Think about all the things you have that connect to the internet. Your smartphone and your computer, obviously. But then there’s the fitness tracker on your wrist. Or the app in your car that lets you check whether you’ve locked the doors. Or maybe it’s your TV set.
It’s the Internet of Things, or IoT, and it’s changed the way many of us live. But it’s also exposed us in new ways to hackers and other people who might seek to do us harm. How safe are we in the IoT landscape?
It’s a question Jen Rathburn wrestles with quite a bit. She’s a partner at Foley and Lardner and co-founder of the Midwest Cyber Security Alliance.
"When you connect to the internet and you have these devices - whether you bring them into your business or you bring them into your home - it allows someone to potentially come in and infect and get access to your data in many new ways," she says.
Rathburn says many consumers don't really understand the risks these devices present. While some companies assure users their information won't be sold to any third parties, there are still ways for companies to legally share a user's sensitive information.
"One of the biggest issues with internet-connected devices is really consumer understanding - about what data is being collected and how is that data being used," she explains.
Interconnected devices are also vulnerable to hackers. In some cases, hackers are able to easily access information on devices because manufacturers may have rushed the product to market or merely not thought about the ways in which its security could be compromised.
Rathburn says, "Manufacturers have the responsibility to think about the security measures that are in place, and consumers which purchase these devices also need to take responsibility about understanding what that device does and what type of risk [it presents]."