Forbes recently shared an article on how the Internet of Things is keeping us safe and I thought it was a rather one-dimensional article. For those who don’t know, the Internet of Things (IoT) is defined broadly as “the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect, collect and exchange data” (Wikipedia).
A mouthful of a definition that basically means that the IoT is internet-enabled everyday objects. Typically, any device that has the word “smart” in front of it is included in this. We see this everywhere – smart fridges that can tell you when to restock, smart homes that are fully controlled with your smart phone, smart cars that can navigate and (soon) drive and park for you, and countless other things.
The Internet of Things paints a commonly depicted picture of the future, one where everything is automated, shiny, and sleek. And while having every item we use be interconnected definitely has benefits, it’s important to also assess the risks.
Forbes focuses on the IoT providing higher levels of safety, namely, things like surveillance, airport security, traffic control, smoke detectors, and city security that will use sensors, cameras, and data to locate and prevent trouble. There’s no doubt that it can definitely do this – facial recognition software at airports to locate criminals is definitely more efficient than having a bored security guard monitoring ten screens all day, but just as with everything else, there are two sides.
With every new development comes the possibility of it being used for harm, and with something as powerful as the IoT, the harm it could potentially cause is enormous. Just as it can improve security, IoT can bring up massive security risks. The amount of sensitive data devices are collecting means that a breach could be devastating.
Media and films are constantly portraying scenarios where information falls into the wrong hands (see, Mr. Robot) and it’s not just the stuff of entertainment and movies. Cyberattacks have grown increasingly vicious as we grow increasingly more digital. Having your phone hacked is never fun, but it’s A LOT less fun if you have a smart home who’s security system, alarms, locks, and billing information is all stored there. A smart fridge seems awesome (grocery shopping is a pain), but if your fridge is automatically sending your local grocery store shopping lists and paying via credit card, even your fridge needs security.
So if you are indulging in the new world of smart devices, remember to do your research well and protect yourself properly. The Internet of Things is a place that has to be navigated well and intelligently. Be smart – don’t just buy smart devices.