Internet of Things: Is our "Smart" World Secure?

How it Works

How many devices do you have connected to the internet? Estimates put the number of devices that compose the Internet of Things in the billions and growing. These devices have embedded chips, sensors, software and network connectivity to support the collection of data, the exchange of data and the analysis of data, often for the purpose of solving a problem: the house is too hot or too cold, the front door needs to be locked after you’ve already left for the office, a pacemaker sends vital data to a healthcare provider to ensure a patient’s well-being.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always on the prowl to exploit any vulnerabilities and to take advantage of consumers. Data being collected and shared by your devices creates a honey pot of information for identity thieves and other cybercriminals, potentially including bank account information.

Security is part of the product development process, but technology changes. Manufacturers are challenged to be nimble and diligent in keeping products aligned with those changes before going to market or after through upgrades.

Who is Impacted

Anyone with a device that is connected to the internet is potentially at risk. No connected device is too small to be compromised. According to news reports, hackers attempted to collect data from an undisclosed casino in North America, tapping into the casino network via fish tank sensors. The sensors were connected to a casino computer to regulate the temperature and cleanliness of the tank.1

No device is off limits to cybercriminals, including children’s toys that are connected to the internet. In 2019, a little girl was frightened when a hacker spoke through the baby monitor in her bedroom, claiming to be Santa Claus.2

What Actions Can You Take?

When it comes to connected devices, proceed with caution using basic cybersecurity good hygiene, including the tips below:

Research the product and the manufacturer prior to purchase to understand how the brand prioritizes security. One indication is a history of the manufacturer offering security patches or software updates.

Use a separate network for your smart devices. If cybercriminals should find a way in to your connected devices, they can’t access the information on your personal computer, such as bank account information, if it’s on a different network.

Protect your cellphone or tablet. It is important not to lose these items when they are loaded with apps that control your devices.

Change the default settings (username, passwords) that come with your device. If you cannot change the default setting, consider purchasing a different brand that permits you to do so.

Use strong passwords. Set up each device with a unique password and opt for one-time passcodes and/or biometrics when available.

Do not use public Wi-Fi when remotely activating or checking your device.

Disable features that you are not using. Features such as remote access and voice control can be enabled if/when the need arises.

Keep track of all the devices connected to your network and the type of data being collected.

Install security patches and software updates from manufacturers’ websites in a timely manner.

Disconnect any device from your network when not in use.

These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with security, financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions. This site may provide reference to internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.

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