The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t exactly new, but thanks to emerging technologies, it’s becoming more useful and prevalent. Unfortunately, this IoT explosion poses significant security threats. Heavyweight online shopping retailer’s new Amazon Dash button is poised to merge IoT and shopping. Users can purchase the Dash button, a tiny device that makes ordering products as simple as a one click- no computer or login required.
Amazon’s Dash allows quick refills of select everyday items, from foodstuffs to household cleaning products. When your stock is low, just press a button to order a new supply. There are even certain appliances, like Brother printers, that can detect when essentials like ink and toner are running low, and place another order.
However, items like the Dash, while increasingly beneficial, might deliver unwanted side effects. Primarily, privacy is a major concern. It’s well-known that our various devices record information, whether phones, smart TVs, cars, or thermostats. Of course, while your Netflix history might be pretty benign (I’ll gladly tell anyone who will listen, which is a short list, about my obsession with noir and cult classic horror flicks), gadgets like the Dash offer more personal information. Now there’s a detailed account of what you buy and how often, peak utilities usage, and where you drive.
Smart home technology offers a potentially frightening security breach. Internet connected thermostats, water monitors, and the like can show usage patterns, with indications when we’re away from our homes. If hacked, this could present serious real-world threats. NetIQ senior director of solution strategy Geoff Webb explained, “The scariest thing is that we don’t know what the scariest thing is.” Think about it. Smart tech is exploding at an exponential rate, and adoption of new devices is developing faster than we can keep up.
There’s a cost though, primarily the unknowns Webb warns against. Many internet-connected gadgets are intended to record user data, which isn’t anything new. This information is often incredibly valuable for companies. The landscape is shifting from the proliferation, and variety, of IoT objects. We’ve seen an eruption of monitoring devices, internet-capable car features, and other in-home smart tech, but the rate at which this sector is expanding far exceeds our ability to detect possible security issues. From late 2013 to the end of 2014, hundreds of thousands of spam emails were sent from hacked smart devices. Even internet-equipped fridges were spewing out spam, and no we’re not talking about the canned “meat,” though that’s pretty nasty too.
Will I be getting a Dash, or upgrading my thermostat? Probably not initially, though the prospect of ordering Kraft Mac N Cheese from Amazon with a simple button push is alluring, especially if it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mac n cheese. However, my hesitation isn’t due to security fears, but rather a fondness for visiting my neighborhood Harris Teeter. Still, the lack of knowledge surrounding IoT implementation around the home, and associated security loopholes, doesn’t compel me to update all my appliances. For now, I’m perfectly content with my “dumb” fridge. I get enough spam emails without my washing machine sending me “Nigerian Prince” messages.