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Expert Highlights Security Concerns with Smart Technology

Experts predict there could be 9 billion smart devices by 2020. But how vulnerable are they to hackers? (MEDION Pressestelle/Flickr)
Experts predict there could be 9 billion smart devices by 2020. But how vulnerable are they to hackers? (MEDION Pressestelle/Flickr)
December 20, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – It's likely many Kentuckians will be unwrapping smart devices and appliances this Christmas.

But how secure are these devices?

The collection of home appliances, such as refrigerators and smart speakers – and even self-driving vehicles – that can connect to the Web is known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

The popularity of these products is growing rapidly, and experts predict there could be 9 billion devices with this capability by 2020.

But Michael Kaiser, executive director of National Cyber Security Alliance, says they can be hacked just like any computer or smart phone. He gives the example of a smart garage door opener.

"You get to your house, you press the button and the garage door doesn't open, because the device has been hacked and stopped from opening,” he explains. “They're vulnerable because, the way IoT has grown right now, it's not clear yet how all these devices will be maintained over time."

He says although the IoT market has grown rapidly, it's still in its early stages.

Kaiser says some smart devices might store information about their users, but many don't have their own memory.

In that case, the data is likely offloaded onto the cloud. He says much of the onus is on manufacturers to store and manage this data safely.

But Kaiser says consumers can take some of the responsibility into their own hands.

"Start out with research, right?” he states. “Really look, and see whether the devices that they're considering buying have had issues in the past, whether there are good reviews of these devices.

“Are there any security comments about these devices where there have been security incidents?"

Kaiser adds the ability to turn off the lights by talking to a smart speaker, or order more dish soap by pressing a button, can make life easier.

"Those are a lot of convenience factors that bring a lot of utility to people's lives, but it always comes with some risk as well,” he points out. “And that's really kind of the balance and the choices that people need to make in the digital age, around risk and convenience, and security."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY