#CyberFLASH: Beware the privacy and security risks of the Internet of Things

100041799-620x250The Internet of Things (IoT) may offer vast improvements in convenience and efficiency, but how secure is it, and do we need to protect ourselves from it?

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report last week exploring these issues, as they relate to consumers. Based on a workshop in November 2013, the report, Internet of Things: Privacy & Security in a Connected World, highlights several risks, and makes some recommendations, which should be of interest to Canadian businesses and legislators as well.

For instance, consumers may have to contend with unauthorized access and misuse of personal information via the IOT, the report warned, adding that devices could also create safety risks (sensitive financial information transmitted via a smart TV could be compromised, for example). Devices can also be used to mount attacks on other systems (what about if that Smart TV was joined to a botnet?).

The level of information gathered by IoT devices also presents privacy risks, not least because of the inference capabilities in modern analytics systems. Smart phone sensors can already be used to infer a user’s mood, stress levels, personality type, and even demographics, the report warned.

One clear example given here are fitness trackers, which could conceivably be used by life insurance companies to infer the user’s suitability for a policy, for example. But other risks outlined include eavesdropping remotely into an otherwise private space.

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