A relatively new concept, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any and every Wi-Fi-enabled device on the market today. From smartphones to smart refrigerators, IoT is a simple idea that’s becoming increasingly complicated. That’s because more devices are beginning to fall under the broad umbrella. And while there’s no arguing that this growing interconnections has made our lives easier, there are a few risks involved.
What is IoT?
Originally designed to help make everyday life easier, IoT categorizes devices based on their ability to connect and sync with other applications. In other words, it’s the basic idea that if it can be connected to the internet, it can be used to link up with other devices to help improve our day-to-day.
Soon every device we own could be connected to our personal and private lives: shopping applications could start automatically rifling through browsing habits and phone’s exact location to offer the perfect purchase; smart fridges could be able to instantly detect when you’re getting low on milk and eggs and even go so far as to order new groceries autonomously; and smart home detectors, which will soon be the norm for new houses, could make it possible for you to control all of your home’s applications remotely.
This seemingly unlimited and universal access to information and technology could offer numerous benefits, including providing more government transparency, but it also comes with a few caveats, namely in the form of privacy.
How IoT could infringe on your privacy
One of the major downsides to this growing inter connectivity lies in the question of privacy—namely the fact that most of these devices come with very little (if any) privacy protocols. What’s more, most of these newer tech gadgets offer paltry security settings.
In fact, for many cyber security experts, security concerns have been a looming issue, especially when it comes to man-in-the-middle attacks, which is when hackers hijack a network by eavesdropping and potentially altering the communications. By taking control of a person’s smartphone, for instance, hackers can gain entry into every device, app, text, and email connected to it. And with IoT devices syncing any and everything under the sun, this means that the potential information hackers could be hypothetically gain access to could be limitless.
Technology and privacy: a fateful combination
While many advocates foresee a future where IoT will help force more accountability in government, the general consensus is that this growing technology could be—and likely already is—used for social and political manipulation.
Privacy experts warn that this growing inter connectivity could come with several real-life implications. For one, an insurance company could potentially use these smart devices to monitor your health and thereby decide to approve or reject coverage based solely on the data mined from your smart apps. Another possibility would be a potential employer deciding to hire or fire you based on your browser search history.
There have already been cases of smart TVs recording users’ watching habits, and smart thermostats recording people’s conversations. Even voice-activated apps like Siri have come under fire for allegedly recording and mining people’s shopping habits. When you combine these and sprinkle in even more smart devices, the potential privacy risks almost outweigh the benefits.
How to help secure your privacy
You may not be able to stop the coming onslaught of IoT devices, but you can help prep yourself in the event of a data breach. For one, make sure all your devices and apps are up to date. You may find it annoying to have to deal with constant in-app updates, but these updates usually include vital patches and fixes to help keep your device protected from attacks.
You can also go a step further and manually disable what types of services your apps are able to access. A photo app asking to access your phone’s camera makes complete sense, but a gaming app asking to access your contacts and location should raise a few red flags.
Finally, look into adding a little anonymity to your online network by securing your devices with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As highly effective security tools, VPNs are incredibly easy to use and help add an extra layer of privacy to your online network by encrypting your communications and anonymizing your location.