As of this very moment, an estimated 4.9 billion smart devices are connected to the internet (1). For reference, that’s 1.7 billion more things than humans that are currently accessing in cyberspace (1). When smart technology was first introduced into our everyday lives through the smartphone, it was revolutionary. Now, we don’t even call our cellphones smartphones anymore, because the idea of having a cellphone that can’t think for you is, well, unthinkable.
In 2016, we don’t just have smart cellphones; we have smart cars, smart refrigerators, smart television systems, smart watches, smart Barbie dolls, smart parking meters, smart streetlights, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart fire alarms, smart sprinkler systems, smart light bulbs, smart speakers, smart dog collars, smart baby monitors, and smart door locks, just to name a few. Smart objects like these that have the ability to communicate and share information via Wi-Fi or the internet are collectively referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT (1). Not only does the IoT make our lives easier and more efficient, but it also boosts our economy, creating jobs and adding trillions of dollars to the global GDP. In fact, GE Digital estimated in 2015 that the IoT is likely to add 15 trillion dollars to the global GDP by 2035 (1).
Undoubtedly, the IoT has the potential to do great things for us in the future, but the question remains whether it is safe (2). The IoT is transforming the way we go about our everyday lives at an alarming rate, most notably in the automobile and healthcare market, where smart technology is in increasingly high demand (1). In an interview with NBC News, Tripwire security expert Lane Thames warned, “While the emergence of new smart products might be exciting, very few of these devices are designed and developed with cybersecurity and data privacy in mind. Often, a skilled hacker can break into a new IoT device within a matter of days, if not hours (3).” These days, hackers don’t need sophisticated skills nor do they need a lot of money to do serious damage, which is why we must take extra precautions to protect ourselves from security breaches. As Thames suggests, the idea of a hacker having access to your car or television is frightening enough (3). But as the IoT becomes increasingly integrated into our healthcare system with technology like patient monitoring, we also have to worry about hackers gaining access to our most sensitive personal information (3). According to a report published last year by the Raytheon and Websense Security Labs, the healthcare industry already faces 340 percent more cyber attacks than the average industry (3).
While there are plenty of private security companies out there working to prevent cyber attacks, the rapidly growing IoT might necessitate government involvement in cybersecurity measures (3). According to Jeff Hill, Spokesperson for STEALTHbits Technologies, “As international cyber threats increase and cyber warfare tactics are increasingly used by America’s high profile enemies—ISIS, North Korea, Iran—the pressure to do something at the federal level will provide politicians an attractive issue in an election year (3).” In order to prevent the collective of security weaknesses in the IoT from becoming a weapon in the hands of our enemies, the government will need to take action. Unfortunately, however, formulating a standard security protocol for all devices that transmit and receive information takes time. Achieving consensus from every company that makes products with smart technology is no small task, but it is one that the government must undertake in light of the rampant growth of the IoT (1).
(1) Whyte, Alisa Valudes. "The Future of the Internet of Things Is Amazing, If We Don't Muck It Up." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alisa-valudes-whyte-/the-internet-of-things-future_b_8640360.html>.
(2) Weise, Elizabeth. "Hacking the Internet of Things Looms over CES." Usatoday.com. USA Today, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/01/01/internet-of-things-security-privacy-concerns/78035646/>.
(3) Wagstaff, Keith. "Hack to the Future: Experts Make 2016 Cybersecurity Predictions." Nbcnews.com. NBC News, 2 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/hack-future-experts-make-2016-cybersecurity-predictions-n486766>.
Image: © Nils Ackermann | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-internet-things-iot-cloud-computing-concept-connected-devices-world-wide-web-vector-illustration-icons-image64419235#res14972580">Internet of things (IOT) and cloud computing concept for connected devices in the world wide web</a>