We are officially living in the era of Internet of Things, or IoT. The network of inter-connected devices is starting to make our lives more convenient, easier and more vulnerable at the same time. By 2020, about 25 billion internet-enabled devices are predicted to be on the market. Big companies like Google, Samsung and others are rushing to buy up the IoT startups. Samsung has announced that in 5 years all of its devices will be part of IoT network.
Interconnected devices have the power to change the way we live – they are going to help us save energy and water at home, feed our pets exact doses of selected pet food, send us an ambulance when our armband sends emergency medical signal to a hospital or send early warnings of tsunami or earthquake.
While facing the major transformation of our daily lives, we are not ready to face the related security issues, according to many experts. To date, we have unresolved online security and privacy problems, where internet user activity can be tracked by advertisers or government agencies and online accounts can be hacked. With IoT, where everyone¹s functions will rely on a network of communicating devices, privacy issues will take another shape completely.
FTC (U.S. Federal Trade Commission) has recently examined the new ways that marketers are starting to use technology to track users across many devices. For example, one of the new technologies, audio beacons, play ultrasonic sounds when an ad appears on one of the devices, to communicate that to all connected gadgets. A full user profile is being generated based on the activity through different devices, also using other methods, such as account login tracking, browser fingerprinting and data supplied by Internet Service Providers.
Simultaneously, the governments are establishing data retention laws throughout different countries and continents (i.e. CISA in USA, data retention law in Australia and surveillance reforms in France). Unfortunately, the governments seem inept at keeping this data secure from hacking and they don¹t seem able to use it for the purposes it is meant for, such as terrorist tracking, as the latest Paris attacks have shown.
As the Western society is becoming more connected, it is becoming more susceptible to attacks, and Internet of Things is the latest expression of this vulnerability, demonstrating previously unheard-of parameters. For example, in August hackers remotely seized control of over a million Chrysler automobiles, showing they were in full control of the cars – they could activate the windshield wipers, turn the radio and air conditioning on or disengaged the car¹s transmission.
While security experts are scrambling to find solutions to the vulnerability problem in the age of IoT, there are simple steps that every Internet user should follow to guarantee the maximum level of possible safety for their online activities.
- Change default usernames and passwords. Regularly change passwords on your devices, and select sophisticated ones that are impossible to guess.
- Delete cookies. Regularly delete cookies from your browser to interrupt being tracked.
- Get a VPN and learn how to use it – VPNs will be increasingly popular as security issues grow to monumental proportions. Encrypting your device¹s online data is a great starting point for the security conscious. VPN encryption can help secure transfer of sensitive data. NordVPN uses encryption with a 2048-bit strength SSL key and is available on 6 devices on one account.
- Use a private browser. In order for VPN to work effectively, connect through a private browser, such as the latest Mozilla Firefox, which blocks ads and a number of trackers.
While we are waiting for the tech industry and governments to take care of security threats that are a part of IoT future, it is up to each person to educate themselves and to start using existing security measures to ensure their safety online and offline.
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