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How to Stay Protected in an Overly Connected World

How many smart devices currently work their technological magic in your home? How about your car, office, or the businesses you frequent? According to Reuters, the average U.S. household uses 25 connected devices on a daily basis. From Nest cameras to Bluetooth-enabled coffee makers, smart TVs to robot vacuums, interactive exercise machines to wearables, GPS systems on our phones, or the dashboards of our cars—we’ve become used to casually passing tasks off to machines. But, is there a downside in terms of safety and security?

Collectively, these smart gadgets make up the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of physical objects (“things”) connected over the internet, collecting and sharing data with other devices and systems. The number of IoT devices making their way into our lives grows every day. Current estimates now exceed a staggering 35 billion IoT devices in homes worldwide, with predictions to reach 75 billion by 2026.

Examples of Smart Devices Included in the IoT

  • Robotic vacuums that map a home’s floorplan to create a cleaning path
  • Smartphones that collect GPS and usage history to predict the user’s typical patterns
  • Refrigerators that monitor food stock and alert users to restock, or even place the order automatically
  • Smart speakers that record audio (including info-packed statements like, “I’m home”)
  • Smart devices that sound alarms in case of fire or break-ins, and may even control when a door can be opened
  • Self-driving and internet-assisted vehicles
  • Smart cameras connected to multiple applications and other devices
  • Smart TVs that connect to streaming services that show ads or suggestions based on user patterns
  • Payment devices that plug into any mobile device to process credit card payments
  • Water bottles that send a notification to remind users when they aren’t reaching water-intake goals
  • Smart thermostats that “learn” from user input, occupancy, and seasonal adjustments
  • Bluetooth-enabled healthcare devices, that send data directly to doctors or labs
  • Smartwatches that collect information about user location, heart rate, and more

What Are the Real Risks of Using IoT Devices?

The benefits of living in a connected world include increased productivity, convenience, and personal safety. But, it is important to recognize the security, privacy, and safety risks that are associated with these innovations. For example, how is the information being collected about our behaviors, routines, and preferences? How is this data being stored, and for how long? Should we trust the intended recipient of that data to refrain from sharing it with others? What happens to our data should that company merge or be acquired by another business?

Moreover, by the very nature of their connections to larger networks, IoT endpoints are vulnerable to cyberattacks and hacking. Many of these devices lack basic security measures we’ve come to expect in our computers and smartphones, with only about 2% of the data sent over IoT devices being encrypted.

Individualized cyberattacks through smart devices are clearly possible - whether a malicious actor takes control of a business’s devices and demands a ransom to return functionality, or a burglar accesses a home’s floorplan through a robot vacuum’s route map. The bigger issue surrounding IoT endpoints, however, relates to botnets.

Botnets and Cyber Security

A botnet is a network of Internet-connected devices, each of which runs one or more bots. Botnets can be used to perform Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, steal data, send spam, and allow attackers to access the device and its connection. Usually, botnets commit cybercrime through sheer numbers, gaining power and increasing threat levels with each device breached.

Smart device manufacturers have, so far, largely declined to invest in security improvements. Future legislative action on the federal level may improve the current state of unchecked data collection and cheap security options, but for now—it’s up to consumers and business IT managers to set up and use these devices safely. Here are some ways to keep your home and business safe and secure, while continuing to enjoy your smart devices:

10 Smart Ways to Maintain Security with Smart Devices

  1. Before adding a new device, determine if the devices you currently have can provide that service. Each additional device is another potential point of entry for a cyberattack.
  2. Read the fine print. A reputable company will tell you what data they collect and why, how and for how long your information is saved, and whether your data will be sold.
  3. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices. Some devices are actually pre-loaded with malware or spyware. In other words, the “discount” you’re enjoying now could become a big headache of lost security later.
  4. Keep your device software up-to-date. Those updates often contain important security patches.
  5. Avoid unsecured internet connections—even temporarily.
  6. Turn off features you don’t need, including data collection/reporting if possible.
  7. Physically secure IoT devices against in-person tampering.
  8. Use multi-factor authentication to secure back-end controls.
  9. Strictly prohibit unauthorized connections of smart devices by guests or employees. Be your household’s designated IT person to check a device’s security. For business use, make it a policy to have an IT expert approve the use of smart devices.
  10. Insure vulnerable assets.

Consider Business and/or Personal Cyber Insurance

In this changing world of smart homes, smart cars, and smart business tools, understanding your insurance options may be the most important step you take to protect yourself, your family, and your business. With so many new options to consider, seeking the expert guidance of a Trusted Choice independent insurance agent makes a lot of sense. Independent agents don’t work for an insurance carrier—they work for YOU, so they won’t try to upsell you more coverage than you need.

Why Work with a New Jersey Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent?

In order to get the protection you need and deserve, you’ll want to work with a trusted expert. And who could be better for the job than a local agent who shares your zip code? New Jersey Trusted Choice independent insurance agents are armed with the knowledge of what coverage is needed in your area, and take the time to learn exactly how much coverage is necessary for your individual needs.

Trusted Choice agents act as your own personal insurance shoppers, offering you more options than one-policy companies. With just one call, they’ll start gathering multiple quotes for you to review so you can be sure you get the right coverage at the right price.

And, because they’re your dedicated agent, they’re not just there at the beginning, but there to help walk you through the claims process and make sure you’re getting the benefits you're entitled to should an event occur.

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