My new book, You and the Internet of Things, A practical guide to understanding and integrating the IoT into your daily life (Self-Counsel Press 2020) aims to inform, educate, and reassure mainstream technology users. Even those who are not users of computers, are certainly users of things and 'things' are getting smarter all the time. From “smart” houses to “smart” cars, from cashless banking to wearable sensors that gather personal health data, new technological innovations and the Internet of Things are integrated with nearly all aspects of daily living, impacting health, home, transportation, shopping, travel and entertainment. Soon, everything with be “smart”, interconnected, fully networked, and able to communicate back and forth.
As you consider the options for the integration of the IoT into your daily life, security and privacy concerns are paramount. Computer hacking is a very real concern. From neighborhood kids with savvy tech skills hacking into your system to take it for a joyride, to organized crime networks with teams of hackers looking for open doorways to tangible assets, our home computers and interconnected systems are vulnerable.
There are three main issues to consider as you make your choices around networked systems. The first has to do with cybersecurity and the potential threats posed by cyber criminals or cyber vandals. It is not just devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets that are vulnerable. Household security cameras, smart speakers, and smart light bulbs can be hacked. While it may simply be creepy to think about a stranger taking a peek at you while you are watching your smart TV, it may be a different matter entirely to have them watching your children sleep via the baby monitor. Not only that, but once a hacker gains access to your system via any device, your entire system is vulnerable. By bringing internet connected devices into your home you are increasing the risks to you and your family. No system will be completely secure. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate these risks.
The second issue has to do with the expectation of privacy and the age of data collection. Simply put, the very technology that makes our smart devices “smart” is the same technology that is used to collect our personal data—from behavioural data to demographic data—our devices monitor, collect, and analyze our every keystroke, screen tap, and voice command. By integrating smart technology into our homes, cars, hospitals, schools, shopping experiences and every other aspect of daily life, we have given away not only our data, but also our expectation of personal privacy.
The third issue, while not directly related to privacy and security concerns, is a kind of cousin to them. As with all technology related matters, we are in a fast-moving, ever-evolving world. In the book, I make the point that there is still some distance to go in terms of efficient and affordable, fully networked systems. The tools and protocols are not yet standardized to enable devices with different vendor origins to communicate effectively. The sophisticated networks required to run simple, affordable, easy-to-manage systems are not in place yet. This creates a challenge for typical consumers and also contributes to problems with secure encryption, and added system vulnerability.
John Biehler, Editorial Director of GetConnected Media, and a leading Canadian technology journalist, kindly agreed to be interviewed for the book. His main concern in regard to the IoT has to do with privacy and security. “The Internet of Things,” he says, “is a minefield of potential security issues.”
Beihler further agreed to an interview on the You and the Internet of Things podcast. In the episode, Beihler discusses these concerns with me, and offers up insight, advice, and suggestions for the mainstream user of new IoT technology. He shares valuable information to help keep your networks safe. Take a listen to find out what you need to worry about, and how to protect yourself and your family.