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These are the security features you should look for when buying smart home devices – Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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By now you probably read last week’s story about the former ADT employee who tapped into home security cameras and watched private moments nearly 10,000 times over a five-year period. He was able to do this because he quietly added his email address to the customer’s ADT account for remote access.

This isn’t the first such incident either. Although the situation is different, employees at Amazon-owned Ring were fired in early 2020 for accessing customer’s camera footage stored on the company’s servers. And we’ve seen unauthorized users tap into Nest cameras in the past because the account holder’s password was stolen, enabling outsiders to see inside a person’s home. 

These and other similar privacy invasions surely give some consumers pause when outfitting their homes with connected devices. And they should: Our homes are our most private spaces where we should feel at ease and comfortable. So when adding smart devices to your home, there a few key privacy features you should be looking for on your devices and specific actions you should take.

Two-factor authentication: A necessary inconvenience

Before buying a connected camera, speaker, home security system, or even a smart home hub, look to see if the company supports two-factor authentication or 2FA. This is a secondary authentication method used in addition to your device account password. If your account credentials (think ID and password) are compromised, 2FA can still keep the bad guys out because it’s an always-changing piece of data. 

Device makers have slowly been adding support for 2FA but not all of them do. I’d steer away from those who don’t because they’re not offering that crucial second layer of protection. For example, anyone with the ID and password to your smart camera account could log in as you and remotely view live footage. With 2FA, however, they wouldn’t be able to do that.

Some device makers use SMS or text messaging to send you the 2FA data, typically a numeric code, and that’s better than not having 2FA enabled. However, this mechanism isn’t encrypted and can be intercepted or spoofed. 

A better alternative is to enable 2FA with a third-party authentication app, such as Authy, Google Authenticator, or Microsoft Authenticator. These and other similar apps create a one-time code for the second authentication factor and the codes typically expire in 30 seconds. Yes, it can be a pain to enter in a second credential when updating accounts or adding device access to a new household member. However, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to having strangers look in on your smart home.

App notifications for account changes are key

Part of the reason the former ADT employee was able to add himself to customer accounts is that the customers simply weren’t notified of his actions.

Most smart home device apps are good about informing you of account changes, but not all of them do. Look for devices that do include such notifications in their app so that if someone is added or removed from the account, you are immediately notified.

Also, if you can add multiple device administrators, that’s a benefit. I’ve seen too many stories about one person in a home victimizing another through connected devices and there was little the latter could do about it.

Visual indicators on cameras and speakers

If a skilled hacker is accessing the cameras or speakers in your smart home, they can very likely turn off any visual cues that your device is actively watching or listening to you. But most such intrusions to date are more basic, with remote access simply enabled. For that reason, lean towards smart devices that have some type of visual indication of activity. 

I personally prefer webcams that have a small LED when they’re actually viewing the inside or outside of my home, for example. Not all of them do. The same goes for smart speakers and smart displays: When they’re recording audio or video, I want to see some indication that lets me know I’m using the device. 

If those cues are on when it’s quiet or I think the cameras are off, I know that my privacy is very likely compromised. On a related note, some smart devices equipped with cameras have privacy shutters to cover the camera sensor. These can be physical or electronic shutters to disable remote viewing access; I’d trust a physical switch over an electronic one personally.

Full end-to-end encryption of your data

Many security cameras and video doorbells on the market send video footage to the cloud, which can be great. If you need to go back and review a particular incident, like when our parked car was hit in front of our house, it’s easy to do. That convenience can come with a cost though if the data isn’t fully encrypted.

Before any device purchase, check the company’s approach to encryption. It’s great (and fairly common) if they encrypt the data on their servers but that only helps you if their server is hacked. You also want your home’s audio or video history encrypted as the data is sent up to the cloud.

In 2018, Apple introduced this with its HomeKit Secure Video service that some camera makers have incorporated. Not every device maker implements this type of encryption though, so research before you buy. Or you can do what I do: Look for devices that record and store your private data locally. 

One of the reasons I prefer the low-cost WyzeCam devices is because I’m in charge of my data: It’s stored on a microSD card within the device, so third parties generally don’t have access to it. The exception is if you opt-in to advanced services such as person detection. Unless the device has AI-capabilities to analyze and act upon data, it has to rely on the cloud.

Don’t buy devices you don’t need

Although this might sound somewhat silly, the more connected devices you add to your smart home the more privacy threat vectors you’re introducing to your smart home. 

Do you really need a cheap knockoff showerhead to stream tunes during your morning shower, telling hackers when they have a 10-minute window to break into your home? Aside from the running water, the music will help drown out the sounds of a break-in.

I actually have a connected device that fits this category, and no, it’s not a showerhead. It’s my connected door lock. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I don’t have to carry a house key with me. I just use the capacitive touchpad and enter a keycode to get in the house. And I appreciate the automation I set up to lock the door if it’s been unlocked for more than five minutes. 

Outside of those situations, I really haven’t taken full advantage of the connectivity though. I’ve never had to remotely open the door for a delivery or to check on our dog, for example. The benefit of having the smart lock is pretty minimal when compared to the potential of providing information about my comings and goings. I’m actually thinking about just using the keypad feature and turning the connectivity off. Sure, I’ll lose my auto-lock function, but I think I can live without it.

While stories of privacy breaches can certainly scare you away from building or expanding a smart home, there is a way to be smart when choosing your devices. Pick the right ones that protect your privacy the most and make sure you’re following best practices when securing your accounts. Your home is sacred but it can still be smart while protecting your privacy.

This content was originally published here.

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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.

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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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Add a Universal Mitigation Now

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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