With seemingly every new piece of consumer technology capable of Internet access, the age of the “Internet of Things” appears to be upon us. On the other hand, security issues are a main reason some are holding off on that wireless Home Automation system or a fancy new thermostat controllable while on vacation. Developers of Internet of Things applications need to place more focus on building robust security into their products — a necessity noted by PC Magazine.
Considering that the Internet of Things is essentially a new industry, sometimes security concerns haven’t been at the forefront at the start-ups hoping to make some noise in this sector. With hacking incidents and cyber security in the news on a daily basis, however, interested customers need assurance that embracing this new technology paradigm won’t create a security hole on their home network. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at security and the Internet of Things.
Will Internet of Things Applications Make the “Internet” Disappear?
When Google chief, Eric Schmidt, was recently asked about the future of the Internet, he commented that the Internet would just disappear. His point related to the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, and that once we get so used to it, we forget about the routers, wires, servers, and other technology that makes the Internet possible.
“There will be so many IP addresses … so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room,” said Schmidt.
This is the kind of environment where it becomes easy to take cyber security for granted. In many cases, you won’t actually be aware of the Internet when interacting with these IP-enabled devices, as it just feels natural. PC Magazine’s Tim Bajarin, in the column linked above, opines that Eric Schmidt’s future Internet is already here and our comfort level with this technology could lead to complacency on security, with our privacy and more being at risk.
In short, cyber security and privacy when using Internet of Things applications may even be more important compared to using a banking application. The average user doesn’t expect that changing the temperature on their IP-enabled thermostat raises a larger security risk compared to logging on to their bank’s website using a strong password, and this complacency might end up creating a security hole for a cyber thief to exploit.
How can the Digital Smart Homeowner Help Secure Their “Intranet of Things?”
The bottom line is that it becomes vital for anyone using a Home Automation system or any other IoT related product to put their own cyber security and privacy issues at the top of the list when shopping for systems in this sector. Ensure that any vendor you choose takes the entire cyber security issue seriously. If any information about your router or your home network is stored on their servers, pay close attention to the company’s policies for securing that data.
Speaking of your router, since this is the gateway to your home network — your “Intranet of Things” so to speak — make sure you’ve changed the factory password — so many users never do this — and use a strong password to help stave off hacking attempts. Use a strong password for your home network as well. Since you are able to change your thermostat when on the road, others can theoretically get inside your network as well to access more than your Nest thermostat. Properly securing your router might be the most important thing you can do when embracing the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things offers a chance for everyone to enjoy a more convenient life, but with this added convenience comes tangible risks. Make the extra effort to ensure the vendors you work with take cyber security very seriously. At the same time, ensure that your own home network and router remain protected with strong passwords, and try to keep any important private information stored on thumb drives instead of always keeping this data on the network.
Photo Credit: Phil Windley