Samsung’s Knox Matrix Explained: Smart Home Security Through Private Blockchain

Samsung’s Knox Matrix Explained: Smart Home Security Through Private Blockchain

Wednesday at Keynote speech at the Samsung Developer Conference, the company unveiled its new smart home security strategy: connect all your devices to a private blockchain so they all monitor each other. If one smart device is compromised, the others kick it out of the smart house club.

As Samsung expects bad actors to increasingly compromise personal devices, the company has considered several options to protect the many parts of the smart home, such as phones, routers, TVs, and even devices that could serve as attack vectors. Currently, some Samsung devices have dedicated hardware like Knox chipsets on Galaxy phones that keep data safe, but even more complex security solutions would mean higher production costs and higher product prices.

The company’s solution, called Knox Matrix, is a new application of blockchain technology on a very small scale, which could be effective protection as people make their homes smarter.

To be clear, home devices using Knox Matrix are only connected to the private blockchain, not any of the public cryptocurrency-related ones. It’s a local arrangement designed as an alternative to cloud-based verification: instead of having to verify software online, the devices themselves watch out for cyber attacks.

Ahead of their presentations at the Samsung Developer Conference, Samsung’s Chief Engineer Bumhan Kim and Senior Product Security Engineer Shin-Chul Baik spoke with CNET through a translator to explain how Knox Matrix works and how it can help users build a more secure smart home.

“We want to make sure people feel safe in the comfort of their own homes,” Kim said. “It’s not enough to think about security on each individual device – we wanted to look at it holistically.”

How a block protected home works

Devices that support Knox Matrix, which will begin arriving in 2023, form a chain of trust. If you have, say, a smartphone, a TV, a router, a smart refrigerator, an air conditioner, and a washing machine, each one checks the other to make sure they’re all working.

It’s unlikely that someone’s smart home will be the target of the kinds of cyberattacks that hit big companies, but something like downloaded malware could reach a single device and try to spread across the network. Knox Matrix is ​​designed to automatically detect intrusions and shut down compromised devices to protect others.

To spot new types of malware and other harmful intrusions, Samsung has formed a Threat Intelligence Team to monitor and detect new security threats to Galaxy devices and patch vulnerabilities. The relatively new team monitors threats on the dark web and deep web to track hacking trends and other attack vectors. For example, as more people turned to remote work during the COVID pandemic, the team saw more spyware and Trojan malware replacing harmless messages to secretly install backdoors.

“We hope to gradually grow the team to increase the number of channels they monitor so they can more proactively secure intelligence to rapidly patch and respond to these potential threats,” Baik said.

To ensure a home network of devices is up-to-date, the Knox Matrix blockchain sees if each is running the latest software, and if not, asks for an update – or even downloads a file on one device and sends it to another if it needs it.

Samsung currently updates phone and router software in monthly, quarterly and semi-annual patches, but “will also integrate other devices into security patches, including home appliances like TVs or refrigerators,” Kim said.

A network of trusted devices in a private blockchain has other benefits. They can share credentials, so if you want to sign in to your Samsung account on your laptop, but your ID and password are saved on your Galaxy phone, you can – after verifying with a biometric like a fingerprint scanner – send those credentials without a problem.

Expansion of the Knox matrix

The first wave of Knox Matrix products coming in 2023 will be exclusively from Samsung, but the company plans to turn it into an open ecosystem later. In two to three years, products from Samsung partners will be released that also use Knox Matrix protection.

This raises a big question: how many Knox Matrix-enabled devices will you need to buy to benefit from blockchain’s private security? You only need two, Kim said. Internally, Samsung has decided how many devices for the blockchain concept work best, but is still finalizing what it will release publicly. Examples mentioned in press materials include up to six devices.

Samsung is not rushing the Knox Matrix to ward off the current threat, only to prepare for a more connected future.

“We are not currently experiencing increased attacks. We just want to stay one step ahead of potential attacks,” Kim said.

The Knox Matrix network could protect your smartphone even better. Although Samsung says its phones are very secure, internet-connected mobile devices have multiple ways they can be attacked.

“If it is associated with a large number [Knox Matrix] nodes, which can mutually monitor each other for threats, then there could definitely be a high level of security in your phone,” Kim said. “It’s always better to go together than alone.”

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