Cars. Thermostats. Refrigerators. Insulin pumps. Those are just a few examples of the multitude of everyday items that are getting connected to the internet and joining the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. Being able to turn all the lights on in your house from your phone while you’re out at dinner, or kicking back in the driver’s seat while your car takes the wheel are exciting advancements in technology that recently were thought to still be decades in the making.
However, while the technological advancements in connected devices and the proliferation of their use have had a positive impact on innovation and business, they come with their own set of problems. Most concerns around today’s connected devices tend to be associated with the security of the device itself: What if someone breaks into my connected car and tampers with a sensor? What if my Amazon Dash is used to order a ton of detergent without my permission? What if my Nest gets remotely turned up to 90 degrees while I’m away on vacation? While these concerns are valid, they are focused on the physical device, which is actually not the real issue at hand.
The real cause for concern with connected devices lies in network security. In a recent Forbes article, a man was able to hack his own solar panels through an open Wi-Fi access point to connected to and control those solar panels.
This raises compelling questions about the hackability of devices connected to the Internet, not because the devices themselves are physically hackable, but because the network connections are insecure. To go back to the example of the Amazon Dash — it is unlikely that a stranger is in your house pranking you by ordering items you don’t need by pressing your Amazon Dash Button. What is more likely is that stranger outside of your home can hack your Wi-Fi network and order 10 gallons of milk and 30 tubs of detergent to prank you. In other words, the Dash Button is not what is putting you at risk; it is your unsecured network.
The Amazon Dash is just one example that has far less serious consequences than, say, a connected car or insulin pump — which, if maliciously hacked, could have deadly implications. If your Nest or Amazon Dash is hacked, could those hackers then be able to tap into your larger network — skimming your credit card information stored online or Social Security Number? It is absolutely possible, and consumers should take these possibilities into consideration when deciding to invite a connected device into their life and home. The best thing anyone who owns a connected device can do — whether it’s a phone, car or thermostat — is to ensure that the toughest network security settings are in place. For now, this is the best bet to protect your data against hackers.
Hopefully, as IoT and connected devices mature so will the security around them. We may never live in a world with completely un-hackable devices, but perhaps we will live in a world where protecting your data and devices won’t have to be such a chore. Remember, if you’re worried that someone is breaking into your house to push your Dash button, you probably have more things to worry about over the unwanted detergent (like a stranger in your house).