How secure does your crock pot need to be?


If you let it simmer long enough, even a trojan horse will be tender.

The whole point of security is to make access to your stuff inconvenient. Not explicitly, of course, but that’s really what’s going on. If it’s harder for a bad guy to get in, it’s going to be harder for you too. It can be annoying to have to enter a pin code just to answer your phone But if someone uses it to clean out your bank account, that’s potentially a life changing event.

Does everything have to be locked down tight? When it comes to home automation, Belkin says no, believing that it’s more important to make its WeMo line of products simple to use. Offering lights, switches,cameras and other gizmos, and embedding its technology in third-party appliances – coffee makers, crockpots and humidifiers – WeMo is trying to eliminate as much complexity as possible by connecting devices directly to home WiFi routers and handling all control functions via a cloud-based server. Set up is easy, devices are controlled via a smart phone app and the backend server is both transparent and, for now at least, free.

The trade off, though, is that it doesn’t have its own security layer. Anyone with access to your WiFi network also has access to your WeMo devices.

The question is is that a problem? For most people, most of the time, probably not. Maybe your kids could figure out how to play around with the house lights, but if they have half a brain they’d probably be able to do that with pretty much any system. If you let a friend onto your network, would he or she be apt to mess with your coffee maker? Not in an evil way I’d think. Would a neighbor want to peek in on your security camera? That’s a little iffier, and creepier. So you do have to be very careful about where and how you use WeMo devices, and put some effort into maintaining a secure home network.

Home automation is still a developing market. Nothing is standard yet. So long as consumers understand and accept the responsibility they’re taking on, Belkin’s trade off – more simplicity for less security – deserves consideration.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.