28: The Increasing Security Concerns Surrounding the Internet of Things
After years of hype, we have finally arrived in these tremendously exciting times where technology continues to progress at breathtaking speed. We already have the ability to track every aspect of our health and monitor our blood pressure, heart rate, diet, exercise and sleep patterns on a daily basis without even setting foot in a doctors waiting room and flicking through those out-of-date magazines.
Forget smartphones and TV’s, we are now entering a world where the smart home and car become a reality where almost everything we interact with comes with an always online internet connection as standard. However, many are voicing their concern at the impending security risks that could be about to blindside the unsuspecting public.
While worried parents put up cameras in their children’s bedrooms for peace of mind, many are blissfully unaware that these cameras can be hacked and viewed all over the world or that there is even a search engine for sleeping kids that is only made possible due to insecure webcams.
Although many will ridicule this fear of change and instantly compare it to the scaremongering that surrounded online banking a few years ago, there is an increasing concern about the security implications around almost everything we know and love being connected to the internet.
My over cautious IT side has provided me with the gift of hindsight after witnessing what happens when the harmless shiny tech arrives in the workplace on countless occasions over the years. Although, many criticize your traditional IT department as playing it too safe and think they are too locked down in the shackles of the process, these unsung guardians or custodians of corporate networks behave this way for a very good reason.
As everyone fills the homes with devices that all talk to each other and strap wearable technology to their person, I cannot help but think who is managing the lifecycle of each and every product? How is it future proofed? And who has one eye on potential security breaches?
I believe that the biggest problem with IoT is that many of these new always connected devices are no longer confined to large tech companies. We now have a wealth of start-ups who are leading the way with their ideas armed with innovation, but there is equally a distinct lack of ‘tech guys’ on hand to warn about any potential security concerns.
Anything that has an always online connection should treat security as paramount. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and this leaves a potential time-bomb for unsuspecting users. Considering that air traffic control, surveillance systems, household appliances or even cars are all fitted with low-cost sensors, and yet there is very little focus on any potential security flaws is a growing concern.
As the connectivity of devices and appliances continues to grow, we could quickly find ourselves surrounded by vulnerabilities with much more to worry about than someone watching you through a hacked camera. The potential hacking of a smart home could reveal your daily routine and when you leave the house if not properly secured and in a world where most of the household names we have grown to trust have suffered data breaches.
The biggest problem is the majority of users automatically assume that manufacturers have already taken care of the security aspect, but the incredibly cheap sensors that are flooding the market on connected devices often have little regard for firmware updates or patches to fix vulnerabilities.
Users of the Nest thermostat recently learned the hard way how a software glitch can take down their entire home heating system. Meanwhile, the data collected from our internet routers is already reporting back what we watch on our televisions when we sleep, and almost every aspect of our home will soon be in the hands of private companies, and users need to ask ourselves if this is a trade-off they are happy to go along with.
Like it or not the internet of things is our future and will continue to engulf our lives, but the need to talk about securing these devices and questioning the somewhat lax attitude to data sharing by vendors and promoting transparency with their customers in a language that they understand should be top of everyone’s agenda.
The so-called smart things are everywhere from our phones, televisions, fitness trackable’s to our cars and homes. Manufacturers and start-ups will continue churning out these new shiny gadgets, and people will keep buying them despite neither parties stopping to think about any potential risks.
This cautious IT guy that is more than a little concerned at inviting high-profile data breaches and DarkEnergy malware attacks into our home without stopping to think about the risks or ensuring they have adequate security in place before hitting next followed by I agree on those 100-page terms and conditions forms that nobody reads.
Do you think we should adopt a more cautious approach to the Smart Home concept and take the security and privacy more seriously? Or are you a throw caution to the wind kind of person?
I am genuinely interested in your opinions on this trend that will eventually impact us all in some way, so please let me know your thoughts by commenting below or messaging me via email or Twitter.