Know the Risks of the Internet of Things


No one is certain just how many devices are already connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and no one knows exactly how many devices will connect by 2020, but the estimates floated by experts is that more than 50 billion IoT devices are going to be connected by then.

Recent cybercriminal attacks that leave ransomware on computers has made most computer users more security-conscious. Using password managers and end-to-end encryption help alleviate ransomware, virus and other attacks. But, a big hole in home and business computer systems is the IoT.

The IoT offers lots of features that make life easier and more convenient. However, in exchange for convenience, citizens across the globe from every nation will give up privacy. In addition, IoT devices are easily hacked, threatening not only privacy but safety, too. Hacked appliances may be instructed to do things that can harm you or your property.

For example, your IoT coffeemaker could be instructed not to turn off. At best, your coffee pot may have burned coffee on the bottom of the pot. At worst a fire starts and destroys your home.

How Privacy Is Threatened by the Internet of Things

Your teenager comes home from school and finishes the milk. Your refrigerator sees that it has no milk and sends a text to you alerting you that you are out of milk. This is a notable feature, as teenagers are notorious for forgetting things like that. But, besides you getting a text, the information also flows right to the appliance maker, along with the model, repair history, and warranty registration.

When asked why they need this information, manufacturers say that the data helps them make a better refrigerator, but the information is sold by them to marketing firms. This means you might be targeted by marketers for milk products or alternative products to dairy products.

The march towards “smart homes” is ongoing, and we are paying for it by continuous and willfully given loss of privacy. Data collected by manufacturers varies and ranges from an IP address to details about your health and the most private things going on in your life.

With computer chips so cheap, they are ubiquitous and found in everyday things such as televisions, kitchen appliances, thermostats, wearable technology, home alarm systems and more. Even your car has computer chips on board that communicates with your car’s maker. These kinds of things keep track of your movements, your location, your brand preferences and more. Apps you download on your phone also keep track of you unless you stop them by turning on its privacy settings.

There are three major privacy concernsOpens a new window facing consumers using the Internet of Things. They are:

  1. Only two years ago, in 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sounded the alarm concerning the IoT in a report entitled Privacy & Security in a Connected World. The report details how fewer than 10,000 households can create 150 million data points every 24 hours. This is an extraordinary amount of data points, and each one is an entry point for hackers to get into your Wi-Fi and anything connected to it.
  2. In the same report, the FTC discussed the creation of an unwanted public profile. One example is an insurance company surreptitiously connecting to your car to see if you are a good risk for car insurance. Progressive Insurance Company asks consumers to voluntarily connect their car to an IoT device for rating reasons for new clients. But, information stored on your car is ultimately transferred to your car maker, where it can be sold to insurers, parts makers, auto parts stores and more.
  3. 3. IoT devices may be listening. In Germany, researchers succeeded in figuring out what shows were watched and the time they were watched by hacking the homes’ smart electric meter. The researchers were able to access the home network for IoT devices through the smart meter.

What You Can Do to Safeguard Your Privacy

To safeguard your privacyOpens a new window , you need to understand what it is apps and devices do. So, read the terms of service of each. Many apps and devices do not need personal information to work, and you might be able to opt out of revealing your personal data. Once you know what you are up against for a specific app or device, you can:

  • Notify the product manufacturer that don’t want your data use for non-product purposes (advertising & marketing is an example). Even though your notification won’t stop the maker in the short term, enough complaints can lead to a manufacturer changing its privacy policy in the long term.
  • Create an encrypted Wi-Fi network that is devoted exclusively to the Internet of Things.
  • Make sure that each device you have that is IoT-ready has a unique password that combines regular and capital letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the password is, the harder it is to break.
  • Make sure your home network is using passwords that are changed every 30 days and that you have robust virus protection and firewalls comprised of hardware and software.

Should you decide that your privacy is more important than the convenience a certain smart product offers, look for a dumber version. If it doesn’t connect to the IoT, it cannot surveil you or tell your secrets.