Monday, December 8, 2014

SMART HOME – Internet of Things(IoT) THE NEW FRONTIER

As people accept more and more items into their homes that contain internet connecting computer chips, people have a right to demand encryption.

The exponential shrinkage in the size of computer chips has allowed a new frontier to emerge in the Internet arena. The newest catch phrase refers to “Internet of things.” Why should we as consumers and people of free will and self-determination be concerned?

What is Internet of Things(IoT)? Wikipedia defines the term this way:
Internet of Things, a self-configuring wireless network between objects. More specifically: The Internet of Things(IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.

That sounds pretty simple, but what does it actually mean and how does it affect us? If you follow the link in Wikipedia you can read in more detail the who, what, when, where and why of IoT, but here I want to delve into the oft overlooked issue of privacy.

People give away their right to privacy minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. Most people think, “I’m not doing anything wrong so I don’t have anything to hide.” What they don’t stop to realize is that once a freedom has been given away it is very hard, if not impossible, to take back.

You have even heard it said that “once it is on the internet you can never take it back.” If a young woman sends via email a sexy picture to her boyfriend she should assume that anyone will be able to retrieve and see it. With the current lack of encryption and security on many websites and servers in the Cloud, there really is no privacy on the Internet. And that may be true until a skilled hacker gets into their system and steals the information.

As we move into home automation, or sometimes referred to as a “smart home” arena, we have to be aware of the information, privacy, and freedoms that we are placing at risk. That information is sometimes referred to as “big data,” and it is a commodity that companies sell. They may not sell your name, address, and telephone number, but they may sell your IP address. Have you ever gone to a website and all of a sudden you are receiving ads for similar or related products? Your IP address has just been aggregated and sold.

Businesses often rush to be the first one on the market with the newest and hottest, but not necessarily the best product. Making it useful, attractive, easy to use and inexpensive relative to the competition are the primary goals. Little thought may actually be given to privacy issues, protecting the user’s information.
How much harm can come to your baby when you install that babycam so you can monitor your baby’s wellbeing and your nanny’s behavior on your cell phone? (Read more on BBC NEWS TECHNOLOGY, Nov. 20, 2014—Breached Webcam And Baby Monitor Site Flagged By Watch Dogs. This article describes how thousands of private webcam feeds can be viewed by potentially millions of unauthorized people.)

Imagine a pedophile in your neighborhood logging into the website and watching your child play in her playpen. How long might it be before that pedophile tries to befriend you so he can get closer to the child he has been watching for months?

The article points out that many people use the standard password or no password at all to prevent unauthorized access. They want to keep things simple for Dad or Grandma to view the feed as well leaving the feed completely open to anyone who can pick up the signal.

A number of San Diego area Meet-Up groups have formed to discuss both the innovations and the ramifications of this new expanding area of innovation. CyberTech/CyberHive meets several times a month introducing innovative, technology-driven companies and start up entrepreneurs and offers a place to foster innovation, growth, and connections.

San Diego Mac User Group (SDMUG) presented Kris Skrinak’s Apple’s Internet of Things: The Ultimate 2014 Christmas Wish List on December 3. Kris helped to define what is meant by Internet Of Things, how to maintain privacy while expanding the use of IoT in the home, and discussed a number of website, apps, and widgets that help make sense of this growing trend.

Kris discussed a new free thermostat that is offered by San Diego Gas and Electric that can be programed and controlled from your cell phone. One drawback is that you agree to let SDG&E control your thermostat during high energy periods, although Kris stated he was not aware of SDG&E every changing his settings.

All you have to remember as the buyer is to be sure to ask if the information that is being transmitted is secured at the delivery end. Is it encrypted? Does the receiver have to have a password or “key code” to get the information? You don’t have to know how the key code is designed, but you do want to use any key code or password to its fullest benefit.

Just remember that anything you put on the Internet, that you don’t want everyone to know, should be encrypted and protected to protect your privacy. Don’t skip over the statement on privacy rights when you go to a new website. Know what rights you are giving up.

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