Staying Secure in your Evolving Digital Life

The world of cyber security has been evolving at a rapid state. And while we have spent a lot of time this month talking about these changes, it can be easy to forget that technology is evolving just as quickly as security threats. This weeks theme for National Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Your Evolving Digital Life.”

Your_Evolving_Digital_LifeWhat is great about the digital revolution is that we have slowly begun to realize that many of the sci-fi movies that had high expectations for the technical advancements that would exist in the future. The Internet of Things era has arrived, and in a big way. Take a look at Back to the Future 2, which coincidentally would have taken place today (that’s right—prepare to feel old. As of today, that movie is about the past). When the movie came out in 1989, all of those electronic devices seemed like such a far-fetched idea. Yet, in reality, the number of connected devices first passed the number of people on this planet back in 2008. While this number is shocking in itself, Cisco says that Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 12.04.17 PMonly 0.06% of things that could be connected to the Internet currently are.

While many of the predictions in Back to the Future 2 did come true, the Internet of Things poses a greater concern to our state of security than could have ever been comprehended in the 1980s. The benefits of these devices are hard to argue against, but what do they mean for your ability to maintain data security and privacy? In a recent Ponemon survey, 54% of consumers said they believe or are unsure about whether or not the benefits of the Internet of Things outweigh their concerns for privacy. So, what are the privacy concerns around the Internet of Things? Let’s break the answer to that question down into some groups.

Smart Home

When Jennifer is taken home by the police officer her smart home welcomes her and turns on the lights by voice command. Back to the Future 2 accurately predicted several other aspects of the home of the future as well, such as virtual windows and flatscreen TVs. Smart home devices have really taken off in the past several years, and now play a critical role in the digital evolution that is occurring through the Internet of Things. In fact, the smart home industry was the leading Internet of Things sector in 2014, with more than $79.4 billion in revenue. As awesome as it is to be able to tell Dominos you want a pizza from your smart TV, there are some significant concerns around various smart home items. For example, if a hacker were to gain access to your smart TV, they could gain control of the camera and spy on you and your family without the TV even having to be on. One report showed that the smart thermostat made by Nest could be hacked in as little as 15 seconds.


Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 2.49.13 PMIn the movie, Doc Brown was seen walking around holding a tablet computer. This projection was right on the money, which is impressive considering how long before Steve Jobs announced the iPad in 2010 that it actually occurred. Tablets and smartphones have brought immense productivity improvements into the workforce, as employees can now work while on the go. Unlike the other options, security threats involving mobile devices are somewhat well-known. They are highly susceptible to being lost or stolen, and are often unprotected. They also are notorious for fooling people into thinking that they are impenetrable to malware and viruses. The truth in both of theses instances is exactly the opposite, with some studies showing that mobile users are 3 times more vulnerable to phishing attacks.


Security concerns around drones have been in the news constantly in the past few years. While, the news drone from Back to the Future did predict their use for flying cameras, the security implications were left out of the picture. It is not a stretch of the imagination to understand how drones could pose very real privacy concerns for those who are captured by their camera. Even for the casual enthusiast who intends to just fly them around their neighborhood for fun with no intentions of gathering any data, these flying contraptions pose the risk of being hacked. In 2014 security expert Samy Kamakr designed a software that he calls SkyJack that allows an attacker to gain control over another drone while it is still flying.


The wearable industry has really taken off. In fact, PriceWaterhouse Coopers said that today, 1 in 5 Americans own some type of wearable technology. Many of them have been focused on improving our healthcare and fitness tracking and reporting, including FitBit, and Apple Watch. Those are just two examples, actual counts around the number of wearable devices are growing all the time. Check out this list for an exhaustive look. Bringing wearables, and their growth in the fitness arena, this is a good time to talk about the healthcare specific concerns that exist with wearable devices that you should keep in mind.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 2.51.39 PMThe biggest thing we think you should know about wearable devices is this: HIPAA can’t help you. That’s right. The majority of app and device builders are not formally considered part of the medical community, but rather as 3rd party vendors. This means that they are not subjected to HIPAA’s guidelines. This means that your health data can be shared with research companies or other vendors if you are not careful about it.


Connected Cars

Cars and Vehicles that are connected to the Internet are growing in dramatic numbers. In fact, The Connected Car Industry 2013 Report said by the year 2020, 90% of all vehicles will be connected to the Internet. That would be a dramatic increase since when the report was initially published only 10% of vehicles had Internet capabilities. The US Department of Transportation has done numerous reports about the various improvements that could stem from smarter vehicles in our transportation system, including environmental impacts, reduced accidents, and improved safety.

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Image DoT

While these connections definitely seem to have some valuable benefits, they post their own risks as well. This was realized this past July when Hackers remotely killed a Jeep on the highway. And that was after they had a little fun by honking the horn, jerking the seat belt, and commandeering the steering wheel.

Back to the Future 2: What Didn’t Happen

While some of the “notions of life in the future” such as flying cars haven’t become reality quite yet, you would be surprised at how close technology and science actually are to accomplishing it. Flying cars, for instance. While we haven’t crossed that bridge quite yet, Boston-based Terrafugia has been working on the project and initially promised to start selling them in 2012. But they have seen some delays.


It is hard to make the argument that these devices haven’t improved our lifestyle in numerous ways. But, as Voltaire said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” As far as making sure you are staying protected, here are some suggestions that we recommend:

  • Check your Privacy Settings: Many of these devices come with a “public-by-default” setting so that social aspects of the devices can be activated. Make sure that information that you do not want to be shared is not automatically shared.
  • Make Sure You Understand if Your Data Can be Sold or Shared with Third Parties: Some devices allow you to change or specify that your data cannot be shared with third-parties, but many do not allow you to change these options. While you can still use these devices, you should just have higher levels of awareness around what types of data you share with them.
  • Verify Who Has Legal Ownership over the Data That is Collected: When talking about your personal health details or the images of your backyard or inside your house you gathered with your toy drone, it can tricky when the makers of your gadget have the legal ownership over data that is collected with their device.
  • Protect your Devices: Any device that you have should be password protected in the event that it is stolen. If two-factor authentication is possible, that would add an additional layer of security
By | 2017-03-24T13:47:44-04:00 October 21st, 2015|Security|

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