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The arrival of multiple connected objects has completely changed the way of living of people. There is a huge number of connected objects surrounding us like watches, bracelets, home devices etc. They are very useful and make our lives easier, but are they as perfect as they seem? The internet of things (IoT) is a network of connected smart devices providing rich data, but it can also rise some security issues.

According to the latest estimations, there will be approximately 34 milliards connected objects in the worlds by the of 2025. This is an increase of 100% comparing to 2018. The arrival of 5G will allow the maintenance of this progress. This statistic is impressive and frightening at the same time.
If we look closely, pretty much any physical object can be transformed into an IoT device if it can be connected to the internet and controlled that way. For example, a lightbulb that can be switched on using a smartphone app is an IoT device, as is a motion sensor or a smart thermostat in the office or a connected streetlight. At an even bigger scale, smart cities projects are filling entire regions with sensors to help us understand and control the environment.
The IoT promises to make our homes, offices and vehicles, smarter. Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home make it easier to play music, set timers, or get information. Home security systems make it easier to monitor what’s going on inside and outside, or to see and talk to visitors. Looking beyond the home, sensors can help us to understand how noisy or polluted our environment might be. Autonomous cars and smart cities could change how we build and manage our public spaces.

However, the connected devices have flaws and we can’t ignore and disregard them. Therefore, I would like to focus on the issues that appear with the integration and acceptance of connected objects in our everyday life, in order to see if it is reasonable to give that full access in our lives.

One of the biggest issues with IoT is the security. These devices are collecting extremely sensitive data, like what you say and do in your own home. Keeping that information secure is vital to consumer trust, but so far, the IoT’s security track record has been extremely poor. Too many IoT devices give little thought to basics of security. Flaws in software are discovered on a regular basis, but many IoT devices lack the capability to be patched, which means they are permanently at risk. Hackers are now actively targeting IoT devices such as routers and webcams because their inherent lack of security makes them easy to compromise and roll up into giant botnets.
Flaws have left smart home devices like refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers open to hackers. Researchers found 100.000 webcams that could be hacked with ease, while some internet-connected smartwatches for children have been found to contain security vulnerabilities that allow hackers to track the wearer’s location, eavesdrop on conversations, or even communicate with the user. Therefore, anything that accesses the network is a potential vector for an attack. For example, there was a case in 2017, when a connected thermostat in a casino was hacked and caused a great damage for the owner.

Another big issue is that many of these innovations could have major implications for our personal privacy. What happens to all the collected data is a vitally important privacy matter. Not all smart home companies build their business model around harvesting and selling data, but some do. It’s worth remembering that IoT data can be combined with other bits of data to create a surprisingly detailed picture of people. It’s surprisingly easy to find out a lot about a person from a few different sensor readings. People who own some connected objects, like Amazon Echo, have been victims of unwanted recording by their gadgets. For example, in 2018, a couple’s conversation has sent, by error, to one of the couple’s contacts, even though the device was not working at that moment. In one project, a researcher found that by analyzing data charting just the home’s energy consumption, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and humidity throughout the day they could work out what someone was having for dinner.

In order to give a much more consistent idea of the danger of the IoT, in the episode “White Christmas” of the famous British anthology science fiction television series, Black Mirror, it’s shown what life would be like with a fully entrenched Internet of Things. The episode looks into the dangers of advanced surveillance technology and the malicious side of the Internet of Things. The haunting beauty of this show is that the concepts presented seem very out there and other-worldly but are not that far away in reality. The tech framework for a full “Internet of Things” is there, and this show gives us a look at how humans would deal with it and from my perspective, it’s not a very peaceful reality. 

There are many issues at the moment regarding this subject and from my perspective, there are lots of things to be fixed before we can truly trust the IoT. Is there even possible to conceive our future without IoT? 

Cristina Nunu
Master 2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2018-2019

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