Home wireless networks are set for a makeover


In-brief: In our latest Security Ledger podcast, we talk with Luma founder and CEO Paul Judge, a serial entrepreneur (Ciphertrust, Purewire, Pindrop) whose latest venture seeks to bring enterprise-quality wireless to the home market, improving both security and management along the way.

This past Monday – Cyber Monday – was the biggest online shopping day in the history of the U.S. and a reminder (if you needed one) that the holiday shopping season is upon us. And this year, connected “smart home” products are a hot category of gifts. From Internet connected light bulbs and desk lamps to virtual assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home to connected cameras, home networks are set to receive a bump in connected endpoints of all different shapes and sizes just as soon as the wrapping paper is off.

In most homes, those devices will join a slew of other connected endpoints from laptop and desktop computers to tablets and mobile phones to gaming systems.

Paul Judge founded Luma, a company that sells wireless mesh networking products for the home. (Image courtesy of Twitter.)
Paul Judge founded Luma, a company that sells wireless mesh networking products for the home. (Image courtesy of Twitter.)

But for many home owners, the security of their home network is still a topic that is best avoided. Broadband modems and wireless routers are often left unpatched and insecure. Connected cameras, digital video recorders and other devices often run embedded linux and harbor serious and exploitable vulnerabilities. And recent events, such as the rise of the Mirai botnet, show us that these devices are sought after prey for cyber criminals.

Add to that the strain that connected products like smart television sets and cameras will add to single-hub  wireless networks and you’ve got a recipe for the blues. But, for many homeowners, security is simply an afterthought. In fact, a recent study by the firm Luma found that 2 of every 3 connected home networks contain a network security threat, while 65% of home networks have five devices connected to them that contain security threats.

Fortunately, changes are afoot in the home networking space. After years in which the market for home Wi-Fi products languished, there’s action and change happening all around. In October, for example, Google introduced Google WiFi, which offers wireless mesh networking for the home and more advanced management features than you get with most home wireless hotspots.

Luma is another company in that space – a startup with its roots in enterprise security. In addition to addressing the wireless access and ease of use issues, CEO Paul Judge says the company is looking to bring enterprise grade wireless security to the home.

Judge should know: he’s a serial entrepreneur whose previous companies – CipherTrust, Purewire (acquired by Barracuda) and Pindrop – targeted businesses with advanced security features for issues such as web security and call fraud. Luma, which landed a $12.5 million Series A investment from Amazon’s investment arm.

I had the chance to talk with Paul by phone last week about his new company and the myriad security problems plaguing the home network space. He noted that home networks have largely been left out of the technology advancements in wireless security that businesses long ago embraced through vendors like Meraki Networks (now part of Cisco), Aruba Networks and others. That may be changing, led in part by Judge’s Luma.

You can check out our conversation below in the latest Security Ledger podcast. Just a note: the interview happened over cell phone on Paul’s end. It’s all clearly audible, but the fidelity is not great on that end.

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