Over the years, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has become the place for big tech announcements, and new gadgets. Some of these gadgets include “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices that connect to the internet. Suddenly, devices that had no need to transmit information are doing so at a record pace. While they may be cool, the Albuquerque Journal says they will erode what little privacy we have left. Let’s see why some experts agree.
As an example, we will use a popular wearable fitness monitor called the Fitbit. These little devices do a great job of keeping stats like sleep cycles and heart rates, all easily viewable on your mobile device via app. The question is, what other places is the data going? Other parties would be interested in that data, such as employers, insurance companies, the government, and advertisers. Usage data is a wealth of information, and since the manufactuer of the device owns that information, it could be sold to any of them.
Another privacy concern is how vulnerable these devices are. Since more and more connect to the internet, a poorly secured gadget could grant access to your entire home network. You can see quickly how that type of control could be used for the wrong purposes. With any computer system, there are exploits that could be utilized. Even if these devices are updated on a periodic basis, issues need to be found first. Additionally, there are other questions that need to be answered. How long will a device be supported? How frequently will updates occur? Will the manufactuers stay current with any potential security threats? Those are only a few of the questions that should be asked.
It is clear that privacy is being traded away with smart devices. However, until there is a way to safeguard them from being used against citizens in a malicious manner, the consumers that use smart devices are vulnerable. Because the industry is in it’s early stages, there is almost no oversight to regulate this fast growing sector of electronics. Many of the devices are designed from the perspective of functionality instead of security.
If you already own devices like this, or are planning to soon, there are some things you can do to protect your household. This will not stop all issues, but it will certainly help make your home network more secure. If you are going to give up your privacy anyway, these suggestions will be helpful.
- Change your router password so it is not the default password. Use a combination of letters and numbers, and if you need to, write it down. If you can’t think of a good one, there are free password generators online that will assist you. These passwords need to be at least 10 characters. Do not store them anywhere online.
- Smart devices usually have passwords, make sure those are set and you are not reusing any passwords. Again, if you need to, write them down.