Data Privacy, Cyber Security and the Internet of Things

March 17, 2016

world.1Despite the recent emphasis by many countries on data privacy, data privacy issues have only gotten worse. What the world is currently experiencing is the explosion of data (Big Data) as well as a breakdown in data privacy safeguards due to risk issues as well as increased technology making data privacy much harder to control.  Today, with the many devices from smart phones, PDAs, cell phones, lap tops and palm computers, data is generated on an unprecedented level.  Add to that, the numerous data privacy steps required in a data management process or document management process that in fact causes or leads to data leakage, and it is no wonder that many people are concerned about the safeguarding and proper use of personal data.  However, the recent addition of IoT, makes it not only harder to safeguard private data, but makes it easier for third parties to gain unauthorized access to personal data.

In recent years, the IoT or Internet of Things has increased at such a rapid rate that how we transact business or even live is undergoing a fundamental transformation.  Such changes are not without risk and should be viewed in the context of potential consequences resulting from connecting billions of devices to the internet.

In the US, the FTC has even noted security concerns that consumers may face when using IoT devices. Such security concerns include unauthorized access and misuse of personal data, safety risk s and even facilitating attacks on other systems. This is because IoT devices connect to the internet via sensors which send environmental and activity information to data storage centers that in turn allow for and provide analytical feedback and control.  Basically, IoT devices are consumer oriented or industrial oriented devices which have been turned into smart devices allowing for information gathering and management of such devices via software, etc.  Even cars are now IoT devices.

Though the majority of people have a favorable impression of IoT devices, manufacturers of such products are not are not discussing the risks inherent in such technology. HP recently conducted a study where it found 70% or all IoT devices subject to attack.  Though the number of devices that could be hacked is astounding, the IT industry is not warning society in general about the potential dangers of using such devices.  To make matters worse, those involved in the risk management industry are not raining the alarm that they should, whether for lack of understanding or not, as IoT dangers are about to collide with society’s overall desire for the protection and safeguarding of personal data. In fact, if you look at the latest surveys from major corporations on risk management issues , IoT issues are not even discussed.

It is therefore urgent that society as well as corporations and organizations involved with data privacy and the IoT have broad based discussions on the benefits and risks of IoT devices. Risk managers, CIOs, software engineers,  in-house counsel and BOD members all must take the data privacy risks inherent in IoT technologies seriously and must take steps to minimize the risks posed by cyber-attacks and the misuse of data.   Though society in general may benefit from IoT applications, it must also consider the issues posed by such devices and weigh the benefits against the risks.


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