We all love smart technology, but what happens when our smart devices are too dumb to prevent hacking? Now that we enjoy everything from smart thermostats to smart door locks on the open network, we are also increasingly susceptible to digital attacks. The smaller and simpler the smart device, the less protection they tend to have.
While your phone and laptop are reasonably protected from hacking, your home devices are a bit more vulnerable. And the more gadgets you own, the more likely you are to be the victim of a hacker, according to The Verge.
"Imagine if you took computing back in the '80s and decided there wasn't enough of it, and there weren't enough security flaws. That's where we are with IoT devices," says Wendy Nather, an information-security veteran who works at Duo Security in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "We're heading for a whole mess of trouble, ranging from the cost of cellular service for these devices to de-incentives for actually securing these things. We are gonna have all sort of kinetic effects that we haven't seen before."
This is no surprise to those who work with the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. DefCon, a conference that hosts an IoT Village devoted to hacking IoT devices, found 15 major vulnerabilities in routers in a few short hours back in 2014. For most hackers, it is only a matter of finding a device they want to crack and spending some time on it.
"There are two big worries with IoT," says Jack Gavigan, an information-security expert. "First, is someone gonna hack into my fridge and have 500 steaks delivered to my house? But second, are you suddenly gonna find that your insurance premiums have gone up because your heating system detects that you're out every weekend until 2 or 3 in the morning?"
Thankfully, most devices are of little interest to hackers. There is little information to monetize on your thermostat. Also, the more expensive a device, the more security it will likely have. This is important for new buyers to be aware of. Less, in terms of devices, may actually be more, but if you do need to invest in smart technology, spend the extra dollars to ensure you are protected.
According to Professor Nick Jennings, artificial intelligence expert and Vice Provost at Imperial College London, the government and manufacturers should keep on top of smart technology because hackers can cause people genuine harm. He advises people to practice good cyber hygiene, including turning off smart assistants when they're not in use, keeping separate "Home" and "Guest" WiFi connections, and making sure updates are regularly installed.
"Internet-enabled devices are and can be hugely beneficial, particularly to the elderly or disabled. However, we are now in a transitional period where manufacturers must take responsibility, or be made to by the government," Jennings says.