Indispensable but interchangeable. Such is the problem of modern ISPs – the telcos, cable companies and satellite providers. They provide the fundamental infrastructure that keeps the entire digital ecosystem running, but they are a utility service of sorts, and thus don’t have much to differentiate themselves beyond providing a consistent on-ramp to the digital world –and how much they charge for said access.
“For most of the very recent past, the service providers have been mainly connected to customers. They are places where we can put applications and connect devices,” Eva Apesteguia, director of security services customer strategy at Allot, told PYMNTS in a recent conversation.
In the past, that has been a real disincentive to innovation in the entire segment, she noted, because at some point, the providers began defining themselves as connectivity points. But the world is constantly evolving, and ISPs have a changing place in it – one that Allot aims to help them explore. Because in a world with an increasing number of device types connecting to consumer home networks, those networks need securing now more than ever.
That has become even more true over the last several weeks, said Apesteguia, as people have transitioned en masse to working from home and logging into work from their home networks. Where there are consumers and a growing number of targets, there will always be hackers and cybercriminals probing for weak points. That’s bad news for consumers, but potentially presents an opportunity for ISPs to expand their service offering and their revenue stream by offering security services to consumers, noted Apesteguia.
A Newly Relevant Model
Over the last decade, smart devices have all been complicated, consisting of phones, gaming systems, tablets and the like, which can be independently outfitted for security. But in a world of smart speakers, toasters, appliances, lightbulbs and other IoT-connected devices that are purpose-built for very specific functions, there has emerged an entirely different species of tech — in essence, “dumb” smart devices that know exactly what they are supposed to do, and only that. And because they don’t have a complex operating system to interact with, they are hard to individually secure and fairly easy for hackers to access.
And, Apesteguia noted, although they aren’t terribly interesting things to hack into, they make for wonderful entry points to a network and all the devices on it.
“No one wants to hack a camera, maybe, but they absolutely want to use it as a stepping stone to a router and into controlling a whole network,” she said.
The network provider, as the home for all of those devices on the network, is actually the natural point to secure it — and Allot exists to help providers embed security services in their network so those ISPs can offer security to their end consumers as part of their service offering.
How a provider chooses to build that can vary, Apesteguia said. Telcos and cable services typically offer those services via one of two methods. They either build them directly into the monthly offering itself — so that a customer buys minutes, data, texting and security protections as part of a single bundle — or they tend to package it as a value-added offer, something their consumers subscribe to separately from their phone/internet service.
Whichever model they chose, the results are visible in the revenue boost, Apesteguia noted, which on the low end comes in around 5 percent and on the higher end can be 10 percent or even 15 percent, depending on the market.
And while the opportunity is becoming even more present with the advent of the IoT, the emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak has sent that process into hyperdrive.
A Rapidly Changing Landscape
The digital transition has had a major adrenaline jolt as the entire world tries to find new mechanisms for delivering once-physical services live and in real time.
“We’re seeing the network providers reporting to us that they are seeing 40 percent spikes and more internet traffic,” said Apesteguia. “Those people are telecommuting – and when they're not working, they’re doing online learning with kids home from school, they’re streaming Netflix. It makes the security space a nightmare, because hackers all over the world know everyone is sitting on the internet right now.”
In a time of widespread social distancing, digital security at the home network has gone from something that was perhaps not terribly top of mind for most consumers to an area of direct and pressing interest for almost the entire planet. ISPs are in a unique position to provide that next generation of security to their consumers, Apesteguia noted — and to expand their revenue streams while they do it.