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Internet of Things

The Internet of Things refers to everyday devices that are all connected through the Internet. You can wear some of these devices such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch, or you can deck out your entire house in IoT devices. Refrigerators, thermostats, televisions and speaker systems all are being made with embedded systems to allow for smarter appliances that will make our lives easier. These devices have made major advancements in the way we live in recent years and that trend shows no signs of slowing. However, it has recently been discovered that they are much more dangerous than we think. Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic writes about the time last year when a hacker was able to take control of thousands of IoT devices, and knock down many major websites and services such as Twitter, Reddit, and Spotify by overloading it with requests from these devices. Without the proper security, these devices put our country at risk. In a world where every device is connected, a breach could prove more costly than ever.

In my opinion, are three possible solutions to the security and privacy issues regarding the Internet of Things. The first solution is to introduce government regulations to ensure all products are up to a certain standard before being released to the public. We can entrust our government with this responsibility because they realize that our entire country, including many governmental operations, is at great risk of security breaches through IoT devices. A second solution involves introducing regulations through a third-party verification. This independent group would endorse products that meet a minimum security standard, which Amy Nordrum of IEEE Spectrum compares to how the US Department of Agriculture is in charge of defining foods as “organic” or not. With either of these entities enforcing regulations on companies we will be able to prevent products from entering the market if they are not safe. The fault with these solutions is that IoT technology is ever changing and evolving. With so many different products that each serve a unique purpose, it is difficult to impose sweeping regulation that is properly applicable to all devices. And once regulation is set for a certain kind of device such as smart refrigerators, it is likely that a new version of technology will be implemented, introducing new potential security risks and requiring regulations to be constantly revised. The third possible option, which involves no regulation, is to have companies label each of their products with a security rating. By disclosing the true level of security on their products, it becomes the responsibility of the consumers to decide whether or not they want to buy a product that is at risk of being hacked. Some argue that this is unjust, and that it is the responsibility of the consumer to remove all risk associated with their product. But consumers buy products that involve risk all the time, such as a car or gun. The safety of these products is publicly reported in laymen’s terms, so any consumer can make their own judgments. There also exists the risk companies will falsely report in order to sell more. But ultimately, these companies currently ignore the need for security for the same reason as consumers do – cost. I am willing to pay more to ensure that all IoT devices are held to the proper security standard. With the proper safety, the IoT can lead to the next wave of groundbreaking technology.

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