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How secure is the Internet of Things?


Ten years ago we had the Internet. Not like it is now, but still, it existed and many of us were starting to benefit. Now, like in a long since imagined Star Trek future, we have devices connected to the Internet. An Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging.




Cisco estimates that by 2020, which isn’t that far away, there will be 50 billion IoT devices. That’s approximately 7 for every individual. In 2008 the number of connected ‘things’ exceeded the human population. In 2010 there were 12.5 billion connected devices. Hence Cisco’s seemingly remarkable estimate of 50 billion in 2020 - doesn’t sound so impossible anymore.


We are literally heading into a future where you’ll be able to start cooking whilst on the drive home. Or have food delivered which you forgot you needed for a dinner party. IoT img2The US military has already used big data and connected devices to restock supply lines in two theaters of operation. How soon until all this becomes terribly mundane? How long ‘till, Mom, the fridge is playing Flappy Bird, again, is a line in a TV show, with the audience laughing, not out of the absurdity, but out of the normality of such a scene.




What does this mean for security and privacy?

It’s perhaps not surprising to learn that only 59% of US internet users know that connected devices are collecting data on them, according to the TRUSTe Privacy Index. Most would like to know more about the data being collected.

Many customers are left wondering if there’s an ‘opt out’ option when it comes to the data being collected? So far IoT manufacturers aren’t doing enough to address these concerns. This in itself will be a stumbling block for more wide-scale adoption. The knowledge and comfort gap, which all new technologies have to surpass before the public fully trusts them. Despite the surge in new devices, the IoT is still the other side of this void, in terms of public opinion.


IoT img1What choice do we have?

A Pew Research Internet of Things survey found that privacy, and the fear that choice will be taken away from humans and put into the hands of algorithms, due to this continued pace of innovation.

Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said, There will be conveniences and privacy violations. There will be new ways for people to connect, as well as new pathways towards isolation, misanthropy, and depression. I’m not sure that moving computers from people’s pockets (smartphones) to people’s hands or face will have the same level of impact that the smartphone has had, but things will trend in the similar direction. Everything that you love and hate about smartphones will be more so.”

Aaron Balick, a PhD, psychotherapist, and author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking, has concerns about, “What will happen to our own senses of intuition, let alone our capacity to venture into the unknown, learn new things, and our ability to be still and quiet without being in constant relationship to one device or another.”

Does this mean that IoT creators ought to think a bit more about how they secure and encrypt the data they’re collecting? Informing the public better? If the benefits are to outweigh the negatives, then we need to think about the long term impact, before we hand over control of our shopping to the fridge.

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