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One day, you arrive home from work to discover that your cloud-enabled home security system has been breached, and your house has been robbed. How could such a thing happen? Well, if you’re an early adopter of the Internet of Things (IoT), you could find out the hard way.

What’s this new buzz-phrase mean? The Internet of Things What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] It seems like there are new buzzwords popping up and dying off with each day that passes us by, and "the Internet of Things" just happens to be one of the more recent ideas that... Read More is what technology enthusiasts call the integration of devices (things) with the Internet. Essentially, a smart refrigerator that emails you when you’re running out of milk; a cloud-based, wearable fitness device that dials emergency services when you’re having a heart attack; a smart alarm clock that starts your coffee maker only when you turn off your alarm and get out of bed.

These are the devices of the future Building The Internet of Things, With Tessel: The Node.js Development Board Building The Internet of Things, With Tessel: The Node.js Development Board Tessel is a new breed of development board that runs entirely on Node.js, and after a successful Kickstarter, they’ve now the reached the point of being available to everyone. Read More , networked together and uplinked to a cloud where you can access the information no matter where you are in the world. Even away from home, you can be plugged in to everything that’s important to you at home. It’s a futurist’s dream, but it’s also a security expert’s nightmare.

Understanding IoT

So what is the Internet of Things in reality? Aside from the pie-in-the sky future vision listed above, there are already technologies branching into this realm.  For example, the popularity of the FitBit is a first generation of this kind of concept.

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The FitBit Kickstart Your Summer Fitness & Weight Loss With FitBit Kickstart Your Summer Fitness & Weight Loss With FitBit With summer approaching, many of us are starting to think a little more seriously about our weight. In particular, it's that time of year when people worry about how they'll look in those summer outfits.... Read More is a wearable device that logs how many steps you take, distance you travel, calories you burn, and even when and how well you sleep. When the device comes in range of the wireless base station, it ships off all that data about you into an online profile that you can use to watch your progress.

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It’s a fun, convenient way to get in shape, right? But, with the Internet of this thing storing all of your private health and activity data, you can imagine just how valuable that may be to various people. Marketers would love to learn whether you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, whether you struggle with weight, or how often and how much you travel.

On an ominous side, criminals would certainly love to know your sleep patterns, and the frequency with which you upload data at the base station – providing insight into when you’re usually home.  Smart cameras could be hacked to visually spy on you right in your home. The security dangers of data collected by such devices aren’t always obvious on the surface, but when you look at how much information it reveals about you Just How Dangerous Is It To Share Your Information On Facebook? Just How Dangerous Is It To Share Your Information On Facebook? Read More – it can be disconcerting.

Smart refrigerators could reveal your eating habits and food preferences – a gold mine for marketers. A GPS-enabled unit in your car that unlocks your home and opens your garage when you arrive home could tell would-be thieves when you’re away from home. Essentially, any personal data about you that makes it onto the Internet becomes fair game – and with the Internet of Things movement, nearly everything you own becomes “Internet-enabled”.

Security Weak Links

So where are the weak points in the brave new world of Internet “things”?  The danger comes at every “junction” in the system. In other words, where devices link to the Internet, and where that data is transmitted to some secure destination.

Stuart Dommett, Intel’s head of business marketing explained it best in an Inquirer interview:

“You’re going to have to secure the device or the sensor, you need to secure the data, and you’re going to have to secure that across an open network – it really is a massive, massive change.”

This is similar to the case with emails 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About Internet security is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often sits way back in the recesses of our minds, fooling ourselves into believing that "it won’t happen to me". Whether... Read More , where the security dangers are mostly on the device side of things – from users falling for phishing scams What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More , to malware and adware Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More capturing your passwords. In the case of smart sensors, the data that exists on the sensors is vulnerable, the data being wirelessly transmitted from the sensor to the Internet is vulnerable, and the data transmission to the remote server is also at risk.

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In the future heyday of the Internet of Things, which is sure to come quickly, these sensors will include home thermostats and lighting, health monitoring devices, automobile monitoring and navigation, and the bounty of smart appliances that are already showing up on store shelves today. That means each one of the “smart” sensors you’ll be bringing into your life become yet another potential security vulnerability.

Forget about whether someone is going to hack your email account, the worry of the future will be whether someone remotely disables your “smart” home security system Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Of the many projects that you can build with the Raspberry Pi, one of the most interesting and permanently useful is the motion capture security system. Read More , or hacks into your health monitoring device and learns every detail of your medical history.

Is IoT Doomed to Hackdom?

Is the sky falling when it comes to IoT? Is our world inevitably going to become a goldmine for hackers and government agents looking to peek into every aspect of your life (more than they already do)?

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If security experts out there have anything to say about it, the answer will hopefully be an emphatic “no!”  In fact, there is already an Open Interconnect Consortium in place, which includes major corporations like Intel, Dell, and Samsung, who are all hoping to establish a common standard for a robust and secure method to connect devices together regardless of OS or platform.  It is still in the early stages, where proposals for such a standard are being accepted for consideration. Its mission statement reads “We want to connect the next 25 billion devices for the Internet of Things.

It should make anyone hoping for a secure IoT future very pleased to learn that as of July 2014, McAfee has joined the consortium. With the security experts of McAfee driving the early adoption of standards, you can be certain security will be a core aspect. Gary Davis, chief security expert at McAfee Blog Central explains it this way:

“Smart refrigerators can be used in botnets. Smart televisions can be used to spy on its owners. But these dangers are preventable through good consumer practice and better industry standards.”

In other words, if the manufacturers of these new types of devices can build security right into the devices at the sensor level and in how sensors communicate wirelessly to other devices, you’ll have 90% of the vulnerability secured, without the consumer having to do a single thing. That is in an ideal world. Whether the Open Interconnect Consortium can accomplish that lofty goal remains to be seen.

Are you going to embrace the Internet of Things? Or are you going to avoid it like the plague? Share your own thoughts in the comments section below!

  1. Dave
    January 27, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Reading this article reminds me of an episode of Black Mirror from 12/11/2011 that I watched over the weekend. It's free if you have netflix. Black Mirror: Season 1, Episode 2 - Fifteen Million Merits.

  2. Kylee
    August 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Hey you there I won,t to talk

  3. dragonmouth
    August 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    While in a perfect world "IoT" would be great, in the real world the letters "di" are missing from that acronym because that what anyone is if they adopt it before effective security is guaranteed.

    Somehow McAfee's involvement does not inspire me with confidence. They did not do a good job securing Windows which is a closed, proprietary system. I don't expect them to do a better job with an open system with a multitude points of attack.

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