IoT Consumer Safety and Privacy: What Can be Done to Improve It?

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next big thing in tech. The adoption of so-called smart home appliances has been quick so far, with 69 percent of all households in the United States owning at least one device. In Australia, the rate of adoption is equally rapid. In 2019 alone, around 15.9 million smart home devices were installed in Aussie households. By 2022, 47 million smart home devices will be installed across the nation. The most common smart home devices are for entertainment such as television screens and speakers. However, more people are also now using smart home security and monitoring devices.

The primary reason why people are more accepting of smart home devices is convenience. These gadgets that connect and share information to each other can be customized to better serve the homeowner. Consumers also rely on smart home tech for protection. A smart camera, video doorbell, automatic locks, and fire and theft alarm systems prevent people with ill intent from accessing the property whether the homeowner is around or away.

IoT Safety and Privacy Concerns

There is, however, concern for its safety. When a device is connected to the internet, there is a chance that it will be compromised and controlled by malicious individuals and groups. And, if it is connected to other devices, hackers could get to those, too. A stranger having control over all the devices at home, including your security cameras and locks, sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of Black Mirror.

The concern over cybersecurity issues is serious and widespread. One survey conducted across six countries found that 65 percent of consumers worry about the amount of data being collected by these devices while 55 percent do not trust these devices to protect their privacy. Another 63 percent stated that they find IoT devices “creepy.”

Building Cybersecurity Into IoT

cybersecurity

To enable the wide-scale use of IoT, manufacturers need to step up and integrate measures to ensure that connected devices are not vulnerable to cyberattacks. Consumers need to feel assured that their smart home devices will not be used against them by malicious actors.

Before launch, therefore, manufacturers should ensure that the tech is ready and will not compromise the safety of the user. Some have already automated network testing to find flaws in new devices. It is a nifty process that can save time, money, and reputation.

Manufacturers should also pay better attention to production. Counterfeits are not only bad for revenue, it affects public perception. If there are tons of copies in the market, and consumers are unknowingly purchasing it in case of your own, they are vulnerable to attacks. The resulting negative press will impact the brand even if they are not directly involved.

It is also important to use the right hosting platform, preferably one that offers built-in security. Manufacturers need to be very careful with partnering with hosting platforms because the integrity of the device and the safety of data rely on it.

In addition, because there are troves of data being collected, it should be anonymized. Make it a point to never store information that is sensitive and private. Most importantly, have the connection encrypted to ensure that no cybercriminal can have access to it.

The work, of course, does not end there. Manufacturers need to push frequent and regular security updates. Smartphones and other consumer electronics are already doing it. It patches vulnerabilities that have been discovered and can be used during cyberattacks and can be an entry point for malware.

What Consumers Need to Do

Consumers, too, need to understand the risks of IoT. They have the right to make educated decisions for their safety and security. It will also allow them to take measures that can keep them safe from cybercriminals who want to use smart home devices to have leverage against potential victims.

The most basic way consumers can protect themselves from hackers is to use strong passwords and change them regularly. When accessing a smart home device through a smartphone or laptop, avoid using public WiFi. Moreover, consumers should also consider applying a strong encryption method like WPA for WiFi.

IoT has its merits. It can make your life better. It gives you better control of your devices and your home so that each of them meets your needs. IoT is more than just telling your smart speaker to turn the lights on and off. It can lower your utility bills and keep your home comfortable. It also can put the homeowner at risk of cyberattacks. Manufacturers should ensure that devices that go to the market are secure. Consumers should be educated so that they can protect themselves from hackers.

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