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Mind Of Its Own: Why Some Technology May Be Too Smart For Everyday Use

Why you should be very careful with some modern technologies

28Sep

Each day, some new smart device emerges, making it even more difficult to navigate through the sea of possible choices. Some years ago, when an automated light switch was exotic enough, a customer could wish for and have anything that the smart technology market had to offer. Today, the notion 'the more smart stuff, the better' is falling out of fashion. The time has now come to choose the most meaningful solutions that suit our unique sets of needs and lifestyles.

One of the reasons for it is security concerns. Which is rather ironic, because according to 2015 State of a Smart Home Report, 90% of consumers say security is one of the top reasons to purchase a smart home system. After all, the smart environment is becoming more and more complex, and with complexity comes vulnerability. The more smart devices we have, the more entry points for a possible intruder. Most of the smart devices do not have any protection at all. They are not too smart, but rather not smart enough from this point of view. All they do is collect information through their multiple sensors in order to provide it, and to whom they provide it is the matter in question.

Cyber criminals do not choose the most lucrative victim, as 'old fashioned' rogues do. Instead of targeting individuals with the most valuable possessions, they choose them by the vulnerability, using scripts to seek out weak entry points and run penetration tests.

Some experts argue this is more hype than a real possibility. After all, why would anyone go through all this trouble just to log in and mess around with the lights in your living room? However, some eventualities do raise serious concerns.

The vulnerabilities criminals detect can be used to physically break into the house by hacking the automated locking system or by finding out the time window when the door is meant to stay open (say, to let in your dog walker that comes on a schedule). There are other, more sophisticated ways to exploit smart home’s vulnerabilities, such as ransomware. The criminals may threat to cause some vexatious and dangerous developments in the house (making a smart stove overheat or an automated thermostat drop the temperature) unless the homeowners pay them to go away. There is a variety of options, but the concept is clear. A privacy violation is also possible, especially when home monitoring cameras are involved. Moreover, the Internet of Things Research Study conducted in 2015 by Hewlett-Packard, reports that 90% of devices collect at least one piece of personal information via the device, the cloud, or its mobile application.

So, what is the question we should ask before acquiring a smart appliance? How well protected is it? Is it possible to hack into it? Should it be smarter? Not really.

According to a survey conducted by one of the mobile phone service providers, more than 90% of people do not use all of the functions their smartphone has, whereas nearly 60% do not even know about all of its features. It seems that the newest smartphones become too smart for us. The fact is that this very same device, of which full functionality we are scarcely aware, is the weakest link in our personal IoT environment. It is the most versatile and most pervasive of all our devices, and it is more often utilized to access and remotely control all smart appliances we possess.

What can we do avoid this downside of connectivity? Experts say it is up to the consumer to be vigilant. First of all, we must protect our smartphones and devices. The usual monitoring software that among popular features allowing users to block particular words, contacts, app, etc. and uses the block-and-locate option - which comes to the rescue if one’s smartphone is lost or stolen - may be quite handy. One also should not dismiss the built-in security features of a smartphone, such as PIN-code protection.

Second, it is better to put all of your smart appliances on a separate network, different from the one you use for your PC and mobile devices to access the web and social media. In addition, it goes without saying that one should spare neither trouble nor time to change default passwords and use different ones for every smart item.

With these simple preventive measures, you can essentially reduce the risks of a physical break-in or cyber theft, and enjoy all the benefits of latest technology.

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