With 23% of office employees expecting to work primarily from home for the foreseeable future and another 16% planning to telecommute at least half of the time, according to a recent Hewlett-Packard report, home-based workers will be under increasing pressure to take responsibility for their own data security. Technology vendors are stepping up to the challenge.
There’s plenty of advice out there about how to secure home networks, including this outstanding PC World roundup. If you use strong passwords on sensitive accounts, encrypt Wi-Fi traffic, keep your malware protection up to date, and back up to the cloud, you should be covered. But not everyone has the expertise or time to attend to all the details.
A slew of new products has emerged recently that aim to take the fuss out of securing home offices, which are also increasingly part of home networks that may encompass dozens of connected devices. In most cases these products move protection off the endpoint and into the cloud where substantial computing power and artificial intelligence can be applied. For example, Intrusion’s Shield Platform uses AI for deep packet inspection and network traffic analysis to spot erratic behavior that could indicate an attack or intrusion.
Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting innovations I’ve come across.
HP has been an innovator in endpoint security for a long time. One little-known feature that’s been built into its business PCs for a couple of years is Sure Click, a technology developed by the principal architect of the open source Xen virtualization hypervisor. Sure Click creates miniature virtual machines for individual tasks on a PC to isolate them from the operating system or underlying hardware, making it all but impossible for an infected application to do any harm.
One particularly nice feature is that Sure Click’s virtual machine protection is also automatically applied to browser sessions and email attachments. Website scripts and downloaded attachments automatically launch in a virtual machine, thus cutting off one of the most common attack vectors for viruses and ransomware. I’ve been using the product for over a year and have been impressed at its performance and minimal footprint. It’s surprising that HP doesn’t sell a packaged version because this seems to me to be something every PC user should have.
Protection in the cloud
Several vendors have recently expanded existing consumer products to incorporate more work-from-home security features. Ring, which is famous for its internet-enabled video doorbell, just came out with a high-end version of its home-security system that includes a router. The Ring Alarm Pro combines physical and network security with the managed service that tracks millions of malicious websites and automatically blocks most threats. Over-the-air updates ensure that protections are always current.
Palo Alto Networks just introduced a consumer and small business version of its Okyo Garde appliance, which combines the broad coverage of a Wi-Fi 6 mesh network with security services that protect all connected devices. That’s important now that TVs, printers, and home security systems are increasingly connected and creating attractive targets for cyber criminals. Like the Ring Alarm Pro, the Okyo Garde comes with a subscription service that replaces a patchwork of point security products with a single cloud suite that guards against malware, ransomware, phishing, intrusion detection, and other perils. With subscriptions starting at $349 per year, the solution isn’t cheap, but for many people, the simplicity will be worth the price tag.
Another hardware-based solution is Trend Micro’s Home Network Security station. It’s a small box that plugs into your router and monitors all traffic traversing the network while continually scanning for attacks, blocking access to malicious websites, and detecting anomalies such as mysterious new devices. One cool feature is its integration with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Echo to deliver audio alerts and enable management by voice. At $109.95 for the device and a one-year subscription, it’s a pretty good deal as well.
Acronis has bagged more than $400 million in funding for its service that combines continual backup and cyber security. In September it introduced a home office version that incorporates anti-malware, protection against zero-day attacks, and automatic restoration of data damaged during a ransomware attack. What’s unique about the company’s approach is that it mirrors the content of a customer’s entire hard disk to enable exact restoration of their operating environment without a lot of installation and configuration.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s an example of how enterprise-grade security is becoming available to home-office workers, and at prices that any consumer can appreciate.
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