May 17, 2020

Smart homes (and cities) have a privacy problem

Cyber Security
Harry Menear
4 min
Our homes and cities are getting smarter by the day, but if the future of urban living is intelligent, it needs to be secure as well.
“I’m your best friend … I’m Santa Claus. You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV. You can do wh...

“I’m your best friend … I’m Santa Claus. You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV. You can do whatever you want,” came the voice, not down the chimney of a Tennessee home, but through its Ring smart camera. 

Last week, the LeMay family reported that the smart camera they had bought to ensure the safety of their eight year-old daughter had been hacked, less than a week after they purchased it, by a stranger who - in the charming parlance of the original local news report - “found a way to manipulate it, turning the security device into a room of horror.” 

A hacker may have gained access due to the family not setting up two-factor authentication - according Ring, which released a statement saying that, “while we are still investigating this issue and are taking appropriate steps to protect our devices based on our investigation, we are able to confirm this incident is in no way related to a breach or compromise of Ring’s security.” 

The Amazon-owned IoT security company’s response was repeated this week in response to a Calabasas, California, woman called Tammy, whose Ring security camera began talking to her in a man’s voice, asking her to “show me some [unprintable].” Once again, Ring’s response was that poor password protection, - not their internal system - was at fault. 

IoT enabled smart devices are one of the most popular forms of home electronics, with a market that’s predicted to surpass $100bn by the end of 2019, and hit $157bn by 2023. By the start of 2020, there are expected to be more than 200 million smart speakers alone installed around the world - spreading across our kitchen counters like an army of malevolent robot cheese graters - and that's not counting IoT cameras, helpful robots and intelligent fridges

However, there’s a problematic combination of dangers that smart homes expose their owners to. The first is external; every new IoT device in your house, on your city block, is a potential endpoint for private and state-sponsored hackers. In this case, while the impetus for the highest levels of security possible rests with device manufacturers (particularly where smart city infrastructure in public places is concerned), there is also a responsibility for users who bring smart devices into their homes to educate themselves on cybersecurity best practices (that means using a different password for the camera that records you sleeping and your Club Penguin account, Tammy). 


However, any efforts by consumers to preserve their privacy mean about as much as a self-driving wheelie bin trying to go down a flight of stairs like ED-209 if that information is being sold to unknown third parties by the company that made your Amazon Alexa, Ring doorbell or Google Home Hub. 

Like the world's most expensive spy coaster

In his book Permanent Record, whistleblower Edward Snowden reflects on one of the defining moments in life - looking at a smart fridge, in a Best Buy of all places. "Where this data that your refrigerator was collecting, that your phone was collecting, that the government was collecting — where all of this data was going was intentionally hidden from us," he said. "We are no longer partner to our technology, in large part, just as we are increasingly, unfortunately, no longer partner to our government, so much as subject to them. And this is a dangerous trend." 

Government and corporate data mining is only going to be increased as 5G envelopes our cities and our streets and buildings are packed even more densely with IoT sensors, speakers and microphones. The walls have ears now and, while they’re happy to help order sushi, they’re passing that information along a very shady chain to people who use your private life to drive increased profits. 

If smart cities and smart homes are the future of our increasingly interconnected world, governments need to aggressively regulate the way that data is controlled, companies need to be transparent about exactly what they’re doing with your data, and consumers need to make it perfectly clear that the convenience and novelty of having their morning appointments read to you by Samuel L Jackson is not an acceptable trade for the near-complete erosion of their privacy. 

There’s a week to go until Christmas and I wouldn’t hold your breath for a new, privacy-focused smart home utopia. Instead, I’d recommend a more lo-fi Christmas gift, like a nice bottle of ultra-high proof Polish grain alcohol like Spirytus Duch Puszczy (£30), a cotton and polyester blended scarf (£22), a lighter (about $1.50 at any good corner shop) and the address of the parking garage where Jeff Bezos keeps his car (priceless). 

Merry Christmas. 

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Jul 26, 2021

Five9: the cloud software industry leaders acquired by Zoom

contact centre
Catherine Gray
2 min
Following the announcement of Zoom buying cloud company Five9 for almost $15billion, we take a deeper look into the company’s history and success

Five9 is the leading provider of cloud contact centre software. Driven by a passion for transforming contact centres into customer engagement centres of excellence, Five9 have a deep understanding of the cost and complexity of running a contact centre.

Founded in 2001, Five9 help contact centres of every size create powerful connections. 

The company has over 20 years of cloud contact centre experience, reaches over 2,000 customers worldwide, and annually reaches over 7 billion customer interactions. 

Built on a highly reliable, secure and scalable cloud platform, Five9 makes it easy to rapidly trial and deploy new services. Its software also future proofs businesses by supporting AI and other emerging technologies.

Utilising cloud capabilities for improved customer experience

Offering software that creates more successful customer interactions, Five9’s cloud contact centre software increases contact centre productivity. This is without the capital expense and maintenance costs of premise-based systems.

Built on flexible architecture that adapts to a company’s changing needs, Five9 customers benefit from a secure, reliable and scalable contact centre.

Five9’s cloud contact centre platform also gives customers access to an extensive ecosystem of partners. Its platform can be enhanced with leading customer relationship management, analytics, workforce management, performance management solutions and telephony providers.

By utilising cloud technology, Five9 customers have access to the latest capabilities through no-touch, non-disruptive real-time upgrades.

Five9’s recognition for industry-leading software

As a leading cloud contact centre software provider, Five9 has been recognised by leading industry publications and organisations for its success and innovative solutions.

For the fourth consecutive year, Five9 has ranked as a global leader for The Aragon Research Globe for Intelligent Contact Centres 2021. 

Five9 was also one of only three providers to earn the MetriStar Top Provider award when evaluated as part of Metrigy’s global 2021-2022 Workforce Optimisation and Engagement research study.

Five9: Zoom’s first major acquisition

Zoom Video Communications has agreed to buy Five9 for about $14.7bn, marking the company’s first major acquisition.

This deal with Five9 will help expand the company’s Zoom Phone offering.

“I believe the combination of Zoom and Five9 will be a game-changer. Joining forces will create a transformative opportunity for two strong companies with complementary capabilities and shared values,” said Five9’s CEO, Rowan Trollope.

With Zoom’s reach and brand, the acquisition will help Five9 propel forward and help the company deliver on its goal of significant international expansion

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