Even for those who did not attend the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, it was difficult to avoid certain buzzwords bandied about by the press as they attempted to identify trends and provide some semblance of a framework for the massive and week-long trade show. One buzzword almost impossible to avoid was the Internet of Things (IoT). As one walked through the huge conference halls, filled corner to corner with hundreds of exhibitor booths, an overwhelming majority of companies displayed products that in one capacity or another utilized the cutting-edge ability to connect devices of all kinds.
Of course, this meant that many of the products began to blur together into unending versions of the same household appliances controlled via smartphone app, the same watches connected to users’ smartphones, or the same wearables sending a user’s heart rates to a PC or Mac. So while it is truly exciting and intensely interesting to know that soon the consumer may be able to walk into a hotel room and adjust the brightness of that rooms’ lights with a pre-installed app, the flooded landscape of CES almost guarantees such an example begins to look like just another version of IoT technology.
While the Internet of Things gives a name to what will inevitably become a standard and accepted framework for the ever-more-connected web of consumer devices, as a concept it presents a unique and varied set of problems that many companies at CES saw fit to anticipate and solve. With an exponential increase in device connectivity so increases the vulnerability of a user’s data. That is, the rise of the Internet of Things and its success depends on more and more user data being transferred over Wifi and Bluetooth networks between an increasing number of devices used by the average consumer. With more devices connected, the more companies learn about the user, the more data is collected and stored, and the less control the user has over the use of that data.
With this in mind, companies like Vysk, creators of the strongest security tool for phones yet developed, have zeroed in on security as its main concern. Actually, as the CEO of Vysk, Victor E. Cocchia, explained to National Monitor, “Vysk wanted to solve the user’s security problems before they even arose.” Yet, he was quick to state that the product was in no way a knee-jerk reaction to the massive leak of government secrets by Edward Snowden nor what was revealed in those leaks about government spying. Rather, their vision developed much more organically. Cocchia went on to explain that he and his partner started the company because they watched and studied very closely the trends in technology and were haunted by the growing potential for their data to be compromised. This potential, this vulnerability seemed to be multiplying exponentially without any sign of slowing down or getting better; rather, every indication pointed towards the problem itself becoming systemic.
Once they actually experienced the rapid increase of vulnerability firsthand and that provided them a glimpse into how truly difficult it was to shield themselves as users, they began to “face the reality” of the times, as Mr. Cocchia put it, instead of trying to prevent the inevitable. The real catalyst appeared within the last two years; Mr. Cocchia’s business partner, who had just solved a very important and previously unsolved mathematical equation, almost overnight became the target of corporate spies and other interested parties looking to steal and exploit the equation’s solution for monetary gain.
Since they were not only dealing the regular brand of thief but also highly skilled and tech-savvy cyber-criminals, Victor Cocchia and his partner found themselves having to go to almost absurd lengths to avoid even the possibility of a leak. Their meetings often played out like scenes from a Hollywood film; walking into cavernous underground parking garages, leaving their phones, and meeting at night. “Our phones are recording data at all times and the phone’s camera can take photos and even shoot video when the phone is off,” Cocchia told Natioanal Monitor. “Even simple flashlight apps are collecting and storing all of the data on a user’s phone.”
So, to combat these serious problems–problems that can have major implications in people’s lives–Mr. Cocchia and his partner began developing both hardware and software that would collaborate seamlessly to form the perfect shield. In terms of hardware, Vysk is already selling the EP1, designed for both the iPhone 5 and 5s and sells for $119.99. The EP1, or the Privacy Charging Case, protects the phone’s cameras, text messages, photos and videos while even charging the phone when the user needs it most. Their aptly-titled Privacy Case, more affordable at $39.99 and designed for the new iPhone 6, protects all of the same things as the EP1 and only lacks that case’s built-in battery charger.
At CES, however, Vysk was focused heavily on the synergy between their hardware and software which is on full display in their flagship model, the not-yet-released QS1. Set to retail for about $229.99, it is the company’s most expensive model but covers every realm of security to keep the user’s mind at ease at all times. The QS1 is equipped with a patent-pending camera shutter to prevent hackers or criminals from monitoring a user without their knowledge and an embedded processor that encrypts voice data. The processor, according to Victor Cocchia, is even stronger than current military-grade encryption. The QS1 even locks down the phone’s native microphones and routes the voice data through the Vysk Voice app and the case itself.
As Mr. Cocchia told National Monitor, Vysk will be releasing cases and apps for Android model phones in the coming months. So, as long as advances in technology create larger and larger openings for hackers and criminals to enter users’ lives, companies like Vysk will have their work cut out for them. “If the celebrities whose phones were hacked, like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, had had the technology we developed on their phones, that scandal would have never happened,” Mr. Cocchia told National Monitor. With such a populist view, Vysk might also have their success cut out for them, as well.