Today’s Predictions for Tomorrow’s Internet: How To Keep Your Smart Devices Safe

When you first hire a personal assistant, they’re not all that helpful. Over time, they learn your daily routine, your needs and desires, and with that information, they make your life easier.

Now, consider that your smart phone has morphed into your own mini personal assistant. Today’s smartphones are filled with potent sensors that collect data about you. Audio and image sensors, touch sensors, acceleration sensors, light, proximity, and location sensors all help your smartphone to get to know you and your habits.

It knows where you go, when you go and how long you stay. It knows who you message and how often. It stores personal information like pictures and videos. The more it learns about you, the smarter and more useful it becomes.

Personal Information Is the Fuel on Which Smart Devices Run

It’s not just smartphones. The more any device knows about you, the more value it has. How many times have I accidentally closed my laptop’s web browser with 19 open tabs, only to go into my history and reopen them with one click? How convenient is to go into your GPS and select previous destinations for directions? And how about that pacemaker and its ability to alert patients to irregularities?

These devices, made indispensable by a combination of internet connectivity and their ability to “understand” us, are not only assisting us, they’re becoming integral components of our lives.

And the coming wave of machine learning and AI technologies means tomorrow’s internet will absorb and process significantly more information about us, compressing our behaviors into recognizable patterns that can be catalogued for future reference. The next-gen internet will be a lot smarter, a lot more automated and a lot more challenging when it comes to maintaining privacy.

Cruising Into the Future

Many of us are already experiencing the benefits of IoT devices like energy consumption monitors, Nest and Hue, all precursors of the forthcoming smart home. But the technology in our automobiles may outpace all else.

A “smart” car could provide the consumer with hand’s free driving, automatic fastest-route mapping, and thanks to car-to-car communication, reduced accidents and fatalities. Smart cars will help smart cities to monitor real-time traffic patterns and adjust stop lights to improve flow. They could even prevent traffic jams altogether by communicating directly with the car’s on-board OS to reroute traffic.

The flip side is that all private data with regard to the automobile — inside, outside, route travelled, time spent — all aspects will be recorded and catalogued. While there are tremendous benefits associated with these emerging technologies, it’s critical to understand how to use them in safe, secure ways. Consumers must take responsibility and act to protect their private information.

Stop, Think, Connect

As part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Department of Homeland Security recently launched its “Stop.Think.Connect” campaign, meant to raise public awareness around cyber threats and empower the public to be more secure online. The site includes a blog, a toolkit and a series of videos on how users can bolster their online safety.

Public awareness programs are an essential ingredient in securing the Internet. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we need a program similar to the highly successful “Click it or Ticket” seat belt campaign if we want to really impact behavior, and this is a good start.

But as we’ve recently seen with the Equifax breach, if organizations aren’t taking the necessary steps to ensure customer data is protected, any effort by individuals will be meaningless. Organizations must implement multi-factor authentication (MFA), least privilege and privileged identity management if they want to protect and leverage all the personal data that’s coming their way.

And They Do Want to Leverage It…

I recall a Wharton study conducted several years back that illustrated how important hyper-personalization would be the future. The study involved music buying preferences and showed that personalization had a huge impact on revenue — in fact, knowing consumers’ preferences could boost sales by 50 percent.

That’s nothing to sneeze at. The truth is, most companies find that collecting more and more information about their customers gives them the ability to personalize and connect services, making them inherently more valuable. But with that collection process comes significantly more responsibility that, if not handled properly, could also destroy an organization. And not just through lost revenue and customers.

In Europe, the GDPR, a regulation designed to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens, is set to take effect in May of 2018, and will include fines of up to four percent of an organization’s global revenue for non-compliance.

There’s no doubt that businesses are going to have to implement additional layers of security around identity and strictly limit access to personal information. The coming smart devices, smart cars, smart homes and smart cities will benefit everyone, but they could also very negatively impact those consumers, businesses, educational institutions and government entities that aren’t prepared.

Stay secure and prepare for the future of smart devices with next dimension security