The Internet of Things may be one of the next big things in technology, but all those smart appliances, gadgets and cars could pose a threat to our personal privacy and safety. Indeed, at a time when concerns about digital privacy have become widespread, consumers must understand that even their stove or refrigerator might be able to be used to spy on them if they are connected to the internet.
Warning from U.S. intelligence
U.S. Intelligence Chief James Clapper warned this week in the latest edition of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for the Senate Armed Services Committee that connected devices could pose a security threat. The Internet of Things was just one topic he mentioned, although other topics received more extensive attention.
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He did warn though that any type of smart device integrated with the electric grid, including vehicles, especially autonomous vehicles, and household appliances could be used to spy on people. He also noted that smart devices are helpful though as they improve efficiency, conserve energy and provide convenience.
Internet of Things as a recruitment tool?
Clapper said security industry analysts have found that many connected device systems can threaten users’ data privacy and integrity or service continuity. Going forward, he suggested that intelligence services might even use the Internet of Things to identify, surveil, and monitor those who use them and possibly even pick out potential recruits. Agents could also potentially use it to access various networks and collect user credentials. The intelligence chief mostly emphasized data and digital privacy in relation to the Internet of Things.
Although he didn’t mention this, it’s possible terrorist organizations could do the same as they are known to have their own hackers who could do similar things to what cyber-intelligence agents do. This is a very scary possibility as it provides much more extensive and direct access to targets than current recruitment tools, such as Facebook and Twitter and messaging and other digital services provided by the likes of Apple and Google.
The debate over end-to-end encryption
Tech companies are battling intelligence agencies’ snooping by adopting end-to-end encryption, and there’s a great debate over that as it makes it impossible for law enforcement agencies to gain access to anyone’s information. While usually this is a good thing, the exception to the rule would be criminals and terrorists, and unfortunately such a broad net gives them total privacy as well.
Before the Internet of Things becomes standard in every home, it’s likely companies that make smart devices will have come up with a solution or end-to-end encryption for their devices to protect consumers, which is certainly a good thing. For now though, there’s still a ways to go.