NewsJanuary 9, 2015 @ 10:11 AM

FTC Chairwoman: Internet of Things Poses Security Risks

The potential benefits of bringing online connectivity to everyday objects as part of the Internet of Things may be extensive, but so are the privacy and security risks, the chairwoman of the Federal Telecommunications Commission (FTC) warns.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas this week, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said she was concerned about the way sensor networks would be used to collect, manage and store information, the Wall Street Journal reported. Among the dangers, she noted, were the possible ways in which the Internet of Things might expose more information for cybercriminals to target through a variety of means.

Over the years, the CES has evolved far beyond its origins as a place for basic household appliances to an exhibition filled with emerging technology, from power smartphones to wearable devices and even washing machines. This year, the Internet of Things was a major theme. Experts say even an alarm clock or a refrigerator could now be set up to convey information about its energy use or need for new parts through an app or a signal back to the manufacturer.

According to an article on SlashGear, Ramirez acknowledged that the Internet of Things could make life better for consumers. In order for companies to succeed, however, she said they will first have to ensure their customers are comfortable that the information that travels via Internet Protocol connectivity is truly safe. That should be the top priority as new products and services make their way from CES to the mainstream market.

While public officials sometimes speak in generalities about these types of issues, Computerworld noted that Ramirez had some highly useful ideas about helping consumers avoid putting themselves at risk. For example, she said that besides encryption, companies should make sure any default passwords aren’t so basic that they could be easily guessed by cybercriminals. This has already been a problem with home routers, which some cybercriminals have been breaking into to gain access to Domain Name System settings.

Ramirez suggested that companies should hold off on collecting data now when consumers don’t realize what’s going on and when the use of the data isn’t clear, according to MicroScope. This “just-in-case” mentality is dangerous because it builds up a treasure trove for cybercriminals who would have no trouble coming up with their own ideas for profiting from it.

According to New York Daily News, Ramirez’s bottom line was to design security into the Internet of Things from the get-go and conduct thorough testing long before it is launched. CES gets the world excited about what’s next. The problem is that in some cases, the cybercriminals get excited, too.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.