Protect Your Privacy on the Internet of Things
A man stops at the grocery store after work for a frozen pizza. As he gets back in his car, he uses his phone to tell his oven to start preheating. The man sits down to eat and realizes he is out of napkins. He tells his smart speaker to order some and grabs a paper towel instead.
After dinner, the man calls a friend to discuss an upcoming camping trip. He talks about how he needs to buy new hiking shoes before they leave. After he hangs up, he hops on social media and sees ads on the side for deals on hiking boots. After a bit, his watch alerts him that if he wants to get a full eight hours of sleep, he should go to bed now.
The Internet of Things
This man is using a collection of connected devices seemingly to make his life more convenient. This concept is called the “internet of things.” Internet of things is a vision of taking any device with an on/off switch and connecting it to the internet and other devices.
Three main areas make up the internet of things: the self, the home and the city.
The self area consists mainly of wearable biometric sensors that can keep track of how many steps you take in a day, your heart rate and your sleep patterns to help you become a better you.
The most popular home devices are smart speakers to answer any question you have, play music when you want or order anything you want.
Many cities around the world are trying to become smart cities with the help of the internet of things. Theoretical smart cities are complex and completely integrated while current smart cities tend to focus primarily on traffic reduction.
All of these devices are intended to make life easier and more efficient for the people using them. While that may be true, there are many security risks to consider as well.
One big concern is: who has access to all of the data these devices are collecting and what are they doing with it? The hypothetical man at the beginning of the article had a smart speaker that was always listening. It heard him talk about needing new hiking shoes, and he was presented with ads about hiking boots just minutes later on social media. But that speaker is always listening and always collecting data.
In exchange for a little bit of convenience, you allow companies to learn your every move in detail.
What Should I Do?
You can take steps to help make sure you and your information are safe. The first and biggest question to ask yourself is: Do I really need this? Do you really need a coffee maker that connects to Wi-Fi and starts brewing coffee when your phone alarm goes off in the morning? Can you just use the delayed brew option on a regular coffee maker because your alarm goes off at six every morning?
Finally, if you do decide to use an internet of things device, keep these tips in mind:
- Research any known security issues.
- Use only trusted and secured Wi-Fi.
- Run devices on the most current software and firmware.
- Carefully read disclosures, end user license agreements and privacy policies.
- Where is data stored?
- Who has access?
- Will the company notify you if:
- Data is exposed?
- Vulnerabilities are discovered?
- Is the company contact information available?
- Use strong passwords.