Jeri // June 12 2017
Are you worried about your home electronics? – Me neither.
New technology becomes ordinary. Water closet and electric light were once great technological miracles. But think about electricity? Do you need to pay attention to it? Well, you don’t – it’s involved in almost everything but never in the center of your life. It does numerous things without needing any attention. The same phenomenon is also reality with IoT and networked devices. They are handling many daily chores, without any need for your attention, just like electricity.
Have you already figured out how many devices in your home are chatting with other devices or services on the web? Actually a lot of equipment does it already and the number is constantly growing. And I’m not talking about the future here, this is happening today. Equipment that are already online today are for example consumer electronics, washing machines, refrigerators, alarm systems, your vehicles, just name it.
IoT is a topic that is discussed a lot. Many might feel that it’s discussed way too much. Many of us press the del-button as soon as a message about the things that IoT enables drops into the mailbox. Well yes, just like electricity it can enable almost anything, your imagination is the limit, but your email is not the place for those “electricity enables new business models and cuts your costs” messages. Or have you received an email that tells you how your business will explode when you use electricity in your factory? Well, they will not come. IoT and digitalization is like the Internet and the electricity, they are needed and involved everywhere but that’s not the thing. The thing is how these advances in technology take us forward and towards the better.
The fact that your home appliances, your trusted life partners are connected is a wonderful thing. Things are running and you feel that you are mastering the situation. Our computers and phones have been online for a long time. Their security is becoming reasonably good; the protection software updates itself and observes vague online connection attempts. However, concerning all your home appliances the situation is not as good. Backdoors might be left open unintentionally or deliberately and hackers and criminals are looking for these 24/7. They can harness your devices to do things that you do not want them to do.
Fortunately, new products have been introduced to this area. For example, F-Secure introduced their new Sense that brings an automatically updated protection technology, previously familiar from computers, to guard your home Internet connection. It protects the interface that your intelligent home devices use to chat over the Internet. This continuously updated Internet connection guard doesn’t put the pressure on the security of your home appliances, but tackles off vague Internet connection attempts even before they reach any smart home appliance.
Do you ask about security when buying a home appliance? There is probably a need for a few vulnerabilities on home appliances exceeding the news threshold before we begin to be interested in these problems. So far nothing very harmful has happened to regular people. There might be cases where devices may have been harnessed for criminal purposes but at least I have not heard of cases where a family’s laundry machine has been hacked to wash the family’s colored laundry at 90 degrees.
Data has also become merchandise and valuable information for many players. What TV channels you watch, what radio channels you listen to or how often you wash your laundry may be interesting information for many. The status of your connected car’s fuel tank can be sold to fuel companies. Why? Well, so that they can price products according to predicted demand and market conditions. Do you know what information your smart devices are sending? Is it even interesting at all? Usually it’s not interesting, but would you be interested if you could ask for money for the information that you bring to others for serving some purpose? For most of us, it is enough that we are provided with better services and more inspirational products in return for the data we produce. Your data could be also very valuable food for future artificial intelligence services like IBM Watson. Computers and mobile devices are most often asking for permission to collect this data, but home appliances and entertainment electronics do not always do it. Your information will just sail away from your hands.
The human is probably the biggest security threat. Raise your hand if you are feeling delighted when inventing new passwords for every online service. You are probably already having a great amount of them, a great temptation to put the same password on all services and devices. We are quite careless, at least until something goes wrong for the first time. Then we will take this seriously. Here is the idea for a new experience service – someone has hacked your password and is doing something nasty online in your name, how does it feel?
What I want to tell you is to be interested in your data and security. Learn to understand what’s going on around you. Protect your home and care about your data. Digitalization is really hitting us everywhere and Internet of everything is already here – there are a lot of great things but they are getting ordinary and this time it is a bit more complicated than electricity. Burning a fuse is nothing compared to losing a game in cyber security.