Network Monitoring & Access Accountability
Worst-case scenarios could cost you your business.April 2010 By Caleb Yaryan
Talk about a worst-case scenario: The Lower Merion school district in Pennsylvania has found itself on the wrong end of an FBI investigation because of the misuse of the remote-access capabilities of some Macbooks they distributed to their students. Some of the teachers allegedly activated the built-in cameras remotely in order to spy on the students in their homes. (At least, that's how the parents reacted to the news). The school now finds itself entangled in a potentially crippling civil lawsuit and possible criminal investigation.
What do you think would happen if a CEDIA-certified integration firm, or one of their employees or third-party service partners, accessed a homeowner's network and stole pictures from one of the computers or was caught viewing private goings-on via a homeowner's IP surveillance camera? The scenario of someone within your company using the remote-access abilities of one of your systems without the knowledge or consent of the homeowner or company management is not far fetched. In fact, I would venture to say it is not uncommon. To make matters worse, there is very little you can do about accountability in the area of remote access into client networks and most, if not all, of the devices connected to it.
As an industry, I think we all agree that there is much to lose in the event a client with a connected home is violated. Integrator firms are not the only ones looking at the 'what ifs.' On February 24, 2010, the Washington Post published an article titled, "Regulation Urged on Cyber Security". Congress is reviewing testimony and recommendations that the federal government regulate industries to protect computer networks because "self-regulation is not working." The connected home is becoming one gigantic network, so our industry has to take bold and innovative steps to prevent a client from being violated and/or from the government stepping in and regulating us. Either result would be a huge problem for our industry.
Residential network monitoring is growing in popularity and represents another form of remote access, and one to which our industry needs to pay attention. Oftentimes, customer dissatisfaction is caused by common IT-related problems—modem lock-ups, network equipment failures, power outages or service-provider problems that can now be analyzed, diagnosed and remotely fixed via network-monitoring software. The benefits of network monitoring are obviously tremendous, including the ability to deliver on your company's brand promise of personalized customer service, as well as to position yourself to take advantage of emerging technologies like energy management and home health care.