Technology is affecting our lives at a rapid pace, and it seems to be changing our very environment as well. What I am referring to is known as the Age of “IoT,” otherwise known as “Internet of Things.” “IoT” is a term that most may be unfamiliar with; although we do not use it commonly in conversation, we unknowingly interact with them frequently, from smartphones and Apple Watches to Amazon Echos and Fitbits, throughout the day. So, what is an Internet of Things device? An object is coined an IoT device when it has a computer device attached to it that is connected to the internet, allowing users to access its data and to exert control over its functions anywhere in the world.
This concept was first thought out by David Nichols in 1982, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department, according to an article in the IBM Industries Blog. What inspired this whole new technological concept was his craving for an ice cold soda. His school had owned a Coke machine but it was always sold out. To solve that problem, David decided to place sensors that monitored how long the sodas had been in the machine and how they had been bought. He then connected this to the database of the school so his peers were able to login to Carnegie Mellon’s homepage and access the data.
A lot has changed since then. From smart heating and lighting systems at home to paying for groceries using Apple Pay, our society has certainly progressed a long way. In fact, we estimate there to be around 8 billion IoT devices in the world. It is already dominant in many aspects of our lives and yet there are still a lot more objects that have the potential to become an IoT device. The world estimates that by 2020, this number will increase by nearly five times. The monetary worth of IoT devices are expected to be more than $27 billion by 2022.
With this number inevitably creeping up on us, we also discover looming concerns: privacy and security. With all these IoT devices collecting huge amounts of information from your lifestyle, your decisions, your sensibilities, and more, your data becomes more valuable. As digital data creates a more complete profile of who you are and what you do, your identity and privacy becomes more vulnerable to exploitation.
Furthermore, IoT devices themselves are prone to cybercrime. Due to each device’s unique signature and access to the internet, hackers can temporarily gain control of an army of IoT devices to carry out DDOS (Direct Denial of Service) attacks to take down websites and crucial digital services.
Finally, there is no perfect firewall; cybercriminals can potentially access and manipulate any type of IoT data, from releasing Hillary Clinton’s private emails to rigging voting machines during our elections. Even your router can be hacked to clone a copy of all of your digital history. Thus, businesses and governments are developing new ways to maintain tighter security around their intellectual properties or trade secrets.
There is no question that IoT devices have revolutionized the very fabric of modern society, but it has also enabled a new digital arms race. While it’s certainly exciting to consider all of technology’s limitless possibilities, it’s also important to safeguard your increasingly vulnerable data against cybercriminals. So, don’t forget to change your passwords!