I grew up watching The Jetsons. I dreamed of a smart home, like George’s with a robot maid and, of course, the flying car. The show was the epitome of a smart home, a vision of the future set in 2062 that seemed light-years away.
Yet in 2016, we already see some of the same technologies.
Check. CNET regularly reviews a stable of IoT devices in their test home. Devices range from wireless security cameras that you can control from your smartphone to refrigerators that can tell you when you’re out of milk.
Half check. Alexa and Echo can’t make dinner…yet. But they can remind you about your doctor appointment, make you aware of traffic delays, remind you of when it’s time to leave so you won’t be late and help you control the other smart devices in your home with voice commands.
Smart projects, trials and plans are underway, and the White House just pledged $80 million to develop smart cities. As InformationWeek pointed out, there are two things that lay the groundwork for all smart city implementations: the underlying network infrastructure connecting all the technology and the collection and intelligent application of data collected throughout a city.
Not yet, but we’re well on our way to autonomous driving, with a number of companies, including Ford, committed to producing a self-driving car by 2021. Today there are apps that enable drivers to alert others to traffic jams or accidents. Soon, cars will be able to issue warnings to others nearby to help them avoid a collision and, if NHTSA is correct, reduce car accidents.
All in all, I’m pretty excited about what the future may hold for smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).
But something else comes to mind when talking about connected homes – a topic that wasn’t addressed on The Jetsons.
While the world of The Jetsons wasn’t without its security issues – who can forget the episode where George is tasked by Mr. Spacey with stopping a very dangerous computer virus? – George didn’t have to worry about someone hacking into Rosey’s system and divulging the family’s personal data, turning her into a botnet or worse.
First, on the topic of eradicating. It should be noted a study of publicly reported IoT device vulnerabilities from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) found problems could have been easily avoided if security had been integrated into the design, launch and future planning of IoT products. The industry needs to agree on uniform standards and take action to make sure consumers are connecting with secure, safe products.
As more critical devices in our homes become connected, their security and safety will be key considerations for consumers when deciding what devices to buy. The keys to prevention are with the IoT industry and their commitment to making products that are security tested and able to be updated and patched.
However, not all responsibility lies with the industry. Consumers play a huge role in protecting their home and themselves by following a few basic steps:
- Passwords: I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about passwords, but “12345” and “Password” still top the list of passwords from breach data. Take the time to make your passwords strong – sentences that are 12 characters or longer. If it all seems like too much, consider using a password manager. Just make sure your master password is a doozy.
- Use Different Passwords: Don’t just reuse your super strong password. Select a different password for each IoT device and other important accounts like your bank and email.
- Buyer Beware: Don’t be lured by the glitz and promise of a new item. Do the research to see if a connected device has passed security scrutiny. A lot of IoT products from well-known companies have detailed security instructions. Read them. Follow them.
- Pass the Hub Test: Find devices that are hub connected. Generally, smart hubs have certain security standards that interconnected devices need to meet. Third-party vendors want to be compatible with popular hubs, so it forces them to examine their security stance. It should go without saying, put a strong password on your hub device.
- Guest Wi-Fi: Many routers have an option to set up a guest Wi-Fi, so when your friends, family or neighbors visit and want to connect, you aren’t giving them access to your home network.
- Check Default Settings: My last bit of advice is maybe my most important. Many devices in a connected home don’t seem like they would have passwords or connectivity settings. But all do, even that connected light bulb or lock. Check your application to make sure you have updated the default password and disabled non-essential services. I equate this to locking your front door and closing the windows. You are making it a lot harder for a nefarious actor to access your device.
The fantastical features of The Jetsons’ life no longer seem light years away. However, as we continue to explore and invest in connected homes, it will be key for both companies and consumers to keep security top of mind.
If you want to learn more, I invite you to visit my smart home. I’ll walk you through how I did it and hammer home those security tips.
About the Author
Dale Drew is chief security officer at Level 3 Communications.Dale directs aspects of security, including security policy, physical and logical security, federal programs, governance and corporate investigations. He also manages the global architecture, engineering and operations teams. You can find him on Twitter @packetcop.