We hear a lot lately about the Internet of Things (IoT) but what does that really mean? Simply put, we are well beyond connecting people with the Internet and now we are connecting things. And, we’re not just connecting people to things but also connecting things to other things. This latest trend is often referred to as Machine to Machine (M2M). Think this doesn’t apply to you? Think again. Have you bought a new car in the last 5 years? It’s probably connected all the time whether you realize it or not. Carry a smart phone? Chances are it’s constantly connected and communicating even without any interaction from you. Do you have a set top cable box, smart television, game console, or video streaming device? All of them are probably connected and communicating with other things right now. Still not convinced? Log into your home router and look to see how many devices are currently connected to it. You might just be surprised to find cell phones, tablets, watches, fitness bands, game consoles, TVs, thermostats, lights, appliances, web cams, locks, and even medical implants.
This trend is well underway and will only grow in the future as more devices join the fray. All of these thing can be wonderful conveniences and even contribute to better quality of life for many people. As we move further into this new environment, we must remember that there is also the potential for things to go wrong. For all the benefits there are also vulnerabilities and risks. With so many devices sharing information about our daily lives, preferences, tastes, habits and health, safety and privacy should be a serious concern. In the rush to advance, we must keep sight of these risks.
Here’s a few questions we should all be asking ourselves and the vendors of these products:
- If you connect a device to the internet and never think about it again, are you sure you can trust it to behave appropriately?
- Does it apply automatic software updates?
- What new data and information sharing do those features enable?
- Are you even aware when they occur?
- What about security flaws and software patches?
- Are vulnerabilities being reported and mitigated?
- Who’s keeping an eye on them while they keep an eye on you?
Having a sense of awareness and thinking about these questions the next time you connect some ‘thing’ to the Internet, will keep you better protected, going forward.