Zyxel is to distribute F-Secure SENSE in containers. It’s an interesting move and one that will have an impact on home broadband and security. Like other router and VPN vendors, Zyxel has had issues with hardcoded admin credentials on its devices. One reason for this is to allow operators to configure different devices before shipping them to customers.
By shipping F-Secure SENSE in a container, Zyxel is seeking to do several things. It provides a mechanism that the operators can use to ship patches to customers. It means that the operator retains control of the device and the software on it. As homes get more connected, especially with remote working and IoT, it is a service that an operator could sell as a value-add service.
It also means that customers are not relied upon to patch devices because many don’t. That lack of patching makes it easy for an attacker to exploit a vulnerability to co-opt large numbers of devices into botnets.
James Harris, Senior Product Director at Zyxel, said: “Delivering new services and lifecycle management are significant pain points for telecommunications companies that manage devices for thousands or even millions of customers. Containers simplify this for operators so they can focus on providing customers with new, better services.
“We have a strong partnership with F-Secure, so we’re thrilled to offer F-Secure SENSE as our first third-party application container.”
What is Zyxel providing to operators?
Zyxel is providing an easy to deploy container that combines gateway security and endpoint protection to operators. It can be quickly pushed to their broadband customers at any time of day or night. It will remove the previous friction between operators and customers that hardware upgrades created. This is because there should be little or no requirement to reboot or reset a device.
It also means that the operator and Zyxel can find ways to differentiate services through the container model. Quite how that will work is not spelt out in the press release. One way might be for Zyxel to add new features to the container as requested by an operator. Another might be for the operator to modify the container to add new value-add options to its customer base.
Just being able to deliver endpoint protection via a container should help operators increase their earnings from customers. Many end-users have no idea of what devices they are running, especially those working from home. When it comes to security, they struggle to find and deploy solutions to protect all their endpoints. Now they can offer that higher level of protection, something that F-Secure says 60% of consumers want to buy.
There is a caveat, however. This is about a container that will sit on the router, not on the local machine. Users who are likely to be moving from home to other remote locations will still need to ensure that they have endpoint protection on laptops, tablets and phones.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean?
Anything that improves the broken broadband router model, especially in the consumer space, is to be welcomed. Businesses realise that end-users are not going to invest in enterprise-level security solutions for their home network. That means that if operators are willing to use containers to deliver security products to routers, there is an interesting business opportunity here.
What is less clear is how far will this go. The Zyxel and F-Secure relationship to put SENSE into a container is one thing. Zyxel getting operators to adopt it is another. But the real money shot here will be how operators can turn this from a maintenance option to a value-add service.
There is certainly a demand for this, as F-Secure discovered in a recent survey. But will customers actually part with cash? Also, do operators want to be offering this as a piecemeal solution across their router estate?
Another question here is where can operators take this? With users working from home, businesses are pushing to put SASE platforms in place, as the Forcepoint/Bitglass acquisition shows. Will operators now look at additional elements in the container to help businesses deliver SASE elements to their remote users?
Will Zyxel go one further in terms of containers? If you can run one container, why not run two or even three. The limitation is the hardware and what it will support. It could provide an option for operators to upsell routers that can support both business and consumer containers simultaneously.
Just as importantly, will we see a rush of other endpoint security service providers taking this route with other router providers?