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Startup Targets IoT Hackers With New Platform

The solution, provided by Minim, will enable Internet service providers and home owners to access information about the activities of each IoT device, via firmware downloaded onto a router and a cloud-based server that manages data and shares it with authorized users.
By Claire Swedberg
May 23, 2018

When Internet of Things (IoT) security technology startup Minim tested its new home and office Wi-Fi-management and -security technology, a connected landscape-watering system in the trial's network exhibited some suspicious behavior. The home-irrigation solution was using its Wi-Fi connection not only to provide data regarding landscape watering to home owners, but also to communicate with an unknown Russian server. The incident helped to illustrate that the need for security and management of the growing number of Wi-Fi-enabled home devices was becoming ever more critical.

Minim is now offering a package of connected home-management and -security solutions for Internet service providers (ISPs) to catch such activities as the one into which the irrigation system was lured. The system also provides tools for ISP help desks, to help them remotely understand and troubleshoot problems in customers' Internet service.

Minim's Alec Rooney
Minim was founded by Jeremy Hitchcock, the company's CEO, who has a personal understanding of how vulnerable systems can be to attack. He was also a co-founder of domain name system provider Dyn, which was attacked during the October 2016 Mirai malware botnet incident. The attack targeted Internet-connected devices, such as printers, IP cameras, residential gateways and baby monitors, all infected with the Mirai malware.

Hitchcock began working with Alec Rooney, now Minim's engineering VP. "From an IoT standpoint," Rooney says, "it wasn't like they used a sophisticated attack." Rather, he explains, they simply infected devices over time, based on their exposure to the Internet, and eventually used those devices to disable servers across many businesses.

Since that time, Hitchcock, Rooney and a team of engineers launched Minim with the mission of helping to prevent such attacks for those with home IoT systems. The vulnerabilities of IoT devices are a growing concern, Rooney notes, as many are built by consumer product companies with no special security background, using hardware from a variety of vendors, making them unwittingly prone to attack.

"The challenge is that there is no good measure of compromised devices out there," Rooney says. As such, not only does the IoT industry have little understanding of the degree of vulnerability, but device owners simply don't know whether or not hackers have compromised those smart objects—appliances, televisions, thermostats or other systems. This lack of visibility into when a device might be at risk is what Minim hopes to address, while also providing better IoT device management in each home. "Our philosophy," he states, "is to make security and network management approachable."

This year, the company has raised $2.5 million with funding from Flybridge Capital Partners and Founder Collective. The technology is being piloted by Burlington Telecom, a Vermont-based ISP, as well as several unnamed companies. Minim's IoT platform aims to help ISPs manage and secure connected homes as they become more complex, with a growing number of IoT devices.

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