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Christmas Internet [of] Things

So December is here, Christmas is coming and Santa’s helpers are busy working away. As ever tech gifts are going to be under the tree for many. Every year there is a ‘big thing’, the gift of the season – often high-tech.  The next big thing in internet terms, and, like a puppy, not just for Christmas is…

‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT)

So what is it?  The IoT is the idea whereby everything is inter-connected and connected to the internet for your convenience and/or to serve their function. No longer will it just be computers, consoles, tablets and phones which are going online – now everything can. In theory your fridge can order food for you when you’re running low. In practice the kettle and lights turning on automatically when you arrive home and having an internet-connected security camera are more likely uses for most.

As regular readers will know, I like to err on the side of caution with internet security. Some call me paranoid, and I agree somewhat.  Today our phones, computers and other devices we own and use hold a great deal of data about us, and we [hopefully!] take great care to keep them secure, to protect that data. How does this relate to IoT? We won’t store personal data on nor in our kettle! Well, these devices are generally designed to be plug and play, to be set up and forgotten about – so do we need to think about security? After all, it’s not like someone is interested in knowing our kettle usage.

So are IoT devices safe and secure?

Well, Yes and No. They are not designed to be insecure, but IoT devices often have the simplicity of their workings as both a strong and weak point. The password is one of the weakest, as a manufacturer may ship hundreds of thousands of devices with the same default password. A password which is never updated by the owners, because hey – no personal data and nobody will have any interest in accessing the device. Yes…?

So if I change my password…

Well, the simplest solution is also one of the most effective in preventing this.  Changing the default password MASSIVELY reduces the risk of your Christmas tech ‘toy’ being unwittingly hijacked. So spend the minute to change the password and enjoy turning on the kettle, coffee machine, toaster or other such devices from your comfy spot on the couch knowing it won’t do anything to harm your internet services of choice!

So, why the paranoia?

It has already been seen that IoT devices have been hijacked to do other nefarious tasks without the owners knowing. A situation which could’ve been largely avoided with a password change (or better security planning from the manufacturers). Thus far the biggest hijacked-IoT attack to date brought down Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Etsy, Github, Spotify and more. More may be done in the future, but the sooner we do what we can to make things as difficult for those seeking to take advantage of and profit from our devices the better.

Nobody wants their DVR to stop them from being able to access Netflix, so whether it’s for the greater good or to avoid personal inconvenience, consider spending that one minute to secure your gadgets.

Article by Graham