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Murray McKintosh News Article

How safe is our data as the Internet of Things continues to evolve?

Written by:

Jessica Kavanagh

The Internet of Things is swiftly integrating itself in homes throughout the UK and around the world. Most recently the rollout of smart meters has helped households become more efficient and track their energy usage.

As IoT continues to evolve, the main aim is to ensure everyday objects are all connected, allowing them to send and receive data. It’s estimated that in 2015, 40 million devices were connected throughout the UK and by 2020 approximately 100 billion objects could be connected to the internet.

Having all your appliances communicating and working in unison can have its benefits throughout your house, imagine a scenario where you devices can react to your exact morning routine.

When your alarm goes off, your shower sets the water to just the right temperature as it waits for you. Once the shower is turned off, your coffee machine begins brewing the first cup of the day. When you leave the house, the fridge notices that the milk didn’t get put back and sends a reminder to your phone reminding you to pick up some more on the way home.

It almost seems like an idyllic future, but this is what IoT is aiming to do for households across the world.

It’s not just homes that will benefit from the Internet of Things, connectivity is also planned for public services to help increase their efficiency. However, as the world continues to become increasingly connected how safe is our personal data?

While introducing more smart objects into cities across the UK may help make public services more efficient, it raises major concerns within the sector which handles extremely sensitive information, such as medical records.

The public sector has already suffered from data breaches and if IoT means more personal information being stored on these systems, then any potential future hacks immediately become more dangerous.

There’s a risk that if the data is breached, then that information could be sold, leaked or abused. However, it could also potentially turn fatal, for example if medical files are accessed they could be altered by changing or deleting key information.

A government report in 2014 expressed that everybody involved with the implementation, maintenance and security of IoT systems will need to be constantly anticipating, identifying and preventing problems before they arise. 

Security will have a huge focus on ensuring personal data can’t be used to identify people. Ensuring data remains anonymous and encrypted in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. This could become one of the biggest tasks the government will face when implementing the Internet of Things.

There’s no doubt that internet security will have to transform to be able to respond to new threats and potential breaches. Attempting to make the Internet of Things more secure can only benefit users, as current storage systems are far from invulnerable.  iCloud has in the past been hacked and even secure documents can be misplaced or left behind by professionals.

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The Internet of Things could potentially revolutionise many parts of everyday life, from smart homes to smart cities there are plenty of alluring visions of the future. Glasgow has already invested £24 million installing technology such as smart streetlights and traffic tracking, while Bristol is using IoT to collect information on health and pollution.

However, while most cities may have a plans for a variety of disasters, they may not have one prepared for a cyber-attack. With valuable, personal data at stake, more security throughout entire IoT plans need to be drawn up and maintained before the Government can truly embrace the idea of smart cities. 

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