The Brain Inside Our Homes

A few years ago, the only devices in our homes connecting us to the Internet were ones such as laptops, smartphones or gaming consoles. Today, the number of items with this capability are rapidly growing. From lightbulbs and microwaves to televisions, speakers and even locks on your doors, almost any item in our homes now has a “smart” option. These connected devices often go by the name of Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything (IoE). These devices collect all sorts of useful data with the help of various sensors. They, then, share the data between other connected devices to create a unique information sharing network of internet connected devices. This sequence is turning the world into a continuous flow of binary data. In our daily, digital lives, we are becoming increasingly reliant on IoT. Examples of this rise in reliance can be seen in our wearable technology, appliances, vehicles and even how we receive health care. Many say the goal of IoT is to automate human life to help us become a faster, smarter, better version of ourselves. While these connected devices may bring a great deal of convenience and value into our daily lives, they also bring unique dangers. Let’s explore some of the dangers and problems that arise as IoT gains popularity and relevance.

“Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.” – Melvin Kranzberg

What’s the Problem?

How we introduce technology into our daily lives is changing. People have varying opinions on whether this change should be considered positive or negative, but the challenges remain the same. Absence of or weak encryption methods, lack of privacy, vulnerable web interfaces and default, weak or even hard-coded credentials are a few of these challenges. The more devices you have connected to your home’s network, the more likely you are to face one of these challenges. With an abundance of applications and features but a lack of basic security policies in enterprise environments, IoT devices are easy prey for hackers. Many of the companies manufacturing these devices have little to no experience with cyber security. They view security as a cost factor instead of seeing its value and necessity. As a result, the devices you purchase may have little to no security built into them at all. If misconfigured and not dealt with appropriately, IoT poses a huge risk to your personal data, privacy and safety.

A more detailed look at the vulnerabilities of IoT can be found here.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The use of IoT devices is growing at rapid rate. Even with resistance, it is likely that you will have to use IoT devices at work, home or both. The best way to protect yourself from the cyber dangers that come with IoT is to be smart and knowledgeable.

Here are some key areas to focus your attention to protect yourself:
  • Connect Only What You Need: The simplest way to secure a device is by not connecting it to the Internet. If you don’t need your device to be online, don’t connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Do you really need your fridge sending you notifications to your phone? If so, remember the risks that come with that decision.
  • Network Segmentation: Consider putting your devices on a separate network rather than the primary network you use for your computers and mobile devices. If any IoT Device is infected, your computers or mobile devices on your main network remain safe.
  • Default Passwords: Change the passwords on your devices to unique, strong passphrases that only you know. Consider using a password manager to securely store all of them. Look to see if the device allows for encryption and use it!
  • Knowing Your Network: What devices do you have connected to your home network? If you’re not sure or can’t remember, turn off your wireless network and see what is no longer working. It may not catch everything, but you’ll be surprised at how many devices you forgot about.
  • Keep Firmware Updated: Just like your computer and mobile devices, it’s critical to keep all devices up to date. If your device has the option to automatically update, enable that setting.
  • Privacy Options: Look to see if your device allows you to configure privacy options to limit the amount of information it collects or shares. Personalizing and decreasing this data puts you at a smaller risk of being compromised.
  • Reputable Vendor: Buy your devices from a company that you know and trust. Look for products that support security. Specifically, ones that allow you to enable automatic updating and modify privacy settings. Not all devices allow you to perform basic security hygiene.
  • Always Listening: If a device can take your voice commands, it is constantly listening. For example, your Alexa and Google Home devices can record sensitive conversations. Consider this fact when you determine where to place the devices in your home and review the privacy options.

The Ever-Changing Landscape

There are many excellent features and benefits to adopting modern technologies like IoT from both a personal and professional sense. However, understanding the risks they pose to you or your organization are essential. Knowing the simple steps you can take to help build a more secure smart home or office will make all the difference in this ever-changing landscape of technology. As IoT continues to accelerate, you will be prepared to transform and grow in this new and exciting digital age!

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