IoT (Internet of Things) describes how gadgets connect to other gadgets and people through the working internet infrastructure. Examples of such interconnectivity include connected video cameras, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, smartphones communicating with other smartphones, and connected medical devices. These devices can collect and distribute data to companies, communicate with consumers, and gather large amounts of information for third parties. Some of the information they generate or gather can contain vital personal information. For instance, if you want assistance in wayfinding, you will have to disclose your location and where you are headed. In the case of a home security system, you will be forced to expose your home to the system, which is oftentimes whole raw video feeds.
The big question is, where does all that data go to, whether by design or when stolen and processed incorrectly? The vast growth of IoT over recent years has led to data leakage concerns among Americans. Many consumers, despite having in possession, one or more of the connected gadgets, remain wary of IoT privacy and security issues. A report by the Consumers International, teaming up with the Internet Society to explore consumer stance and perceptions towards the privacy, security, and trust of consumer IoT devices showed shocking revelations.
63% of the interviewed consumers described the process of data collection by smart devices as “creepy.” They reckon that one may pick up a connected toy for his kids only to realize that these devices are silently recording information about the kids’ behavior and then supplying this data to the Big Data ecosystem. Isn’t this the creepiest thing you’ve ever heard?
Other ways in which your smart devices might be selling you out include:
As a parent, you would go to any lengths to protect your babies, and so you may turn to baby monitoring devices. The problem is that modern baby monitoring systems can also be used for harm. This report of a man hacking into a smart baby monitor and screaming at a baby is nothing short of terrifying and creepy. This is an example of what a hacker can do if they have access to your baby monitor.
The possibility of hacking a connected car’s system has made smart vehicle service vendors and automakers to think seriously about car cybersecurity. If the vehicle’s GPS data gets in the hands of intruders, they could seize the car along a known route or plan a burglary when the owner of the vehicle is away from home. And, yes even trusted brands like BMW, Audi, Jeep, and Volkswagen have experienced network and software vulnerabilities that could lead to this.
The above examples show clearly that protecting consumer privacy is becoming more and more difficult as the growth of IoT continues to be realized. The hacking of smartphones and computers, for instance, can be done in remote and often go undetected. Just like computers, smartphones contain a vast amount of data about their owners. Personal data such as name, date of birth, address, credit card details, health care information and much more are transmitted on these devices without encryption. These devices are often linked to email accounts, bank accounts, and even household appliances. This means stolen data could lead to serious problems.
Another case where control can be lost is when companies keep collecting data about users. While these companies may use the information to improve user experience, they can also use it to sell you their products or worse still, sell it to other companies that sell user products. Everything you search on the internet, all of your online activities are being tracked by these companies.
In a nutshell, reports of consumer IoT devices being compromised have been on the rise. Literally, your baby’s smart teddy bear could be spying on him; your smart car could be hacked, and your teakettle could even spy on you. Though it adds value to our lives, the security and privacy concerns that come with IoT cannot be ignored if this technology has to be adopted by the mainstream.