How Smart Is Smart?
It seems like companies big and small all over the world are working furiously to make the things around us smarter than we are.
I’d say by far the leading examples we all know and love are our phones and our cars, but there are game systems, Smart TV’s and the ever popular “much much more”:
- Security systems and surveillance
- Smoke and fire alarms
- Heating and A/C thermostats
- Door locks
- Baby monitors
- Footballs that track your throws (!!!!)
- Egg cartons track freshness
- Water bottles track your hydration
- Mattress covers that turn off the lights and set the alarm
- Jars that tell you when contents are getting low
- And more every day!
What you might not realize is some of the technologies that are now being integrated into homes and our lives can provide an open portal to “the web” that may leave them (and YOU) vulnerable to danger, harassment and attack.
Many of these smart devices prioritize simplicity over security and the default security and privacy settings may be “OFF”. You really need to know and understand more than basic “plug it in and go” to safely integrate new devices into your home network without leaving the door to the Internet open to everyone, but who wants to mess with all that technical stuff?
While many of us might think all this seems safe because it’s “in the cloud”, one thing to keep in mind: There is no cloud; it’s just someone else’s computer.
Just think about some of the risks:
- Lost or stolen phone (yeah, YOU are careful, but kids will be kids, you know?)
- Direct attack on your systems
- Attack on “the cloud” servers
- “The Internet is down” – power outages, cable damage somewhere in the system, storms, etc.
- Bugs in the hardware or software controls or updates
Then there are devices like Amazon’s Echo (aka “Alexa”) that is supposed to integrate all those connected devices and, of course, make it easy to buy stuff from Amazon. So with that gadget always listening for someone to say its name, you’re never alone. Amazon says it doesn’t listen until it hears its name... so how does it hear its name if it’s not always listening? Duh….
What about the fuss not long ago about the school district that was loaning laptops to students that had hidden software that kept the webcams on all the time, ostensibly so they could be sure the kids were not using the loaner laptops for cheating or other illegal activity. It was just a “coincidence” that it also allowed the watchers to watch the kids playing, sleeping, dressing and undressing, and…… everything. Whoops!
And, if you aren’t paranoid enough by this point, think about how data coming from all of your devices gets shared and used: some platforms rely on collecting data from all over the internet —Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites, and many more. Last October, Amazon, BBC, Slack, Zillow and dozens of other big websites, all went down because an attack orchestrated by someone who used a vast hidden network of Internet-connected devices, including closed-circuit television cameras, webcams, baby monitors, routers and a few other subcategories of devices. In that incident the perps may just have been “flexing their muscles” by forcing the systems to overload, but they could have just as easily used it to collect a vast amount of “secured” data. Then again, maybe they did….. who can be sure?
So, which of these devices are helpful and efficient technological improvements and how many are “toys”, things we WANT but can’t actually say we NEED?
Bottom line? Be careful what you connect and find out what it takes to keep all of the devices and systems as protected – and updated – as possible. And think about how much you really NEED to be able to look into your fridge from the produce department at the grocery store.
I have a few industry resources you can check out for more insight: CLICK HERE
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