[ISN] Wanted: Simple home security
isn at c4i.org
Thu Oct 7 05:49:43 EDT 2004
[I agree with the author, but I belive the real incentive needs to be
with the end user, no black box security device, and your rates for
DSL and internet cable modem become more expensive. - WK]
By Jon Oltsik
October 6, 2004
How much data can fit through broadband pipes? The next big broadband
battle is going to turn on that very question.
With data speeds increasing and monthly charges now within range of
most family budgets, you should expect a sharp increase in Internet
usage across a range of devices from PCs and telephones to stereos and
refrigerators. But that will inevitably invite more attacks from
worms, viruses, Trojan horses and malicious hackers.
You'd think the broadband suppliers would tackle the security void (or
even view it as a revenue opportunity).
Instead, cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) providers are taking
baby steps. They prefer to address the security issue by providing a
combination of bundles, evaluation software and Web-based advice.
Qwest Communications International and Verizon Communications include
a free license for MSN Premium, which includes antivirus and firewall
protection, along with pop-up blocking. AT&T and several others
provide little more than 30-day trials for security software.
That puts the burden of responsibility on customers. Savvy home users
will go to the store and pick up a copy of McAfee or Symantec's
Internet security suite that has antivirus, antispam, firewall and
Here's the problem. As more bandwidth and devices connect to the
Internet, the home network starts to get complex. Suddenly, you need
security software on every device in the house. You have to manage
configuration changes, patch vulnerabilities, filter content and
download the latest antivirus signatures all over the house. Soon, dad
has taken on a new role as the family security administrator. If the
old man lacks these skills or ignores routine tasks, every system is
I don't know about you, but I barely have enough time to hang out with
my kids, keep up with the bills, walk the dog and mow the lawn. I
don't want to fill my precious few moments of personal time with
maintaining residential firewall rules or deleting spyware.
What's needed is a simple home security service with two dominant
* The security service must not require any security knowledge. Upon
installation, the security service asks me a few simple questions
(in English, mind you), and then configures itself to my needs. It is
dynamic in that it continues to maintain my security, even as
* All I have to do to preserve my security protection is pay a monthly
bill. My estimate is that this service would cost between $5 and $15
It's as simple as that. What Internet user wouldn't sign up?
This isn't a pie-in-the-sky concept. Several companies from different
industry sectors could take a leadership role. The right firm would
need skills in security, services, customer service and distribution,
backed up by a billing system that could handle monthly cycles.
The most plausible candidates come from the traditional security
industry crowd, with Symantec and McAfee in the poll position. Both of
these companies could use existing products to build a residential
security "black box" and sell it through their traditional retail
channels. They also have established services capabilities. A number
of other security vendors, including Computer Associates
International, Fortinet, Jupiter Networks' NetScreen and WatchGuard
have security products and services but lack a consumer distribution
PC networking companies like Belkin, D-Link, Cisco Systems' Linksys
and Netgear could also make a play, as they have some security,
distribution, services expertise. Not a perfect match but certainly
the foundation for what is needed.
Of course, a single broadband provider could pioneer home security
services and effectively change the rules of the game. For example,
Verizon could establish a relationship with a security technology
vendor, develop a model for cooperative development and support, then
use existing pieces of its business to market, sell and bill its
broadband subscribers. Security could be used in promotions to
differentiate Verizon from cable providers to attract new customers.
This would require some risk taking and strategic vision--not exactly
qualities associated with cable or telecommunications companies.
Broadband subscribers don't care who offers this service or which
technologies they use. They care about getting rid of the security
burden forever, and they'll gladly fork over $10 a month in perpetuity
to make this happen. Undoubtedly, the company that comes up with the
right home security services business model first will be an instant
security leader and make a ton of money in the process.
Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.
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