Firedome’s celebration of innovation at CES 2020

For a few decades now, CES has become synonymous with “innovation”. Tech companies, journalists and enthusiasts from every corner of the globe gather to witness the latest innovations and learn where the tech industry is headed next. 

For us, the party started earlier than usual this year. We were thrilled to discover that the 2020 event would feature Firedome not only as a booth presenter, but also as part of its Innovation Award Winners Showcase. We couldn’t be happier and more honored to be named the winners of the CES 2020 Innovation Award for Cybersecurity and Personal Privacy, and to learn that the industry’s best recognize the unique benefits of Firedome’s real-time endpoint cybersecurity solution for IoT device manufacturers. This added a lot of excitement to this already-anticipated event. 

To make this year’s conference even more special and memorable, we prepared a few surprises that demonstrate our latest advancements, as well as the importance of IoT security. 

Here they are:

The shifting burden: taking responsibility for IoT security

Prior to the formal opening of the event, we were honored to present at the IoT Consortium’s members meeting, where our CEO, Moti Shkolnik, talked about how ownership of safety and security is shifting across the IoT industry, drawing some insights from other industries. Let’s go back in time. Imagine yourself in the 1940s. What’s wrong with this picture?

Not only is no one wearing a seatbelt, the car itself was not even equipped with them! That’s right – while admittedly, there is much about this image that evokes a positive kind of nostalgia and the feeling of simpler times, it really was a much more dangerous time to be on the road. In fact, Americans were three times more likely to die in a car accident in the 1940s compared to today.

So, what really happened between those days and now to dramatically improve safety? Did car manufacturers take it upon themselves to make cars safer and reduce deaths? Did drivers take matters into their own hands and find safety products on their own to install in their cars? While it would be lovely if the first option were true, unfortunately neither of these options is correct. Only when the government stepped in and required car manufacturers to install seat belts in 1967 and then airbags in 1984, did death rates finally drop.

However, there was one very notable exception among car manufacturers that did not wait around for legislation to start putting safety at the forefront of their brand positioning. One player who did take initiative and install seat belts even before it was legally required. Thanks to engineer Nils Bohlin from Volvo, not only did the company install seatbelts 10 years before it was legally required, but his invention has saved over one million lives since 1958. 

So what does all this car history have to do with the IoT industry today? While attacks have been dramatically on the rise for about a decade, it is the media that has helped accelerate the shift of responsibility for IoT security to the manufacturers. And if media pressure causing recalls wasn’t bad enough, consumers have also begun taking matters into their own hands with class action lawsuits against repeat offenders whose products leak private information. 

While media pressure has been enough to stress some manufacturers to look for proactive solutions, it is government legislation that has been the prime accelerant of the overall urgency in the industry. So, much like the impact of seat belt legislation in 1968, proactive cybersecurity is likely to become standard in the next few years. If IoT manufacturers study the auto industry, they will see that thinking like Volvo and keeping ahead of the game comes with huge brand and positioning advantages.

The vacuum that collects dust… and personal information

When people think of IoT security, they often focus on devices such as smart cameras, personal assistants and smart locks. That’s why we dedicated our CES 2020 booth demo to spreading an important message: it’s the less likely smart home devices that should also be protected and feared, for a number of reasons.

  • No IoT device is safe because they are all connected to the same network as other more valuable or more vulnerable devices. This means that your smart fridge is just a few small steps away from leading hackers into your bank account, so if it’s the easier device to hack, it becomes a target. 
  • Hackers prefer unsuspecting users. They know consumers and manufacturers are far less worried about certain, seemingly harmless devices, which is why they target them. They have good reasons to assume that when purchasing the device, consumers pay less attention to security issues, as do the manufacturer who designed the product. 
  • New devices and software are released every minute, which makes it hard for security professionals to overcome every loophole. Hackers are well-aware of these vulnerabilities and choose to go for the smart home devices that are not updated and have default passwords as their entry point to go after consumers’ data. 

To add a little stardust to our CES booth, we chose to demonstrate how a smart vacuum cleaner can be used to harass or burglarize a celebrity’s home. We showed visitors exactly why and how hackers target IoT devices and how short the path is from the last tool you would think of as dangerous to the ability to spook you or access your most intimate personal data. 

The demo was entirely interactive and allowed CES visitors to experience the hack through the attacker’s eyes, which was as exciting as it was alarming. The smart vacuum cleaner quickly led the celebrity stalker to the exact address of a target home with the right combination of vulnerable devices, and enabled them to terrorize the high profile homeowner for a variety of malicious purposes. 

We always hear about celebrity phones getting hacked, their private pictures and videos illegally extracted from devices and leaked to the public. This time CES visitors got a front row seat at the most thrilling drama Hollywood could come up, with the stars themselves in the crosshairs.

The jungle of consumer privacy and security

In addition to eye-opening demos, we were invited to share our views at the Connections Summit at CES panel (#CONNSummit20). Firedome’s Co-founder and CEO, Moti Shkolnik, joined other leaders in the field for a panel titled “Privacy and Security: Protecting Consumers”. 

The panel addressed the trust issues that surround technology today due to users’ understandable inability to feel safe and secure. Speakers discussed various solutions, as well as the importance of communicating security efforts to today’s customers. As Moti indicated in his introduction of Firedome’s solution, “it really is the missing link of security that is so desperately needed in the industry”. 

We were honored to join experts such as Marcio Avillez, SVP of Business Development at CUJO AI; Anurag Gupta, Director Business Development at ARM, and many others. The roundtable discussion allowed panelists to share important ideas that encouraged both B2B and B2C listeners to give their security efforts and related communication a second thought. Here are a few takeaways from this panel we wanted to share with you: 

  • The criteria by which consumers evaluate smart devices has changed. A few years ago, it was mainly about price, features, ease of use, etc. Today it’s really more about whether they can trust the device.
  • Device-agnostic cybersecurity solution is key. Educating consumers is important, but it can only go so far. Consumers will have both higher quality and lower quality devices within their home, so security solutions should be equipped for both extremes of devices.
  • Visibility on the manufacturers’ side is very important. There is a lot of discussion around privacy, security and protection, but when we provide manufacturers with some data about their devices, they can actually act upon it.
  • Security is really an opportunity, because consumers are willing to pay for secure devices that don’t risk their privacy. There is obviously a security gap in the industry. Those manufacturers who will be the first to understand how their ROI is based on security would gain a very important competitive edge and will be considered leaders in their respective industry.
  • There is a great emphasis on creating standards to control the cybersecurity level of devices. The industry has to make sure that these standards take into account the fact that hacking strategies evolve by the day, so security solutions should be ranked based on their ability to do the same.

Hackscape the Room: Saving the World from the Teslatron Apocalypse

Last but far from least was Firedome’s own VIP private event, presented in the form of an escape room game. The premise was a real-time impending AI Armageddon, where Elon Musk turns to the dark side and tries to bring upon the AI Apocalypse he has been warning the world against for years. Participants were armed with special clues to hack their way throughout the house to uncover a special Firedome-developed worm and then escape to use it to take down Elon’s Testaltron army that was about to take CES (and then the rest of the world) hostage.

 The experience successfully delivered the message that cybersecurity is a never ending tango between hackers and security professionals, where each party is focused on developing new methods and solutions to bypass the other’s abilities.   

The hackscape experience gave attendees the opportunity to experience hacks across a range of devices while proving that just because security is serious business, doesn’t mean that a gamified environment isn’t the best possible way to communicate innovations in the field. 

Attendees also enjoyed a fancy chef dinner in a gorgeous penthouse with an amazing strip view. This was the perfect atmosphere for intimate conversations between the movers and the shakers of the IoT industry. Each of the event attendees left with his/her own ‘hacking survival kit’. 

We’re planning to host a similar exclusive event during #CONNUS20 taking place in San Francisco in May. Who are going to be the lucky ones to save the world again?  

CES is always an exciting event, and this year proved to be the best one yet. We were fortunate enough to share our thoughts and solution with event participants, and were even recognized for our hard work and the results it brings. As we look back at last year’s event where we officially launched our offering, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and how much the cybersecurity focus for IoT devices has marched forward. 

This past year was a particularly brilliant one, with a successful $10M funding round taking place just a few months ago, and CES 2020 was the icing on the cake. The promise of what is yet to come gives us every reason to feel optimistic and work even harder for our customers and their end users. We would like to take this opportunity and thank every person who stopped by our booth and joined our event, as well as the amazing team that organized this massive celebration of innovation. We can’t wait for next year’s event and are already thinking up some original and creative concepts.      

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