Slush conference opens, securing The Internet of Things has become a hot topic with many of the exhibiting companies tackling the issue head on.

Slush Helsinki 2015 opened with a strong speech from Juha Sipila, the Prime Minister of Finland. Drawing inspiration from the past industrial revolutions throughout the centuries, he speculated on what will come next in technology in the years to come.

The security of the Internet of Things is one of the main topics at this year's conference. With an eye on the exploding market for connected devices, many startups are becoming more security conscious. 

One of the main players at Slush is F-Secure. Launching his talk with a very ominous clip showing the consequences of a house full of connected devices that aren't secured, Samu Konttinen, executive vice president of F-Secure went on to unveil its new product, the Sense security monitor. 

Sitting between the home router and all of the ‘connected' devices that link into it, it provides a ‘plug-n-play' security system designed to allow home users to protect their security and privacy from an app. By scanning for abnormal behavioural patterns, malware and phishing attacks, F-Secure hopes the Sense box means never having to buy another security solution again.

Although there wasn't much detail given on the inner workings on the box and how it actually secures the home, Konttinen told that “both the cloud infrastructure that powers the box (which allows it to do over 5 billion lookups a day) and the box itself are not hackable” -- a claim which the company says is backed by its 27 years of experience in the security industry. 

F-Secure is seeking to bring security to the mass market, and is working on an idea it calls “device reputation” that would scan all the connected devices, and give the owner an indication of where they are lacking in security, eg do they have good passwords. Further down the roadmap, Konttinen says they plan to secure cars, TVs and other miscellaneous IoT devices.

Another player opting to work in the physical security sphere is the Finnish VPN company Tosibox which offers a neat solution for accessing files remotely - a USB size security key that is designed to allow for a digital handshake to occur, so there is actual verification online that the person viewing the files is the one that is supposed to be doing so. The key itself is heavily encrypted, and if lost can be easily be de-authorised from an app provided when buying the box and key.

Speaking to the CEO of Tosibox, Tero Lepistö, he explained to SC that he predicts huge growth for the Tosibox “as it has many uses in the mass market”, as it could be used for anything from home automation, to security systems and ICS infrastructure systems, and as it is known that many ICS systems for example are not protected, Lepistö was adamant that the Tosibox is the right solution to protect such systems from outside attacks.

When asked, Aussie William Strange of Sports Performance Tracking said that he does think his device, a GPS performance tracker for contact sports such as rugby and hockey can be hacked. But he highlighted that unlike most, all data the device keeps is heavily encrypted and he proudly said that his company did not opt to release their Minimum Viable Product. He said “we're a very security conscious company, and our encryption is one way we go about protecting our customer data”.

SC also spoke to Riitta Tiuraniemi, founder of HealthOperator, a Finnish startup which has designed a health monitoring system for seniors, giving the eldertly the potential to live longer alone at home. OMAseniori is a sensor-based self-learning solution which gathers data, analyses it and provides alerts via mobile – using a smart analytics prediction engine. It is designed to give caregivers, a secured means to keep track of those they are caring for, even from a distance.

Recognising that an elderly could be seen as targets to cyber-attackers, Riitta said that “OMAseniori is a highly secured system, and was designed with the understanding that the senior can be vulnerable, especially when ill”.

Interestingly, no one is suggesting a single best best method to secure things, whether in physical form or digital, but nevertheless it is a positive thing to see that it cyber-security as an issue is gaining traction within mass market products, and even relatively small startups seem to be finally creating products with security in mind, rather than simply going to market with the most commercially viable product.


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