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My Refrigerator Is Smarter Than Me

Written By

Sean Goldstein

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With the recent influx in digitally innovative products, technology is a part of our lives that is virtually impossible to ignore.  Most consumers welcome the latest gadget or app “claiming” to make us happier, healthier and stress-free.  But where do we draw the line that the array of digital connections at our fingertips is becoming TOO much?  By increasing our digital connections are we just increasing our vulnerability to cyber-attacks?

The term the “Internet of Things” (IoT) coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 refers to devices that are connected to the internet that are not your typical PC or smart phone.  Items such as refrigerators, alarm systems, washing machines, watches, thermostats, fitness monitors and entertainment systems all fall into this category.  According to ABI Research more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the internet by 2020. These innovations have come to be in an effort to make our lives easier and more efficient but are they taking away more from us than they are actually giving back?

These added daily conveniences are only encouraging us to reveal even more private information about ourselves to companies who may or may not be properly equipped to handle this information.  When we add new technologies we widen the net on areas of our digital lives that need to be secured from attack.  The truth is that there is no possible way (today) to keep the “Internet of Things” completely secure. But what we can do is strengthen the ability to recognize when a breach has occurred in order to prevent further damage.  Recently, a large scale attack targeting home routers and even a refrigerator was uncovered by Proofpoint Inc. The attack sent malicious emails to its users the goal of which was to grow their “army” of infected devices in order to launch larger scale cyber-attacks.

Multiple attack points are present on our digital devices that can allow hackers a glimpse into our lives and our daily routines and patterns as well.  For example, hackers can listen in on smart home energy devices in order to determine when you are away, putting your home at risk of burglaries. The more connected we are, the more exposed we become.

Manufacturers have an obligation to protect consumer’s security and they are constantly combating the latest and greatest threats.  But what can you, as an individual, do to protect yourself, while they get their security measures up to speed?

–          Password Protection is Key– This should go without saying but always use complex passwords and never share them.  Regular password updates are also recommended.

–          Update Update Update- New technologies emerge daily, as well as new security patches and updates.  Don’t hesitate to install system updates as they are available.

–          Look Before You Leap- Be an educated consumer and do the proper research before you dive into the latest technology.  The internet community is a priceless resource and is not shy about how they really feel about a product.  Heed the warnings of others if they are there.

–          Be Wary of Unknown Links- Never click on a suspicious link and be cautious even when a link appears to be legitimate.

–          Know What To Do When Something Looks Suspicious – Consider in advance what to do and who to call in the event that your technology appears compromised. Do you have vendor support phone numbers in a readily available place, do you know how to power down a device, is there a trusted cyber-security-expert you can call?

While the internet of things has the potential to unleash a wave of new opportunities and accessibility, along with it will follow a wave of vulnerabilities.  These technologies will change the way we work, communicate and operate on a daily basis and this increase in connections will greatly increase our digital exposure.  While we can’t foresee what the next vulnerability or weakness might be, as consumers we can educate ourselves and be proactive in our security planning as best we can.