The internet of things (IoT) is finally here in 2017, and companies like Google and Amazon are rushing to get out and become the main company to become the hub of this revolutionary concept. There have been multiple predictions over the years which declare that there will be at least tens of billions connected devices by 2020, and even objects as mundane as baby monitors or tires could all become part of this interconnected world.
But each device which is connected increases privacy and security concerns surrounding the Internet of Things. These concerns range from hackers stealing our data and even threatening our lives to how corporations can easily uncover private data we carelessly give them. While the IoT’s progress will not be stopped anytime soon, here are some of the biggest issues which consumers and businesses need to consider before both using these connected devices.
More devices, more problems
The fundamental security weakness of the Internet of Things is that it increases the number of devices behind your network’s firewall. Ten years ago, most of us had to only worry about protecting our computers. Five years ago, we had to worry about protecting our smartphones as well. Now we have to worry about protecting our car, our home appliances, our wearables, and many other IoT devices.
Because there are so many devices that can be hacked, that means that hackers can accomplish more. You may have heard about how hackers could potentially remotely control cars and remotely accelerate or decelerate the car. But hackers could use even seemingly unimportant devices like baby monitors or your thermostat to uncover private information or just ruin your day. The point is that we have to think about what a hacker could do with a device if he can break through its security.
Updates, updates, updates
As the Internet of Things becomes reality, we have to worry about protecting more devices. But even if you start taking security seriously, the tech companies which make these new devices are too cavalier about the risks. And one problem is that companies do not update their devices enough or at all. This means that an IoT device which was safe when you first bought it can become unsafe as hackers discover new vulnerabilities.
Computers used to have this problem, but automatic and easier updates have helped alleviate this problem. But as CSO points out, companies pressured to get their devices out quickly end up compromising on security. Even if they may offer firmware upgrades for a time, they often stop when they focus on constructing the next device, leaving customers with slightly outdated hardware that can become a security risk.
Protecting your data from corporations
Hackers are scary, but they are far from the only threat to the Internet of Things. In fact, the corporations which create and distribute interconnected devices could also use these devices to obtain personal data, particularly dangerous when used for money transfers.
For example, consider how BP and other companies are distributing Fitbits to their employees so that they can track their health and thus get lower health insurance premiums. Even if we ignore the worrying idea of workers’ health being monitored by corporations around the clock, there is the question of what corporations can do with the data they have gathered. Some companies like RadioShack have attempted to send or even sell gathered data to other companies, which raises issues regarding our individual privacy rights.
For now, the best protection which consumers have is to actually read any agreement they sign when receiving a device. Also find what that device’s corporation’s policies are in regards to keeping data safe and sharing said data. This may mean refusing to use certain IoT devices, but said device may not be worth the privacy tradeoff.
Computers have automatic updates partly because most users are too lazy to perform even the basic steps needed to keep their computer safe. And when you consider that protecting the myriad IoT devices will be even harder than a single computer, this problem will get even worse.
While tech companies and the government are taking the IoT security threat more seriously, the first line of defense in your home is you. This means taking the time to think about how IoT devices could be used against you as well as going over their security features. For example, an IoT device from a smaller, less established company may be cheaper or have other attractive features. But if that smaller company folds, then there is no one around to patch its vulnerabilities.
IoT boasts opportunity, but the security risks cannot be ignored whether it is from hackers or corporations. Above all else, the best remedy is to consider the potential risks of installing connected devices and doing your research.
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