The fear of not having enough privacy has been on many people’s mind for the past couple of years, as internet service providers have started collecting user data to either better their marketing campaigns or provide new services that fit customers’ needs.
As more private user data is poured into the internet – public or private clouds - either via social networks, tracking mechanisms, or Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the risks of abuse, identity theft, and even financial loss have become a real concern.
Anything is Possible
While the internet has undoubtedly changed the way we interact with each other across the world, it has also exposed everyone to threats that transcend physical and cultural boundaries. Wherever you are in the world, you still rely on online banking services to manage your finances or upload personal information on social networks, meaning that you can fall victim to a cybercriminal.
Fraud, phishing, cyber-attacks and other internet-related crime can cross borders and practically target any individual connected to the internet via any kind of terminal – PC tablet, or smartphone. For this reason, when asked what can actually happen when you’re online, the answer is usually “anything.”
Improperly secured baby monitors and IP cameras have already been deemed vulnerable and remotely hackable, allowing Peeping Toms to see straight into your home.
The cloud and IoT devices have become a commodity that’s being traded and used by users, companies, and even cybercriminals with the purpose of either hoarding data, exposing various services, or even performing cyberattacks.
Some fears or privacy concerns actually come from the proliferation of IoT devices that constantly monitor, track and broadcast personal information to “the cloud.” While the potential benefits of having all this information aggregated and individually delivered are obvious – for medical, performance and optimization reasons – there are risks attached.
Because there’s currently no IoT framework to regulate how such devices handle and process data – let alone deal with security – being somewhat paranoid about the devices you chose to purchase and how they broadcast your information is recommended.
Knowing where and how your smartband telemetry is broadcasted and who’s on the receiving end could help users understand why they suddenly start receiving ads with a fitness focus. While the cloud has obvious benefits in terms of costs, performance and availability, some have expressed concern over what type of user information actually makes it to the cloud, who’s using it, and for what purposes.
Are these threats overrated?
To answer this, everyone is encouraged to do a simple online search for recent data breaches involving public or private cloud infrastructures and vulnerable IoT devices. Millions of users have had their private and personal information exposed due to data breaches – Ashley Maddison, Office of Personnel Management and more – where emails, full names and social security numbers have been made public, but we’ve also witnessed that personal data is more valuable than ever in human history.
Overestimating security for cloud or IoT device could have serious privacy implications and it is the responsibility of both users and providers to make sure that nothing is left to chance when sensitive data is involved.