Internet of Things
"Hey Google, are you recording me?" - this is a question that you'll probably never believe the answer to. By default, a smart device will never say yes. They do listen 24/7, but will only register once the 'wake word' is used (Ok Google, Alexa etc). However, the National Cyber Security Centre has issued a warning that all smart devices could be recording you and watching your movements. Doesn't inspire confidence in either the product or the NCSC, does it? The governing authority on cyber says 'the might be' - so how are we able to be safe and secure in our homes if we would like to use these devices?
Here's the thing - the more devices you have connected to your internet, the more options a cybercriminal has to attempt to hack your online circle.
Let's have a quick look at some devices that you may have -
A smart speaker (such as Google Home or Amazon Echo)
Door Handles and Locks
Of course, there are more products, and new devices are being released every day. So should you be worried about them? Yes and no. The devices may have an ability to circumvent privacy and security measures, but as long as you do your part (reviewing your firewall settings, securing your internet password etc), you should be safe enough.
The real argument is - do you value your convenience over your security? If you have a few of these items, you'll know how easy they can make your life (or difficult when they refuse to co-operate). However, for the most part, they are fun and convenient to use.
A piece of advice - these are an absolute nightmare if you change your internet provider - each item has to be reconnected. Depending on the number you have, it can take some time.
So, are they right for you? If you're thinking of purchasing any smart device, you should really ask yourself some questions first -
Why am I buying this?
You should really ask this anytime you look to buy anything. With a smart device however, it's a little trickier to answer justifiably. As they really only have a singular use, we'll use the argument of a smart plug. Why buy this? So you can switch on and off lights/TV/phone chargers etc with your phone and your smart speaker, yeah? Life is definitely too difficult to manually flick the switch. We're not advocating not buying them, we're simply advising against impulse buying because it's techy. Justify the purchase first, even if it's to enhance laziness.
Is the cost worth it?
Speaking as an avid user of smart devices, often the answer to this is no. Most smart devices have a inflated price tag thanks to the word 'Smart'. Manufacturers use this as a way of marketing the product as futuristic and advanced when in reality, it just connects to the internet so you can turn it on with your phone. Again, if you're curious about them, buy it and try it out for yourself.
Do I really want this?
Seems like a silly question to ask yourself, but perhaps you've been caught up in the hype? In fact, when talking about the Echo, Jeff Bezos, the CEO and Founder of Amazon has stated in an interview
"No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said: “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and say - No, thank you.”
So, really think about it. Do you want it?
Will I trust it?
There are a few things to unpack here. Firstly, some devices play a vital role in physical safety and security. For example, smoke detectors and door handles/locks. Do you really trust your 'smart' smoke detector to alert you to a fire? 9/10 times, there's absolutely no issue. It will do its job perfectly. What if it has been hacked though? It's entirely possible that a cybercriminal can get into the device and switch it off. Granted, it's sinister but can absolutely happen.
What about your front door handle? Leaving the house, your door locks - or does it? What is stopping the same thing happening to the door as the smoke detector? In our opinion, there are certain things that really shouldn't need to be connected. You'll be better off with 'stupid' devices for some items.
There are a few more questions you may come up with - but regardless, we're simply trying to get you to think a little more about them before diving in and buying something you didn't know you wanted, you can absolutely live without, and you can definitely find a cheaper version of without the risk of a cybercriminal flooding your house using a washing machine.