Answering the questions posed by the ‘Internet of What Ifs’
By James Bourne, Editor, Techforge
The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) is clearly vast – but the various scare stories over data breaches keep on coming. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 2015 saw 781 data breaches tracked, just two fewer than the previous year’s record. Practically any device is fair game, from cameras, to cars, to Barbie dolls.
As a result, it is not so much the Internet of Things, but the ‘Internet of What Ifs’ – at least, according to Samu Konttinen, executive vice president of consumer security at F-Secure, who will be expanding on this theory at IoT Tech Expo. “People are buying more and more cool gadgets that have connectivity to their homes, be that the Wi-Fi controlled lightbulb or the Wi-Fi controlled coffee maker,” he explains. “And the Internet of ‘What Ifs’ means ‘what if these little connected devices actually start opening more attack vectors for the bad guys?’
“Although the Wi-Fi coffee maker itself is of very little interest for a bad guy – although it might be quite funny to turn your coffee maker on from a remote location – these guys are after leveraging the vulnerabilities,” he adds.
Konttinen admits it is getting increasingly tougher to stop the bad guys, but there is more consumer awareness with big stories, such as when a Jeep was remotely hacked in a controlled experiment. F-Secure is one of many companies trying to make the IoT secure – chiefly through its F-Secure SENSE product which aims to simplify the process of protecting multiple devices in the home – and education is a part of it.
“If you use F-Secure SENSE to manage your digital home security…the app could alarm you and tell you ‘did you know that last night while you were asleep your TV, which has internet connectivity, sent this much data to some far away server in China,” Konttinen explains. “And then the consumer could say yes, I knew that, it’s all cool, or the user could say no, what the heck is that?
“If you feel like it shouldn’t be happening, then our product could help stop that.”
Increasingly, the message is that if hackers steal a user’s password once – for instance, in the major eBay data breach in 2014 – they could easily locate their whole digital identity if they use similar passwords across multiple services. “Even if nothing super-bad happened, at least you have to go everywhere and change the passwords,” says Konttinen. “I think the awareness of these things is increasing quite rapidly. People are starting to understand that threats in an online world is not just the traditional viruses, but all sorts of phenomena that are violating your privacy one way or the other.”
F-Secure SENSE has not yet been fully rolled out, but Konttinen says feedback among testers has been positive because of the simplicity of the experience. “For many people, this whole computer security space is something that they are not very thrilled about – the fact you need to install different software, different devices, and how you keep everything updated,” he says. “For most people this is an unnecessary hassle, they don’t like it. At the high level, [SENSE] is just a gadget that you put the power on, download the app from the app store, and [it] will guide you step by step – you can’t go wrong.”
So if there is a backlash to the Internet of What Ifs, it’s reassuring to know someone has got your back.
Samu Konttinen will be discussing this in his keynote panel; 2:30pm at the IoT Tech Expo Europe in less than 2 weeks time. You can watch his keynote in the Connected Living conference track on day 2 of the Expo.
Register for your ticket here.