Should I Big Brother My Home?

On Black Friday, my brother gifted me a Google Home Mini which is aimed at increasing the connectivity of your home while making your life easier. Long gone is the concept of a PDA or a Blackberry, technology has evolved to using voice activation in order to make your life easier. Anything from playing music to making phone calls is made easier with the help of these devices. Similar products have popped up in the market over the last couple of years, and the one that I now own is Google’s answer to the Amazon Alexa. Funny enough my brother’s gift just so happened to be a handful of days after a Capstone speaker series about the internet of things which had both peaked my interest and my anxiety.

Champlain College is lucky to be the home for the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation (LCDI). The LCDI is a laboratory where Information Technology & Sciences students can be apart of live client work through “public and private sector initiatives surrounding cybercrime, digital forensics and information assurance.” This which is where our latest speaker, Alex Caron works. As a Senior Cyber Security & Digital Forensic Analyst, Caron has worked in Washington D.C. on national security issues in the areas of forensics and intelligence. From the privacy and cybercrime perspective, he spoke to our class about the Internet of Things (IOT).

Any device connected to the internet falls into this category. Smart watches, smart door locks, even egg trays that monitor freshness are all collecting data on you. Going back to our talk with Bill Morris of Faraday, often that information can be sold and used to market other items to you. It may seem harmless that someone knows when you are likely to make an omelette, but the great picture of all your IOT devices may provide indicators for when you leave for work and leave your home unattended.

The HatchBaby is heralded as the FitBit for babies.

Once someone has access to your data, they can use it and manipulate that information for whatever analytics they are aiming for. For instance there was a device called a HatchBaby that tracks the health of your infant so that it can better understand needs of the child. This is incredibly helpful for a consumer who may be new to parenthood. On the flip side, however,  this is data that health insurances can use to change their premiums.

Since the technology is new and always evolving, the world of wifi-connected devices is often unregulated. Legislation is slow to create standards around your privacy and data. Some companies with devices geared towards one time purchase, do not have security processes in place. They claim that they are not responsible for the info on the device and do not go out of their way to encrypt it. It leaves the consumer vulnerable, so what should I do in the meantime with my Google Home Mini?

It is vital that users are looking at the security features of the products they buy. Not all products will provide that information, but it doesn’t hurt to seek it out. A company that proudly advertises its commitment to securing your information may be the product for you. Knowing the risk associated with these products will potentially save yourself from data breach. If you have several devices and hook all of them up to a product like WinkHub that unites them on one app, you leave yourself vulnerable if that one device is hacked. Additionally physical security is important as well. Once an outside individual has physical access to your device it will easily open doors to your private information.

I don’t think there is a need to fear technology since it is elevating our standard of living, but each consumer needs to be aware of their limits and understanding around their devices and their privacy settings. The more information you can get the better, but consumers can dictate what they want to subject themselves to and if these products are right for them at all.

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