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The Challenges and Security Risks of Smart Home Devices

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Smart home devices, like ’s and ’s Nest, as well as 5G wireless networks, are transforming homes. They’re no longer static shelters, but rather, personal spaces for hyper-connected living.

According to McKinsey’s “The Connected Home Market” report, consumers are most motivated by utility management, as well as and safety when buying connected home technologies. For example, the most common purchases are smoke detectors, remote video, smart thermostats and connected locks. 

Wireless tech is becoming a permanent home companion. However, these systems bring a few challenges and risks that we explore below.

Lack of interoperability

Brands don’t like to talk about it, but incompatibility is the biggest problem with smart home technology. Installing many devices and platforms leads to the unfortunate realization that gadgets won’t communicate with each other. A manufacturer such as Amazon likes to design devices made for their proprietary platform (Echo or Alexa); therefore, ’ tech often won’t work with non-native systems like Google Home, Apple Home or Bose.

The marketplace is incentivized to keep ecosystems incompatible. It’s a way for companies to thwart rivals. Consumers are coerced to purchase Amazon’s or Google’s smart home platform instead of buying competing products. The practice also defends a proprietary ecosystem from copycats, such as cheap knock-offs.

Homeowners should carefully consider which platform makes sense long-term as they add speakers, televisions and other connected gear to a personal collection. Where possible, it may be prudent to buy a single brand to avoid hours of attempted troubleshooting.

Hacking through the cloud

The cloud is often used as a euphemism for sensitive information that is openly transmitted and/or stored on internet-accessible systems. like to use the term “cloud” to disguise the risks involved with such unsecured broadcasts and storage.

Hackers aren’t fooled. Cloud-based gadgets are vulnerable to cyberattacks because many unsafely transmit data over the web. Unfortunately, some of these transmissions aren’t even necessary.

“Cloud devices can pose security problems for homeowners since data, such as video data for cameras, are not encrypted when sent over the internet. Thus, cloud hardware is a target for cyber intrusions,” says Ruslan Vinahradau, CEO of smart-home technology firm Zorachka, a big advocate of secure home systems. “Homeowners should investigate technologies that come with internal storage, as well as encryption. These features make it harder for cybercriminals to hack your data or household.”

According to a 2019 Pew survey, 54% of smart speaker owners (or 13% of all U.S. adults) said they’re concerned about the amount of personal data their speakers collect. And 49% said it’s unacceptable for manufacturers to share audio recordings with law enforcement.

Batteries drain too fast

If you’re a first-time smart homeowner, discard the “set it and forget it” feature of many infomercial products. Connected gadgets are only “smart” when there’s battery power.

With wireless home tech, expect to change batteries once every few weeks, depending on usage. Many gadgets require continued maintenance, particularly those that are utilized daily, such as security cameras, motion sensors, connected locks, lamps, thermostats, speakers, etc.

It’s prudent to seek compatible backup batteries for the most-used devices so they can operate continuously. There are risky situations to avoid, such as not having any light, a non-functioning smoke detector or thermostat or a blacked-out security camera.

As long as batteries are handy, users of connected home devices enjoy an advantage over non-users in managing a household. With non-users, 51% accidentally left lights on, 41% left appliances on and 35% accidentally left the air-conditioning on, according to McKinsey.

Granting permissions without understanding the fine print

Apps and devices will constantly seek permission to access other apps, camera, microphone, connected locks and personal data. Some apps will tell users that such permission is essential to personalizing a user’s experience.

That may be true, but unless you read the voluminous fine print, it would be difficult to truly assess the security threats of granting such access. What if an app gets hacked and your connected lock or thermostat won’t function? What if your personal data is sold to big tech companies? Complexity begets more complexity, and that’s the reality of smart systems that homeowners will need to accept. Nonetheless, call the manufacturer and ask if it’s possible to opt-out of data harvesting.

Companies are reducing the hassles of daily life by assisting us in various home errands and chores. Seamless connectivity means the ability to manage the demands of home life with the press of an iPhone. There will be bumps along the way, and homeowners should always use common sense and judgment in situations where technology may potentially make outcomes worse, not better.

This content was originally published here.

Home Security

Precision agriculture using AI and IoT to usher in the next revolution in food security

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Micromanagement of every aspect of the field being used for your crops is called precision agriculture. It includes mapping of the field in terms of disparities within the field or with other fields around it, the sun light variation across the year, wind patterns, rain predictions and other seasonal effects. To do that, feed from weather stations, Remote sensing equipment, GIS and GPS may be used.

Another key feature of precision farming is having a trained software module on the specific crop being planned in that field. This software module has an understanding about the growth patterns of that crop, possible diseases that are related to that crop, prescriptions of specific fertilizer or pesticides depending upon the disease pattern, and prediction of disease depending upon the growth of leaves or size or colour of the plant.

It uses feed sensors, weight sensors, soil sensors, temperature sensors, intensity sensors and multiple types of cameras. All these sensors may be deployed on a machine. This machine can be a low flying drone or a small robot moving through the field. Based on the crop and the size of the plants, the robot height and size can be manoeuvred. This robot or drone will have multiple compartments full of different ingredients required for the plants. One box may contain water, another may have pesticides, another may have fertilizer and so on. Based on the real feedback of different sensors, the software module will process that information according to the trained AI model installed on that robot or drone. Depending upon the necessary trigger, instructions will follow, and the robot will discharge specific amount of pesticides or fertilizer or water etc.

This whole mechanism may look like a complex process for small and medium level farmers, but that is not the case. Just like farmers currently hire big machines for sowing and cutting the crops, they will be able to hire different kinds of robots for their specific crops. Initially the cost will be high, but eventually, when this becomes a standard practice, the cost will come down with volume and scale.

The end user will not be required to understand or learn about these complex systems. They will just employ these systems like we use washing machines without understanding the mechanical engineering behind their working. The farmer will only need to follow some simple and clear instructions and press a few buttons.

While its execution will be simple, the advantages of precision farming are many and varied. End-to-end efficiency and decrease in wastage/loss of the yield due to disease etc will lead to an increase in crop-yield. Another advantage is the huge saving in inputs: currently, farmers waste a lot of water, pesticides, and fertilizers because these are thrown all over the field, a significant portion of which is not used by the plants. With robots in the field, only the required resources will be given near the roots of the plants, which will save a lot of resources. It will also result in a lot of data inputs across the fields, regions, and geographies, which will result in better policy decision regarding which crops to be promoted, pricing of the output, availability of markets for the produce, value enhancement products in the food chain etc.

Many people may be worried about the impact of such technologies on the job market for agriculture workers. It will result in net additional jobs in this sector. Many hands will be required for maintenance, operations, storage, production, marketing of these variety of robots and drones. The only challenge is that existing agriculture workers will be required to undergo training to work on these modern machines, which will require huge efforts on the part of the trainers as well as the farmers. So, in conclusion precision farming is going to be the next big thing in the domain of agriculture which will have significant impact on economy, food reliance and modern society.



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IoT Security In The Spotlight, As Research Highlights Alexa Security Flaws | Information Security Buzz

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Last week, IoT security was in the spotlight again as researchers warned that Amazon’s Alexa is vulnerable to malicious third-party apps, or “skills”, that could leave owners at risk of a wide range of cyberattacks.

Researchers analyzed 90,194 unique skills from Amazon’s skill stores across seven countries and found widespread security issues that could lead to phishing attacks or the ability to trick Alexa users into revealing sensitive information.

For instance, developers can register skills that fraudulently use well-known company names, and leverage these fake brand names to send out phishing emails that link to the skill’s Amazon store webpage. Attackers can also make code changes after their skills have been approved by Amazon, opening the door for various malicious configurations.

VP of IoT
Best-practices for IoT device security include strong authentication and secure software updates.

Continued innovation in the Internet of Things technology has propelled us into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is undoubtedly valuable for consumers and businesses alike.

However, as this research into Alexa’s vulnerabilities has shown, we can’t be oblivious to the security risks that go hand-in-hand with introducing such a large number of devices into the ecosystem. Left unchecked, this presents a huge security risk. While there are many potential threats to IoT devices, a common

…..

Continued innovation in the Internet of Things technology has propelled us into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is undoubtedly valuable for consumers and businesses alike.

However, as this research into Alexa’s vulnerabilities has shown, we can’t be oblivious to the security risks that go hand-in-hand with introducing such a large number of devices into the ecosystem. Left unchecked, this presents a huge security risk. While there are many potential threats to IoT devices, a common thread in IoT security weakness is the lack of strong authentication.

As attack vectors continue to evolve, it is increasingly critical that organizations embrace security solutions that ensure the integrity and security of their IoT systems. Best-practices for IoT device security include strong authentication and secure software updates – ensuring only authentic code can be installed on the device. For a complex system such as Alexa’s Skills that involve the Alexa platform, third-party apps and third-party cloud services – a comprehensive approach to ensuring the security of the ecosystem is essential.

@Alan Grau, VP of IoT , provides expert commentary for “dot your expert comments” at @Information Security Buzz.
“Best-practices for IoT device security include strong authentication and secure software updates….”
#infosec #cybersecurity #isdots
https://informationsecuritybuzz.com/expert-comments/iot-security-in-the-spotlight-as-research-highlights-alexa-security-flaws

@Alan Grau, VP of IoT , provides expert commentary for “dot your expert comments” at @Information Security Buzz.
“Best-practices for IoT device security include strong authentication and secure software updates….”
#infosec #cybersecurity #isdots
https://informationsecuritybuzz.com/expert-comments/iot-security-in-the-spotlight-as-research-highlights-alexa-security-flaws

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Is Biden’s Peloton Bike an IoT Cybersecurity Risk? – Security Boulevard

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Is Every Connected Device in a Staffer’s Home an IoT Cybersecurity Risk?

Most folks are still working from home at least some of the time. That creates a number of challenges for IT departments around cybersecurity and smart devices. As our lives become ever more connected to the internet through everything from smartphones to smart bikes, it’s important to remember that even the most humble internet-connected device can be a security risk. Many business IT teams are still coming to terms with that increased Internet-of-Things (IoT) cybersecurity risk and how to mitigate it.

If Cybersecurity is Like a Game, Shouldn’t You Play to Win? Here’s How to Do It.

IoT Devices (and Risks) Are Proliferating

During the last year, as we all spent more time at home, many folks discovered that they could make their home lives a little more pleasant with IoT devices. Experts estimate that more than 26.66 billion IoT devices are active in 2020, with 127 new IoT devices connecting to the internet every second. However, researchers also report that IoT devices face 5,200 attacks a month. That means that organizations need to keep IoT security top of mind as their security posture evolves.

Including the White House. The original work from home example, the President’s House is also home to one of the world’s most secure and sensitive networks. As new First Families with an increasing number of IoT devices move in, like President Biden and his Peloton bike, the White House cybersecurity team is faced with the same dilemma as many businesses: how to secure their IT environment against the potential risk.

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How to Mitigate the Risk

In the case of the President’s bike, the Secret Service and the National Security Agency (NSA) will make changes to both the physical structure and the IT capability as well as enacting strong access control policies and tools in order to mitigate the risk. Cameras and microphones will be removed, and a constant series of password changes will help blunt the possibility of foreign agents hacking into President Biden’s Peloton. This tracks with the advice given by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

But most companies don’t need to go that far when securing their environments against IoT risks. Businesses can keep their networks safe and employees can enjoy their IoT devices without taking drastic measures or spending a fortune. While cybercrime risks continue to climb across the board, by taking sensible precautions, organizations can secure their systems and data from many of the pitfalls that arise from remote working IoT cybersecurity risks quickly and affordably.

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One key to mitigating IoT risk and remaining cyber resilient as an organization is maintaining strong access point control. It’s not just a fantastic mitigation for IoT risk either. Strong access point control is essential for mitigating all types of cybersecurity risk – and secure identity and access management with a solution like Passly is an effective, cost-effective way to implement it in a flash.

Passly brings major weapons against intrusion to the fight with multifactor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), and secure shared password vaults. MFA is a must-have in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape – it has been proven to block up to 99.9% of common cyberattacks from getting through to business systems. Back that up with single sign-on that empowers your IT team to add and remove permissions fast in case of compromise and secure shared password vaults to make sure that your team can easily respond to emergencies remotely, and you’ve added a huge amount of security strength for a small price.

Contact ID Agent’s experts today to add Passly to your security stack or watch a video of Passly in action to see why it’s perfect for every business.

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