Internet of Things (IoT) – the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.
“The Internet of Things, is more like the Internet of S**t.” – Nate Cardozo
Do we ever consider our privacy when swooning over the latest smartwatch or updating our Alexa device? The answer for most of us is no! With consumers lapping up IoT devices with their gadget-like appeal and efficiency, IoT products are now in place and online across almost every sector. The result is a mass consumer market that shows no sign of slowing down.
The seamless process of introducing a data-invasive product into the comfort of our home or even onto our bodies can make us feel immune to the dangers that they can impose on our lives. Many people won’t even imagine that there could be risk in interacting with IoT devices. With this in mind, here are some of the biggest risks that IoT devices can pose to your privacy and security:
- Device Collusion – IoT products need to connect to other devices to work, thereby creating a pool of devices registered under the same email address and network. One smartwatch in a family household may hold vital information for the whole family. And if there is a security issue with the technology or company supplying a popular IoT device, the resulting data breach could affect millions. There are also privacy implications if a business changes it terms or if it is taken over by another business. For example, when they were acquired by Google, the health data of the entire Fitbit user base was transferred to a company whose business is built on data collection.
- Lack of Privacy Policies and Security Updates – We’ve all heard of GDPR in relation to email and data tracking, but when it comes to IoT devices, most organisations won’t have privacy policies specifically for that device. Computers, tablets and smartphones will regularly update to correct any security flaws, while IoT manufacturers typically update security patches quarterly. This provides hackers with more time to crack security protocols and steal sensitive data.
- Unique Hacking Threats – due to the interconnection of multiple devices, IoT products are more vulnerable to unique threats such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – making an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources – and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, hijacking a communication channel via identity spoofing.
- Data Collection – An innocuous piece of IoT software may have the potential to shape what you want or desire through collecting your data. Just like Fitbit, Smart TV’s are brilliant pieces of tech offered a very attractive price, but this is often because they are used as tools to collect data to sell to third parties.
There must be a point where we turn round and question our agency over technology. Even doorbells can impose risks to our privacy nowadays! As Geoffrey A. Fowler of the Washington Post says, “tech that seems like an obvious good can develop darker dimensions as capabilities improve and data shifts into new hands.”
Companies are not going to stop offering IoT products to people. They are looking for a piece of an industry that is forecast to generate up to $11 trillion by 2025. Moreover, customers and workers have grown accustomed to the convenience and general excellence of IoT devices. Essential industries such as healthcare simply wouldn’t be as efficient without IoT. The variety of IoT devices will create an interconnected network that is incredibly vulnerable for the future. But it’s important we are aware that, like all progress, it does not come without its risks.