What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is one of those technology phrases - a bit like encryption or proxies - that you often hear about, but may not know exactly what it means. Most recently, the phrase has become an ever growing topic of conversation in the world of online privacy and security, as people become increasingly worried about developments in IoT technology and the implications this could have on their personal safety and privacy. But what exactly does the term ‘Internet of Things’ mean and where does the controversy come from? Read on to find out.

What is the Internet of Things?

Put simply, the Internet of Things refers to a network of objects all connected via the internet that have the ability to share information without human intervention. An object within the ‘Internet of Things’ can refer to any everyday object that has the ability to connect to the internet, including (but definitely not limited to): phones, coffee machines, fridges, security systems, cars and heart monitors.

To envisage how the ‘Internet of Things’ works, you simply have to think about all of your everyday appliances and devices being able to talk to each other without your input. For example, imagine your smart lock system knowing when you were coming home and thus turning on your TV for you, or your car sending a text to your colleagues when you are stuck in traffic because it knows you are going to be late to the office.

Many supporters of the ‘Internet of Things’ hope that this technology can be applied on a large scale to the environments in which we live in order to reduce waste, costs and ultimately, improve our quality of life. The term ‘smart city’ is often used in relation to this idea and essentially means the technological integration of transport systems, hospitals, water supply systems and schools, amongst other things. Pretty cool, huh?

Security and privacy in the ‘Internet of Things’ era

So if the Internet of Things is so damn great, then what’s all this controversy about? Well, as the concept of smart cities and a technologically integrated world becomes more of a reality, many people have started to worry about how the Internet of Things will affect our everyday privacy and security. One worrying theory, is that cyber criminals will be able to easily break into our network via a ‘weakest link’, meaning that instead of trying to hack into security-tight laptops and smartphones, hackers will be able to easily access our personal data by breaking in via our fridge or baby monitor, for example.

These fears have not been quelled by the many high profile IoT security stories that have appeared in the news over the last year. One such topic that has gathered much attention, is the security vulnerabilities within ‘smart cars’, with many hackers illustrating to news sources how they can easily hack into and remotely control IoT cars with another person behind the wheel. Another high profile story from last year centered around the privacy concerns over Samsung’s smart TVs as it was revealed that these TVs have the ability to record (and thus sell to third-parties) your home conversations.

Staying secure in the Internet of Things

It is now clear that as the internet becomes more intertwined with every single aspect of our daily lives, the security world also needs to develop in order to offer people less device-centric and more holistic solutions to cyber security and privacy. This challenge is something we recognise here at ZenMate and over the last year we have been searching for a way in which our VPN could be used by our customers within the wider home.

As a result, we have teamed up with Navia to create a portable hardware VPN and wifi security solution that can connect to all of your online devices, not just laptops and smartphones. We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on the site Indiegogo where you can learn more about the project and pre-order one of the devices (with a 40% discount!). Follow this link for everything you need: www.getnavia.com.

Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how the security world reacts to developments in technology and the greater integration of our everyday devices. In the meantime, educate yourself on the risks surrounding the Internet of Things and make sure you are doing everything possible to keep your home secure!