Welcome to the internet of things. For better or for worse…

WiFi symbol

Did you know that technology is currently in the midst of a paradigm shift? That shift is the rise of the “Internet of Things”. Just as in the 80’s there was the era of the personal computer and in the late 90’s there was the dot com boom, we are entering of a new era in information technology with the Internet of Things (also known as IoT).

So, what is the Internet of Things? In the most basic sense, IoT is the idea that everyday objects can connect to the internet. This opens the door to some pretty exciting functionality: fitness bands that track calories burned, refrigerators that know when you need to get groceries…

Sounds pretty exciting, right? But with every leap forward there come various risks. In the case of IoT your security and privacy can be at risk. Unfortunately, it seems that manufacturers are building IoT too quickly for security agencies to ensure they are secure. The market is competitive and securing devices is expensive, so device security often falls to the wayside. This isn’t science fiction – we’ve already seen instances where IoT devices have been used to launch devastating DDoS attacks.

Also, although your data is being collected to improve your quality of life, that data is also being given away. As a consumer, you have to consider whether you are comfortable with your data being shared with the corporation that owns your device. Keep in mind that your personal information can be stolen from these devices too.

IoT devices have some very exciting capabilities and they really can improve your quality of life, but take some time to research your device’s security features to ensure you are safe and secure as you enter this new technological era. Here’s a few pointers:

  • If confidentiality, integrity or availability are important characteristics of the IoT, then you should verify that the device is maintained by the vendor. Check to see if patches are released for the device, change and record the password for the device and be prepared to log into it occasionally to check or update it. Look into the reputation of the vendor, if you’re not comfortable with it, then choose another product. Don’t always buy the least expensive option.
  • Be prepared to disconnect the device from the network if necessary – best way to do this is power it down – yes – be prepared to lose the functionality of the device.
  • Put a firewall in front of the network that connects the IoTs.

Wireless router vendors are starting to include features to detect and manage IoT devices in residential networks, here’s an example of one: