How secure are your smart fridge, thermostat and alarm system?

Welcome in the 21st century, where not just you, but also things are online. Who doesn’t have a smart thermostat at home that you can control with your smartphone? These smart products, collectively called the “internet of things” (IoT), are becoming more widely-used products in our society day by day. These smart, Internet-connected products are rather practical, but could also be a major risk. The risk of losing privacy is one of the major disadvantages of the IoT. All devices that are connected with the internet share data with the supplier of these devices. It could happen that your new smart lighting system at home invades your privacy or becomes subject to data leakage.

Dutch liberal-progressive party D66 has also noticed this risk and calls for official safety standards for products that are considered to be part of the Internet of Things. The European Commission told earlier this year that it is launching an investigation on standardization of the internet of things, including safety. One of the things under consideration is whether a “reliability label” can be used. The Dutch government has stated that it is willing to work on this subject and keeps an eye on all major developments internationally. Consumers tend to connect their newly-purchased gadgets to the internet, but forget the lack of proper security. These smart devices can become a threat to the safety of the internet.

Take last month’s major cyber-attack on US-based Dyn that shut down all its DNS-servers (which happened because of an IoT-device that infected the network). I think it’s good that we are considering security measures for such IoT-products on a European level, in order to prevent these cyber-attacks and other privacy violations. Think beyond major cyber-attacks on large internet services, toys that are connected to the internet could also get hacked. Last year, a WIFI-connected Hello Barbie showed that it could easily get hacked and thus used to spy on children, but also to tap conversations.

Security is the ultimate key. Not just for IoT-products, but also for anything related to privacy and internet. Be aware that your products become subject to a major cyber-attack or ransomware, malicious software that takes your smart thermostat hostage and can only be freed if you pay a ransom.