CyberCrime & The Internet of Things

Technology is changing not just the way we work, but how we spend time at home. Google has just launched their Google Home companion hoping to win some of the market from Amazon’s Echo. Both are digital assistants that integrate with home appliances and technology like Nest thermostats, Philips lightbulbs and Belkin sockets. A home assistant lets you use simple voice commands, to turn on the kettle, switch on lights or adjust the radiators in specific rooms. More and more hardware makers are making their products compatible to meet the growing consumer demand for hands-off control.

A well kitted out smart-home is not necessarily a luxury though; with products like Nest delivering real savings, by learning your routine, recognising when you’re away and efficiently scheduling the heating.

The current line-up of consumer devices for the home are a pretty smart bunch, with products like Canary cameras and iRobot vacuums carrying as much technology as PCs did a decade ago. But there is a growing movement that could see us adding many more, less intelligent devices in the home which bring sensing features, rather than smart, computing power to our homes.

Who’s Watching You Camera?

Last year, a ‘white-hat’ security website made a startling revelation about some Internet connected security cameras on the market. These cameras were all shipped with a default password and didn’t require the user to change the password after set-up. Their website still lists thousands of live video links to people’s cameras, located around the world, including Ireland, and positioned in homes, gardens and offices.

The Benefits of IoT

When we connect a heating system or a security camera to the web, we enjoy the tremendous benefits that this, almost futuristic technology, brings us. The ability to log-in from work and check on the kids or elderly relatives, or switch on the lights if we’re going to be late home, can make lives more convenient and safe, but when we install these devices, we are creating an opportunity for others to peep into our lives and homes.

We’ve already seen Cyber Criminals at work around the world hacking connected locks and alarm systems and blackmailing or stalking ordinary people with home security camera footage captured without their knowledge.

The connected home of the near future will contain a wealth of data useful to the criminal trying to profile you. Your daily weigh-in or cardiac monitoring data could be harvested from a Wi-Fi scales and connected medical devices could even create the opportunity for a hack that could have a serious effect on your health.

Wi-Fi or Bluetooth home assistants with medical or prescription information also offer an opportunity for the Cyber Criminal to exploit your data by selling it, or even impersonating or coercing you.

The Need For Standards

The technology industry is working hard to ease the concerns of the public. With an estimate of almost 30 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet by 2020, tech companies know they need to make us feel safe if they’re to get our buy-in as IoT consumers.

The leading chip makers are working to embed security right onto the hardware that powers these devices but there needs to be industry protocols that are widely adopted as the defacto standard.

A group of hardware and software makers are working on such a standard, the Open Trust Protocol. For now, the early adopters of this IoT technology remain the ones bearing the responsibility for keeping prying eyes out. Vigilance, passwords and encryption are crucial to staying safe when using your phone or laptop; it turns out, they’re equally important when you’re turning up the heat from the sofa.

First published at

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