With more devices in the home connected to the internet than ever before, is it time we started looking at online security a little differently?

Vodafone Connect router

How safe is your home network and the devices connected to it? Chances are your laptop or desktop runs antivirus software, but is that device-first approach enough to keep you safe in 2015, or is it a bit old hat?

Worry not: we’ve been speaking to Vodafone’s innovations guru Patrick Harrison-Harvey to find out what the future of online security looks like, and how we at Vodafone UK are going to be right at the very forefront…

The state of play

“Right now I’m trying to figure out what the next generation of security threats will look like,” says Patrick “I’m looking into security’s future.”

Like all things in life that we ‘should’ do or ‘have’ to do, we know it can be difficult to get excited about online security. But what if we told you that things were about to get a lot simpler? Keeping your data out of the hands of others should be a top priority, especially now we’ve hit a stride in which we’re so rarely offline, so it’s a good thing that doing just that will soon be a lot smarter and easier than it is currently:

“In the past, the tech security industry for consumers has always been very PC orientated. But as our devices are constantly changing there’s now more of a need to move away from client-based security applications for computers and smartphones – which are based on protecting specific devices, rather than you.

And that, as Patrick explains, spells trouble for today’s connected home…

nest

“The world has so many more products in the home that can be accessed and controlled over the internet now,” he says. “Games consoles and Kindles, for instance, aren’t easy to get security software on, but they’re just as easily attacked for your personal data as your PC. Then there are these types of devices that are even harder to get security software on, like web enabled cameras or smart thermostats, for example – what’s to stop someone hacking into the latter and figuring out when you’re not home based on your heating routine?

“In that light, the traditional antivirus approach is a bit outdated, and not very user friendly; it requires you to manage multiple applications on multiple devices, including setup and settings for every single one.”

So what’s the solution? Simple: you take the security out of the device, and move it into whichever network that device is connecting to – whether it’s your smartphone, your PC, your games console, or something else entirely…

Keeping every device safe

“What you want is one central point to cover all your needs,” Patrick says. “And there are a few products out there in the market like that at the moment – ones that take online protection and security to the house level, so that everything at home is protected.”

Sound good? There are two ways to achieve this ‘house level’ protection: one is for your ISP to inject antivirus software into the network itself, while the other is for users to put it into their Wi-Fi router, or into a specific device that connects to it. That way your content is filtered (in both directions) before it gets to the devices.”

networktesting

“There are now solutions on the market taking a new approach,” says Patrick, “You connect the box and then the company does the antivirus work in the cloud, so that every device connected to your Wi-Fi is covered.”

That’s a great way to take things into your own hands right now, but the really good news is that we’re actively looking into the smart security space, meaning you won’t have to in the future. And this approach, which brings the security software typically found in individual devices up to the connection level, is a perfect fit for Vodafone:

“We’re reviewing different solutions,” says Patrick. “The place we want to get to would be where there’s one solution protecting all your data on all your devices, wherever you are and however you’re connected. We’re looking at the different ways to deliver that, for the home and for mobile.”

 

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“As an example, Vodafone Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany have recently launched a service called Secure Net, which effectively puts the protection onto the network side of things. “It’s a great solution, meaning there is no need to have an app running on the device, giving you back some precious battery too.”

An extra benefit there is that your security solution becomes platform agnostic, so we’re not restricted to trying to make things work across different mobile or desktop systems.”

That’s mobile covered, then, but what about Wi-Fi? Well, with Vodafone Connect ready to revolutionise your home broadband, we’ve never been in a better position to eye up online security’s next logical step:

“With so many devices connecting to the internet, and so many places to do so, we need to focus on making it simpler for our customers to protect themselves online. The ideal would be to have one location to set the protection level for any device, giving you the same protection whether you’re at home or out having a coffee – and whether the device is your computer, smartphone or even your kettle.”

Making things easy

Whatever the solution, Patrick’s unwavering on one key point: it’s not for us to dictate what anyone can or can’t see online:

“We need to give choice, not prescribe,” he tells us. “It’s about showing the broad topics that you may or may not want your family viewing, without stopping anyone viewing anything – apart from the things we’re legally obliged to block.’

“Our approach would always be to tell the customer that they’ve got the option to set content controls. If they want to set them, then it’s our job to make it nice and easy, and to let them set up one profile that cascades to all their devices. That’s the future.”

Safer by the minute… Check out some amazing 1 minute short films about tech safety, made entirely by UK school students.