The Promise of IoT

About 4% of the world’s population was on the internet when Kevin Ashton, a British scientist working at Proctor and Gamble (P&G) used the term the “Internet of Things” in a 1999 presentation he was working on. The presentation focused on the use of radio frequency identification tags (RFID) in the P&G supply chain. His argument was that computers could be much more efficient if they weren’t dependent on humans to input data. He wrote, “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory. RFID and sensor technology enable computers to observe, identify, and understand the world—without the limitations of human-entered data.

Fast Forward to 2018

The world Ashton wrote about is becoming a reality. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that by 2020 there will be 20.4 billion connected things in use worldwide. The use of “Smart” technology in many of the products we use in our homes is enabling seamless connections between devices, people, networks, and services. These devices, the data they collect, and the power of the internet are creating opportunities to gain greater insight into end user behavior, improved customer service, and a more personalized user experience.

The Risks

Many of today’s smart devices can collect, analyze, and share data without human intervention or knowledge. If we consider the broad range of connectable devices, we quickly see that there are many access points a cyber attacker can potentially compromise. Given the interconnectivity of many of these devices, gaining access to one device can potentially allow an hacker to compromise the entire IoT ecosystem.

How to Protect Yourself

Here are a few basic steps you can take to protect your devices and data from cyber security threats.

  1. Device security
  • Purchase your smart devices from reputable vendors.
  • Beware of purchasing non-brand name and preowned devices.
  • Install software updates and security patches, especially on new devices.
  • Check for updates frequently since many smart devices don’t automatically update.
  • When installing new software, carefully read through the install wizard instructions and select the “custom” install and not the standard installation option.
  1. Secure your network
  • Check your filters and firewall configurations for exceptions.
  • Don’t allow the network to send out data without your permission.
  • Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) instead of the public cloud.
  • Install antivirus software.
  • Install a smart firewall.
  1. Follow cyber security best practices

The IoT of Kevin Ashton’s prediction is now a part of everyday life, both at work and in your home. There are great benefits, but there is also the responsibility of being aware of the limitations and vulnerabilities. You’re not only keeping your smart home safe, your keeping your family safe as well.