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Internet of Things (IoT) 15 March 2019

Fact or Fiction? With IoT It’s Not Always Clear

Ryan Polk
By Ryan PolkSenior Policy Advisor

Recently, owners of expensive smart shoes found themselves at loose ends. Unable to pair the shoes to their smart phone app, they couldn’t tighten their self-lacing sneakers. It sounds like science fiction, but this really happened.

From dental sensors that can monitor what a person eats to kitty litters that can track a cat’s every movement, it can be difficult to sort fact from fiction when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). Can you tell which is real and which is not?

Fact or Fiction? The voice came from inside the Arizona man’s home – his home security camera to be exact. “You’ve never met me. I’m just a hacker.” Fortunately, it was a friendly hacker, alerting the household to a vulnerability in their home security system.

Fact: The hacker had a solution: turn on two-factor authentication. When using IoT devices, consumers can take this simple step, plus a few others, to help protect their privacy and security.

Fact or Fiction? A couple returned home to find that their carpet had been worn through by their overzealous Internet-connected vacuum cleaner. A hacker had programmed it to clean one square foot of their carpet for several hours.

Fiction: While there are plenty of robot vacuums on the market – and at least one has been found to have vulnerabilities that could allow its owners to be spied on – we have yet to learn of one that channels Lady Macbeth: “Out, damned spot!”

Fact or Fiction? FlushSmart is disrupting the plumbing industry. The WiFi-enabled product attaches to your bathroom infrastructure, scans everything you flush, and analyzes the contents.

Fact and Fiction: It seems like fiction, but you can buy an “intelligent toilet,” which features a heated seat, built-in speakers, and voice control. When it comes to its security features, let’s hope the manufacturer takes privy-cy seriously. They can stay one step ahead with the OTA IoT Trust Framework, which provides manufacturers and others with a simple risk assessment guide for connected devices and systems.

Fact or Fiction? In a ski resort in Austria, guests found themselves locked out of their rooms, which were secured via an electronic key system. The doors were unlocked only after the hotel agreed to pay hackers two bitcoins (about $1,800 USD).

Fact: When this happened in 2017, a spokesperson said the hotel was considering a return to old-fashioned locks and keys.

The good news is that we don’t have to return to the past. Everyone can take steps to make their IoT products more secure, starting with Top Tips for Consumers. We’re asking manufacturers to take action, too, by baking privacy and security into their products – Trust by Design.

March 15th is World Consumer Rights Day, and this year’s theme is Trusted Smart Products. When it comes to making IoT secure, we can all make a difference.

  • Explore #GetIoTSmart, which includes resources for consumers and manufacturers
  • Participate in the tweet chat with the hashtag #IOTsAwareness2019
  • Join us at the Consumers International Summit, which takes place 30 April to 1 May in Estoril, Portugal
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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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