When Angela Bennet in “The Net”, wakes up from her sleep at the hospital, after being unconscious for three days, she realizes that all records of her life have been deleted. She has been checked out of her hotel, her credits cards have all become invalid and her car is also not there in the parking lot anymore….
Remember the panic attack she gets?
This 1995, Sandra Bullock starrer was one of the first few films to depict the possibility of being electronically erased completely. It also shows how people get forced to grapple with the consequences of identity theft. Since then, many similar movies and advertisements have come out, that dramatize and add fuel to our fear of identity theft. According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, in 2011, around 28 million Americans were found to be the victims of identity theft.
That said, are you one of those people who stays alert and ahead of such crimes? Or are you the kind who lives in fear of such crimes, but have not done anything about it?
If you belong to the latter, then it’s high time you took necessary steps to protect your digital life. Here’s a start:
- Be sure to install security systems with automatic updates – Security systems need to be kept updated with time, because as technology grows, so do the ways to hack and break in. Updates in security systems are meant to fix bugs and enable new features for more protection. Hence, it is important that you get these updates on time. Most systems can be set to update itself automatically, so you can get them in a few minutes.
- Use strong passwords – A password is one of the most effective ways of protecting your data. Having a strong password goes a long way into keeping your data safe and secure. Although, you should avoid having the same password for more than one account, file or folder. It’s always good to have strong words or even phrases as passwords. Ideally, a considerably long word, say about 9 characters in length, with a combination of letters and numbers or uppercase and lowercase characters would do. Or else a phrase with the same combination too. Even though, remembering passwords is difficult, you have got to use these.
- Use data encryption – Encryption basically means converting data into an unrecognizable form or an “encrypted” form. It is commonly used for protecting sensitive or personal information on the internet. You can encrypt your data using encryption utilities available in the market. You need to also try as much as possible to use encrypted sites as well, especially for banking or payment related necessities. An encrypted site will have the symbol of a lock on its status bar. Also, using shared or public networks should be done with caution. Accessing personal information over a public network is not advised.
- Use the cloud – The all-pervasive cloud is one of the best ways to keep your data safe and secure. External hard drives, just like your laptop or smartphone, are always vulnerable to theft and even other kinds of damages. Having your data backed up in your cloud, and secured with a strong password, will ensure that you don’t lose any important information. Whatever happens to your physical devices, you always have a backup of everything in the cloud. Plus, you can easily access it from anywhere and from any device.
- Use the web anonymously – As much as possible, use proxy servers while searching the internet, so that your identity and location remains anonymous. For example, the incognito window on the Google Chrome browser helps to be safe to some extent. TOR is another free software that directs internet traffic through a large worldwide network of more than 2000 links, which makes your browsing difficult to find or trace. There are also other search engines and browsers that allow using the internet confidentially and do not provide any information, such as your computer ID or location, even when asked for.
Apart from all this, you need to be extra careful about your personal belongings like your wallet, where you carry your credit cards and your smartphones, where you could store information related to your social security number or bank accounts and the like. Sometimes, being a little vigilant may be all it takes to protect your digital life.
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If you are like me, you would have fantasized: ‘IoT would bring my reign, treat me like a Prince and put me in a world of sheer convenience’. Oh wait, does the monarchical system feel a bit too old or overstated? Ok, let’s fast forward to the ‘Democracy’, where you at least thought, the IoT will let you be like Richie Rich, “the poor little rich boy” with a ‘Dollar’matian dog, who had nearly everything automated around him.
No wonder, because with IoT, – “Everything that can be automated will be automated”- said Robert Cannon, Internet law and Policy Expert.
Internet of Things– the new buzz is certainly the next big thing you are going to witness, whether you are its fan or critic! In a nutshell, Internet of things, also called Internet of Everything (IoT) is a network into which the everyday things in our life (like phones, car, laptop, tea machine, alarms and anything with an ‘on & off’ switch to internet) are connected for machine to machine communication within themselves to accomplish tasks. After an era of connecting places and people, the Internet of Future is all geared up to connect every object/thing in our day to day life. It took a decade to deploy the first billion internet-connected sensors, a billion more sensors were deployed in the year 2013 alone, and now we are on our way to a trillion connected devices, very soon we’ll see everything connected to this network.
As it has been at every point of this development, with a lot of conveniences and possibilities come the open chances to insecurity, vulnerability, and privacy breach. And with IoT, these aren’t the regular “my remote knows my email password” type of issues, but are going to be more severe vulnerabilities. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing if you thought Viruses, Trojans, rogue security software or phishing attacks were serious security issues, because your total security in future- whether you use or don’t use computers/internet, is under the nose tip of: THE INTERNET OF THINGS!!!
While making life convenient and comfortable, the availability, use and exchange of private data during the courses of providing various IoT services/applications will also generate severe security/ privacy issues. More and more private information will be fed into machines and when these machines go online, there stands a possibility for hackers too to access these. “We have created a whole new playground for attackers to dream up things to do — whether it is nuisance, whether it is theft or whether it is violence”, says Jeff Greene, senior policy counsel at Symantec, and co-chair of the NSTAC task force.
…There you see Richie’s fancy Mansion slowly fading and evolving into Mario’s dreaded Sky Island 18 hole challenge…
Let’s see how the IoT will challenge its adopters,
Top security challenges that IoT would encounter:
- Too many points of breach: In IoT, every device and sensors would represent a potential risk. How confident can companies be about their huge number of devices connected in IoT, their ability to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of Data? Researchers at Eurecom technology institute, France, downloaded 32000 firmware images from potential IoT device manufacturers and found 38 new vulnerabilities in more than 693 images that were extended to over 123 products. These vulnerabilities included poor encryption or loopholes to unauthorized access and affected nearly 140K devices in the Internet.
- Unlawful Surveillance: The various objects connected to the IoT via internet connecting modules in it, like toys, cars, keys or home appliances can be potential threat of illegal surveillances. For instance, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had to file a complaint against the wireless camera production company, TRENDnet Inc. in 2013, as the videos recorded by nearly 700 of their cameras were hacked and put up with insecure internet links. This was due to the lack of proper security guidelines for the wireless cameras. Similar issues can happen in IoT where a lot of personal things used every day can compromise your privacy or security to criminals who can access even more information through your compromised/less secure things in the network. Economist reports that 60% of the surveyed business leaders think that security and privacy issues will hamper uptake of IoT by customers.
- The integrity and reliability of data collected: IoT will bring data from all sort of sensors connected in its network to corporate systems. Organizations can’t be sure whether all these data are secure, compromised or interfered with.
- All sort of personal data up there in the network and you expect privacy? With all sort of data collected from our daily lives, IoT will help us make smarter decisions and bring smarter solutions. But, what if the data collected by different devices get compromised at any point? Criminals will be able to actively intrude in private lives of people. A similar breach happened recently with a Japanese automated toilet, where Trustwave Holdings Inc’s consultant, Daniel Crowley hacked it, and was able to play music or make it flush randomly.
Nevertheless, the impact of such smart connected devices is expected to be in trillions annually, which lured the eyes of many, who argued that proper regulations and policies can very well apply brakes to such malpractices with IoT. Enterprise IT managers, policy makers, and other smart guarding brains have shielded us from challenges arising with every innovative technology, with the help of even better technology and policies to lessen such risks. If consumers, developers and providers clearly understand the security issues associated with the different modules, providing best IoT solutions with security and privacy factors kept intact wouldn’t be an unattainable goal, though it will be tricky.