SDN Blog

Cool, new gadgets increase need to take security precautions

Posted on Monday, March 23, 2015

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Cool, new gadgets

Technology companies are providing a steady flow of new gadgets for consumers and businesses. Cool, new devices offer the potential for enormous benefits. But the use of new products also raises significant privacy and security concerns.

The so-called Internet of Things, or IoT, is among the high-tech advances in national spotlight. IoT generally refers to a network of interconnected devices that, for example, can allow a person to remotely control everything in a building from door locks and temperature settings to surveillance cameras and alarms.

All the flashy, new capabilities might cause users to relax their guard on the security front.

'Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked.' - Edith Ramirez

Among the newest products is the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated, cloud-connected computer and speaker system about the size of a Thermos bottle. Owners can use it to get answers to simple questions or play music.

   

There’s also the recently-revealed Apple Watch, a wrist-worn device that allows users to track electronic information such as emails, Facebook alerts and fitness data.

Products that already are trendy, such as health bands that track wearers’ physical activity or monitor health conditions, are adding to growing pools of data that someday could be breached.

The benefits provided by such products are enormous. Unfortunately, the public’s desire for convenience seems to be outpacing the industry’s attention to privacy concerns and security needs.

Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, is among officials who are urging high-tech companies to put more emphasis on security matters.

“Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked. Like traditional computers and mobile devices, inadequate security on IoT devices could enable intruders to access and misuse personal information collected and transmitted by the device,” Ramirez said in January in a speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

“As we purchase more smart devices, they increase the number of entry points an intruder could exploit to launch attacks on or from. Moreover, the risks that unauthorized access create intensify as we adopt more and more devices linked to our physical safety, such as our cars, medical care and homes,” Ramirez said.

She urges companies to limit their collection of personal data about people and to destroy information when it’s no longer needed.

“Collecting and retaining large amounts of data greatly increases the potential harm that could result from a data breach,” she said.

The reality is that individuals using new products at home or at work cannot assume they are being adequately protected.

Symantec Corp., a California-based company that makes security software, has offered some advice for staying protected. Some highlights from Symantec’s suggestions include:

  • Do an audit of your connected devices so that you know what is vulnerable to an attack.
  • Secure anything accessible over the Internet.
  • Pay attention to the security settings on your devices. If a remote accessibility feature isn’t needed, disable it.
  • Change any default password to something only you know. And don’t use common or easily guessable passwords. Use a long combination of letters, numbers and symbols to create a strong password.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website regularly to see if a device’s software needs to be updated to patch newly found security vulnerabilities.
  • Make sure your router/modem is properly secured. Make sure firewalls are turned on and properly configured.

SDN Communications offers a variety of products and services that can help keep companies and institutions safe. The South Dakota company works with large, national vendors such as Cisco to provide regional customers a wide range of physical and cyber security solutions to help businesses and institutions deal with risks.

Businesses and institutions interested in a consultation should contact an account executive or technical support staffer at SDN. For more information, call 800-247-1442 or visit the SDN Communications website.