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The perils of connectedness

Posted on March 5, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Considering the advanced state of modern technology, coupled with revelations of extensive spying by government agencies, it’s little wonder there are concerns about “Big Brother” watching our every move.

But as technology continues to grow and we become increasingly connected to the Internet, it isn’t just Big Brother who could be watching.

A story from The Canadian Press this week pointed out that experts are warning there’s a greater potential for hackers to exploit citizens and organizations as items such as appliances and surveillance systems become linked to the web.

The story says the growing network of connected objects, known as the “Internet of Things,” could include “billions of web-enabled devices by 2020, such as fridges and other appliances, wristwatches, thermostats, weight scales, and so on.”

It explains that software security companies are already seeing threats to connected security cameras, Internet routers and more. There was even a case last year of a Texas couple reporting that a hacker had taken control of their daughter’s baby monitor, spying on the child via the camera and saying sexually explicit things.

Such stories should send shivers down the spines of anyone with household gadgets that are connected to cyberspace. But the story quotes a professor from Queen’s University, David Skillicorn, as saying that when it comes to technology, convenience often trumps security for most consumers.

“I think at the moment that people dive in thinking, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ without stopping to think about what else is going on here,” said Skillicorn.

Maybe we should be stopping to consider the bigger picture.

It’s not hard to understand that hackers might be tempted to go after large organizations or businesses in the quest to make money from their efforts. But private citizens could also be easy targets for hackers looking to obtain information that they could turn into financial gain.

Kevin Haley, with Symantec’s security response team in Culver City, Calif., noted in the CP story that information can be collected from individuals’ and businesses’ connected devices.

“Will someday, somebody attack your refrigerator, or your television set, or your scale? Today, there’s not a lot of benefit to that. They’re probably not going to attack until they can figure out a way to make money,” said Haley.

However, the story of the hacked baby monitor in Texas suggests there might be other nefarious reasons for people to tap into our devices. That’s scary, and it should cause us to put a little more emphasis on our personal security.

Modern technology is great in the way it connects us to others and to our various home devices. But there’s also potential danger in that, and we need to be aware of the pitfalls, and take precautions accordingly.

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