Cyber #security in the #smart age

Our digital everyday life depends on the assumption that every gadget is digitally secure. But are we there yet?

I have an exercise for you, dear reader: count how many devices you own that have an Internet connection. I’m not talking about just laptops and mobile phones but everything in your home and garage as well.

For example, can you tell if a home appliance has a connection? If it does, how do you know if it’s online or not?

Digitalisation keeps bringing us new smarter gadgets that make our life easier. But many of us don’t stop to think about the underlying structure. Are end users even expected to: it’s totally understandable and natural to assume that the products we buy are safe.

Online means it’s working

In our office and home space, Internet connectivity is a default in most devices. There are surveillance cameras, locks, fridges, lights, and coffee machines. Even the fish tank might be online: if you can automate the feeding of your goldfish, why wouldn’t you, right?

You are able to manage heating, ventilation, locking, and maintenance needs remotely via your mobile device. Everyday athletes and kids wear GPS watches that usually include an Internet connection. Also your car might include dozens of computers that control acceleration, steering, brakes, emissions, and so forth.

Our interconnected world could not operate without a steady energy supply. Surprise surprise, also the production of electricity is dependent on the Internet as nowadays power plants are digitally controlled.

This is the world we live in. According to Gartner, the number of connected devices in 2017 is some 8 billion. In 2020, the amount is estimated to rise to 20 billion.

A future-proof society needs security

It’s obvious that there is no stopping digitalisation.

Mobility and an ‘always online’ lifestyle is spreading across the globe – fast. We are building a digital world that breaks old silos, opens up unseen opportunities and makes everyday life easier and more enjoyable. It’s rather exciting to live in this age of innovation and advancement.

The other side of the coin is that the speed of change brings vulnerabilities that are exploitable. We should not make the mistake and think that it’s just big enterprises or presidential candidates that are targeted: if it’s easy to break into your smart home, somebody will do it eventually.

At the moment, it’s just too difficult for the ordinary citizen to make sure that the online connections in their gadgets are secure. It’s unrealistic to expect that you could educate everybody to the level of a hacker. That’s why we need better standards and also easy-to-use tools that make vulnerabilities visible.

There is much to be said about security in smart societies, and I will return to this subject in the near future. For now, I would love to hear your hopes and concerns. How do you see that cyber security touches you in your everyday life?

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