It's clear that the home of the 21st century will be wired and networked. Preparing for this must be a central theme for folks who write corporate policies for people who work at home and the decision makers in the security, IT and finance departments who manage these employees on a day-to-day basis.
Though much of a home network will focus on entertainment, there will be significant overlap with networks and devices used by telecommuters and other home workers.
The accelerating growth of home networks should make businesses redouble their efforts. Yesterday, ABI Research released research predicting that consumer electronics gear built to easily join home networks will more than double in revenue-from a bit more than $100 billion annually to more than $243 billion-between last year and 2012. The press release hyping the report makes the interesting point that the market for connectable home entertainment devices didn't suffer during the recession, since folks are more likely to want to save money and stay home during poor economic times. They want to do so with a bit of pizzazz, however, and thus new devices still moved off the shelves in great numbers.
It is nave to think that the growth of networked entertainment devices doesn't affect home workers. The two worlds are not mutually exclusive. There are many touch points between the two systems. In many cases, these networks have significant overlap.
Such overlap opens the home workers' equipment and the backends of organizations for which they work up to innumerable potential problems. For instance, a PC that is serving both a home-based worker and her teenage son can compromise not only the work data on the computer, but could give crackers a pathway through the corporate firewall. Indeed, a security shortfall anywhere on the networked entertainment side poses potential problems for the business network-in the home and the data center.
It is certain that the sky isn't falling. Many people have compromised networks-or potentially compromised networks-and sail along for years with no problems. But security staffs, finance departments (which have to decide how much of what goes on in the home should be accepted as legitimate expenses and other cost-allocation questions) and others need to plan against worst-case scenarios. It is incumbent that they take the new world of the networked home seriously and reassess the way in which it should influence the way outside workers are managed and secured.