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Hacking in the Internet of Things Era

  |  Emmanuel Schalit

Last year, a security firm in the UK uncovered that they could gain access to a GoPro camera and secretly watch or eavesdrop on users…This kind of incident is not new. In December 2014, hackers succeeded in publishing thousands of webcam streams from individuals and businesses. By visiting a website one could watch what’s happening in a child room in a Birmingham or in a clothing store in Aix en Provence. How was this possible on both occasions? Because webcam users forgot to change their webcam default password or only set simple passwords, enabling hackers to easily crack their video stream.

This development in hacking illustrates new security challenges that we will face with the development of connected devices. The so-called “Internet of Things (IoT)”, is currently booming. According to the Gartner Institute, there should be 6.4 billion connected things in the world in 2016.

I0T devices are everywhere – in your house (home automation), on your body (activity trackers, smart watches), in your car (navigation), or inside your clothing (biometrics) – and new ones are created every day.

To provide value to users, the device data collected from their everyday life is typically accessed through websites that provide collation, analysis, and visual representation – and all of this data is stored on cloud servers.

But here’s the thing — people are digitizing details of their life at a rapid pace, but they are not replicating basic real-life security behavior. Just think how many people still use the same password for several websites, when by now we should know that using a different password for every website is a straightforward online security rule?

Many people tend to underestimate the risks they encounter while using the Internet, and think they can simply reset their email or cancel bank transactions if they are hacked.

Hacking in the Internet of Things Era 

Have you ever imagined what hacking looks like in the “Internet of Things” era? A child monitoring webcam that shuts down without prior notice, a driverless car that doesn’t stop, corrupted health data that leads to wrong prescriptions, pacemakers or insulin pumps that malfunction – the list goes on.

Online Security is not solely about money or privacy anymore. With the connected devices boom, it now concerns all our activities, our health, our everyday life and our own family.

The nature of the risks has changed. A few years ago, a digital risk was fully contained in a bulky device on our desk; the personal computer. We were protecting ourselves with antivirus and firewall software. Today, we are also at risk in the cloud: that’s where we store our personal data, and that’s where hackers have the potential to take control of our connected devices.

Let’s not forget – all that stands between a hacker and your data and devices is a simple password.

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