If the future looks anything like what sci-fi shows have promised, then the smart home will soon do everything for us. For better or worse, we can already talk to our refrigerators, control the temperature or lighting with our smartphones, yell “Hey, Alexa” into the void to order groceries or cue up the latest Shaggy jam. Even Barbie’s Dreamhouse responds to voice commands. Of course, for every device that gets hooked up to the internet, there’s a story of someone hacking it. A clever new device hopes to change that.
By the end of 2017, an estimated 8.4 billion connected devices will control the way we interact with the world, making our lives smarter, easier, and a little less safe. The smart TV that spies on you. The digital teddy bear that listens to your kid’s conversations. The car that hackers can hijack remotely while you’re driving it. If you think nobody’s interested in hacking your smart dishwasher—what would a hacker even do, change the rinse cycle?—well, think again. A compromised connected device provides a gateway into just about everything else on its network, which can make hacking your entire smart home as simple as finding the weakest link.
Unless, of course, you had some kind of anti-virus protection for your entire Wi-Fi network. That’s the idea behind Dojo, a new product from internet security company BullGuard. The device connects to your Wi-Fi router and works like an IoT immunization to monitor activity on devices and flag potential threats. It goes on sale today for $200, which includes the hardware and the first year of service.
The system breaks down into several parts: A dock plugs directly into the Wi-Fi router, where it acts like a firewall between your connected devices and potential threats. A pebble-shaped piece of hardware, designed to look like an unobtrusive “digital pet rock,” displays security updates—green for all clear, yellow for suspicious activity, and red for threats that require further action. If the system detects a threat, it can automatically disconnect the affected devices to keep the malware from leeching data or hacking into other devices. You can control the whole system through a smartphone app, which uses a chat-like interface to communicate security alerts and includes a function to remotely control or disconnect devices.
The platform also uses machine learning to understand the habits of your smart devices, and flag any activity that seems suspicious. If your baby monitor suddenly starts transferring data to your Nest thermostat, a device that should stand alone, the system would mark that as unusual and push an alert through to your smartphone. Over time, it develops deeper pattern recognition to better diagnose abnormalities in the way your devices interact with one another, in turn improving the security of your devices.
The Dojo is just one of a handful of security-focused routers and accessories, and only time only time will tell how well it defends against hacks in real time. But it certainly seems wise to have some method of protection for securing the things in your home, rather than discovering that someone’s hacked their way into your smart dishwasher after it’s already too late.