The Internet of Things

It seems every device or home technology is now “smart.” They’re popping up everywhere—in the billions. Although it has been with us in some form and under different names for many years, the Internet of Things (IoT) is pervasive.

A “thing” (in the Internet of Things) can be a household object like a washing machine, thermostat,  doorbell, your fridge or even a child’s toy. It can also be your car, watch, fitness tracker or your home’s lighting system.

These devices include chips and sensors that interact with people and share information from machine to machine. Most all connect to, transfer data, and act on commands through the internet via Wi-Fi, and are controlled remotely.

Many of us can’t resist playing with these new technologies, to see how they might be used. For example, we use IoT to:

  • Track our workouts
  • Navigate maps
  • Adjust our home thermostat
  • Sell things we no longer need or want
  • Schedule appointments
  • Sync to-do and shopping lists with others (and our home refrigerators!)
  • Check to see who’s ringing our doorbell when we’re away from home

But there’s a problem: The accessible nature of these devices provides a level of convenience to our lives, but it requires that we share more information than ever. The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed. In addition, security and privacy often take a back seat for manufacturers trying to get products to market as quickly as possible.

Simple tips
Without a doubt, the IoT makes our lives easier and has many benefits; but we can only reap these benefits if our Internet-enabled devices are secure and trusted. Here are some tips to increase the security of your Internet-enabled devices:

Keep a clean machine. Like your smartphone or PC, keep any device that connects to the Internet free from viruses and malware. Keep the firmware up-to-date on all of your IoT devices. Check the manufacturer’s website for updates at least twice a year. Update the software regularly on the device itself as well as the apps you use to control the device.

Think twice when setting up your device. Don’t just click “next” when you set up your IoT device. Review the default settings carefully before making a selection, and use the security features for your device. If it allows you to set up a passcode lockout (“three strikes and you’re out” limitation) and enables encryption, you can add a layer of protection to your device. Have a solid understanding of how the device works, the nature of its connection to the Internet, and the type of information it stores and transmits.

Protect the connection. Properly secure the wireless network you use to connect Internet-enabled devices. The manufacturer may have assigned your device a standard default password. Hackers know the default passwords, so change it, and choose passwords carefully. Use a separate password for each device.

Resources: The Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Trade Commission, Gartner Inc., Symantec Corp., Sophos Ltd.