The internet of things (IoT) is rapidly expanding. It is predicted that by 2025, the number of connected devices will have risen above 75 billion. The data these systems collect can be quite extensive, ranging from grocery lists to your room to room movements. The IoT has already ventured beyond the home as many modern cars are now considered “connected,” possessing internet connectivity, automotive app stores and a wide array of technology from microphones to LIDAR. Naturally, these developments have raised privacy concerns with consumers and cybersecurity experts alike.
Convenience At A Cost
The emergence of smart speaker systems and virtual assistants has made always-on microphones an everyday norm. In the US alone, over 41 million households own a smart speaker. These systems collect massive amounts of data, all of which are collected and processed. The benefits of smart devices are undeniable; selective music streaming to devices across the house, virtual assistants with answers to almost any question, and grocery tracking to name but a few. Convenience has unfortunately come at a cost, that being privacy. Data privacy has never been more at risk, with every smart device that’s added to a home representing a new avenue for cybercriminals.
Cybersecurity vs Home Security
Connected security systems are of particular concern, making up almost half of all IoT devices and the majority of hacked devices. These systems offer live video feeds of your home displayed on your phone wherever you are and because many of the cheaper devices are based on similar blueprints, a vulnerability in one system may be widespread across many brands. Indeed, there have been numerous cases of hackers gaining access to live camera feeds of home security systems and even baby monitors.
While most reputable brands will use properly secured connections and encrypt your data, you may not have this guarantee with cheaper alternatives which put your privacy at a significantly higher risk. However, the conduct of the companies we trust with our data may at times be more worrying than any potential hacker. Online retailer Amazon, the vendor of one of the largest smart speakers and virtual assistant brands, admitted to paying employees to listen to Alexa conversations for the purpose of machine learning.
As the internet of things continues to expand, so too will the nature and extent of the data these devices collect. For consumers, this highlights the importance of researching each smart device purchase. The safeguarding of user’s privacy will depend on the proper regulation and application of security measures.