The Internet of Things is one of the latest trends in technological development. The Internet of Things refers to everyday, at-home objects with network capability and the ability to send and receive data. IoT devices include wearables like the Apple Watch or Fitbit, Google Nest and other SmartHome devices, and even cars with Internet capabilities. The scope of the Internet of Things can be seen in our homes, cars, workplaces, and even on our bodies; it is estimated that there will be more than 24 billion IoT devices by the year 2020. While these advanced technologies are created so that performing everyday tasks is easier and more convenient, such devices can often be easily hacked, leaving users open to various cybersecurity threats.
With the Internet of Things connecting more devices to the Internet than ever, hackers are able to find more entry points into consumers’ data, making privacy and security a big issue when it comes to IoT devices. In a workshop conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, participants found that the potential security risks associated with the Internet of Things include: “1) enabling unauthorized access and misuse of personal information; 2) facilitating attacks on other systems, and 3) creating safety risks” (10). As for privacy risks, the participants found that certain personal information, such as “precise geolocation, financial account numbers, or health information” (14) could potentially be collected by unauthorized users.
While this information seems concerning, perhaps even frightening, there are always steps to take to prevent security and privacy breaches. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your information in this age of the Internet of Things.
Do your research
Before purchasing an Internet-connected device, whether a SmartHome device or a wearable, conduct research on the product as well as the vendor. You may find that a certain device has a history of hacks or malfunctions, or that a certain company does not implement appropriate security measures in their devices. The more you know about a product and the company that makes it, the less likely you are to purchase a device that leaves you open to cyber threats.
Read the terms
It may seem like a tedious task, but read the terms and conditions for any Internet-connected device you purchase. The terms will tell you exactly what information and data the device collects, and therefore what threats may exist for users.
Know your device
In order to protect your information and data, you need to understand how your IoT devices work. Have the salesman or person installing the device give you a tutorial on its uses and workings, and ask about security and privacy measures you can take.
Change default passwords
Once your device has been installed and is ready to use, immediately change the default password. Your new password should include a mixture of letters, numbers, symbols, and capitalization.
Update the software
Always update the software on your IoT devices, as these updates typically offer bug fixes that improve the security of your device. If a software update has not been provided for some time, it may be a sign that the vendor does not take security and privacy measures seriously.
Use a secure network
Whenever possible, your IoT device should be connected to a secure network. Your home and workplace should use private, password-protected networks. Using a secure network for your car devices and wearables is not always possible, so be careful with the data you transmit and the information you keep on these IoT devices.
Though there are risks that come with the growth of the Internet of Things, this development also has numerous benefits to our daily lives and health. As long as consumers take the proper security precautions and vendors stay up to date with the latest security protections, we can reap the benefits of Internet of Things technology without suffering the consequences of its potential risks.