The security and privacy of IoT-enabled devices is a popular topic amongst connected car manufacturers, smart home developers and connected wearables. But as seemingly harmless things like Barbie dolls, stuffed animals and toy droids become connected to the IoT (and they are), what measures are being taken to ensure the security and privacy of those devices, if any? And is security a concern for something so ordinary?
Readwrite reporter Amanda Razani says it should be.
Razani points out how even things as innocuous as toys need security in her article, “IoT and toys: Connected toys require more security.” She says “…all these connected toys create concerns about security. There are many gadgets these days that can be used to eavesdrop. Part of the problem is that many hardware manufacturers offer poor security, and often times consumers are left vulnerable because of all the information they are sharing.”
If security isn’t built into the design, IoT devices are at a higher risk for being hacked. In this ZDNet article, “Vulnerable smart home IoT sockets let hackers access your email account,” Chase Gunter explains how researchers have found that this is already the case for devices such as smart plugs: “… a popular, but undisclosed, electrical outlet currently on the market not only has poor security in place, but is also susceptible to malicious firmware updates which permit attackers to control devices remotely and gain an entry point into your home networks and activity.” He also notes that “attackers could use the device to perform attacks on other devices connected to the same local network.”
The key to ensuring the security of the IoT lies in the IoT design process. In Charlie Osborne’s Federal Computer Week article, “Why agencies must work harder to prep for IoT security,” he stresses how vital it is to put security first when it comes to IoT design. “Trying to bolt on security measures after the widespread proliferation of connected devices ‘is suboptimal… if not impossible, is more expensive and is less effective than doing it right to start,’” Osborne says.
So, is your Barbie doll is spying on you? Possibly. However, there is an effective way to keep all of your personal information safe; and that is to make sure security is part of the initial IoT design plan. Whether it’s a connected car or a child’s toy, security is the solution.