If you hadn’t already noticed, home networks are quickly becoming a high demand, bandwidth sensitive and complex environment potentially exceeding anything found in business. Mulberry Sellers, Mark Twain’s iconic character based on the real-life Dr. Matthew Fleming "M. F." Stephenson (1802–1882) uttered the famous lines: “There’s gold in them thar hills” and “there’s millions in it.” There may not be millions in home networks, but extending services into users’ home networks makes a lot of sense for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and IT providers.
According to a report from the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online MBA program in 2015:
“45 percent of US employees work from home and 53 million people work as freelancers, contributing $715 billion (£464 billion) annually to the American economy. Of these freelancers, 40 percent are independent contractors, 27 percent are moonlighters, 18 percent are diversified workers, 10 percent are temporary workers and five percent are freelance business owners.”
If that’s the case, it would appear that for a big portion of those 45% of employees working from home, the home network is not afforded the same level of management and security services as the business network is given by MSPs and IT providers. That’s putting the businesses those employees connect to at risk—spam, phishing, and ransomware emails don’t distinguish between a home network or business network. On top of this, network problems at home could impede productivity and cause delays in time-sensitive projects.
And things are set to get worse. According to data from Juniper Research, there will be over 38 Billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in operation by 2020. While this may be thanks to businesses more than consumers, there is a large number and more diverse set of IoT devices going into consumers’ homes. Putting these devices into networks which are not only critical to those employee’s working from home by day could impact business network stability—if not done correctly. But there is another important consideration: the home network also forms the primary means of entertainment in addition to providing the means for researching homework assignments and participation in online courses.
A 2015 report by Internet service tracking firm, Sandvine, suggests streaming audio and video services have hit a new high. Traffic from these services now accounts for over 70 percent of North American downstream traffic in the peak evening hours on fixed access networks—five years ago, it accounted for less than 35 percent.
From the cyber-criminal perspective, an IP address for a home network or a business is almost equally desirable to land a ransomware infection. Yet, in many home networks, security is almost non-existent. This is where the MSPs and IT providers can leverage a “basic security offering” and land it into the home:
Finally, the big opportunity for MSPs and IT Providers may be found in providing backup services. Home networks can have Terabytes of media; and in many cases that media may only be found on a single, non-redundant hard drive located in the basement. Precious memories, pictures, movie and audio files could all be at risk; keeping those collections safe could make you a hero to your users as well as at work if ransomware breaks out at home.
Ian Thornton-Trump, CSA+, CD, CEH, CNDA is CTO at Octopi Managed Services Inc. Ian is an ITIL certified Information Technology (IT) consultant with more than 20 years of experience in IT security and information technology. He enjoys and maintains a strong commitment to the security community. From 1989 to 1992, Ian served with the Canadian Forces (CF), Military Intelligence Branch; in 2002, he joined the CF Military Police Reserves and retired as a Public Affairs Officer in 2013.
You can follow Ian on Twitter® at @phat_hobbit.
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