The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals, or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

The spread of IoT across our personal and professional world has been rapid. Last year, the number of IoT devices overtook the world population (7.4 billion), and by 2020 this number is expected to reach 20.4 billion devices and be worth a whopping $2 trillion USD. To put that into perspective for you, that’s around the size of Brazil’s economy.

As IoT becomes more and more widespread, so does the giant integrated information system that it creates, anything from connected cars, wearables, meters, and consumer electronics.

Consequently, this leaves us with a dilemma. On the one hand, it leads to innovation and increased quality of life, but on the other, it leaves us exposed and vulnerable to the security issues that come with it.

Considering that the main industries at the forefront of IoT include: manufacturing, transportation, utilities, healthcare, and consumer electronics – you can see why security is an important issue.

It may come as no surprise that more weird, whacky, but also scary security stories are coming out. Examples include hackers stealing a casino’s high roller database through a thermometer in the lobby fish tank (click) and cardiac devices that are open to being hacked – mainly categorized into two areas, IoT security and IoT privacy.

When it comes to IoT security there are three different elements to consider:

  • The sheer scale it takes to manage billions of devices and the amplifying effect in case of a breach. IoT is a relatively new phenomenon and security hasn’t been fully considered.
  • IoT is a particularly fragmented industry, thousands of device makers, and very little standardization.
  • Most IoT devices do not have a human interface to manage software updates, patching, and recovering from a potential breach. This means that IoT devices must be built to remain secure for years, and possibly even decades.

On to the point of privacy, like with any other relationship, this comes down to trust. From our whereabouts to health information and everything in between, companies now have access to a lot of data about us. We rely on companies to be transparent with what is being done with this data or how much of it is even stored.

As IoT devices multiply, so does the personal information that is being shared without users even noticing. The problem is that if you want to use any of these devices then you need to read longwinded privacy policies, which are written in complicated legal language, and who does this anyway? And a failure to accept these policies means that certain features from the devices may not work or be accessible.

As you can see, it comes as no surprise that hackers are increasingly targeting IoT. Vital confidential information combined with billions of devices connected to a giant web is too irresistible to ignore. Just like with any other technology, the rapid rise of IoT means that before jumping on the bandwagon there are a number of things that you need to consider.

Make sure in understanding IoT and that you take the time to read the legal disclaimers so you fully understand how your data is stored, and potentially shared. And consider the risk vs. benefits for using devices that requires access to more personal information than what you may be comfortable sharing or that you would be considered with a hacker getting their hands on.

New technology is exciting and can change how we live our lives. But it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves when using it and making sure we don’t put our personal data and ourselves at risk.