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The First Guide to the Internet of Things Exposes Consumers' Cybersecurity Flaws

20/06/2016 10:10 | Updated 20 June 2016

New technology is not naturally disposed to a lack of hyperbole when it comes to its potential influence. Whether it was video conference calling, 3G mobile licences, the mobile internet or even home broadband, such hype takes a long time to be realised.

One such technology in 2016 is Virtual Reality (VR) and if people believed everything they were told, they already exist in a parallel universe where VR is a world where everything is possible.

However, like the other technologies referred to, VR is unlikely to hit critical mass in 2018, let alone 2016. It will undoubtedly become a leading technology, but on the terms of the market and its ultimate judge; the consumers and customers who buy it.

Another technology has been on the cusp of becoming a new way of life for the past decade and that is the Internet of Things (IoT). The hype began with the 'internet fridge' and how a talking fridge could remind people when they needed to stock up on refrigerated food.

The technology was certainly there, but it isn't always a case of build it and they will come, other times it will be build it and nobody is particularly bothered about coming. Such was a case with the internet fridge.

When it comes to IoT, there are many potential channels to widespread adoption, but there is one area that has huge consequences for everybody who wants an internet-connected home and that is the threat of compromised personal security.

A home with manifold devices and fragmented technologies is an easy target for any hacker or criminal, so this week's release of the first detailed guide to IoT for consumers may prove to be just as important as any overhyped technology.

The BullGuard Consumer Guide to the Internet of Things, produced by eponymous internet security company Bullguard, offers advice on the benefits of IoT devices, such as baby monitors, security cameras and wearables, but also flags important security issues.

Available as a free download, the guide explains how to protect a home network and is best read in conjunction with the company's IoT scanner, which scans all devices in a home network and flags up any potential flaws for data breaches and malware.

"A great deal of mystery still surrounds IoT at the consumer level and we want to cut through this by providing advice and alerting people to the security issues. It promises exciting benefits and has the potential to initiate profound and positive changes to the way we live.

"But at the same time IoT device security is generally lacking; there are no set safety standards. This has serious implications and consumers need to at least be aware of the potential pitfalls," said said Paul Lipman, CEO, BullGuard.

BullGuard research also reveals that while 66% of consumers are worried about hacks and breaches against their IoT devices, many are unable to protect themselves against threats, largely because they feel they lack the technical knowledge required to enhance security.

Other companies have flagged up security issues in recent months. In his Surviving in the Connected Home post on these pages in the Huffington Post, David Emms of security company Kaspersky Labs explained how even app-controlled coffee makers can be a threat to home security.

He discovered that hackers do not even have to be on the same network as the potential victim. A coffeemaker sends enough unencrypted information to allow the password for the owner's entire Wi-Fi network to be accessed.

These threats to personal security should not be underestimated. While current emphasis appears to the the fallibility of business systems to criminals and hackers, these systems are protected by expensive cybersecurity products.

Such products for the consumer are infinitely cheaper and consumers are finally be beginning to understand that it is smarter to invest in more than just free virus software to protect their increasingly connected homes.

Bullguard's free IoT guide and accompanying IoT scanner may be in the company's self-interest, but may also prove to be very useful assets in raising the awareness of how IoT-connected homes are vulnerable to attack.

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