Our world is dominated by technology. From our smartphones to our smartwatches, almost every device we own is (or soon will be) connected to the internet. This growing connectivity is loyally referred to as Internet of Things and it’s quickly reshaping our lives.
Need to dim the lights or adjust the thermostat? Simply use your phone. Need to make a run to the grocery store because you’re getting low on eggs? Your fridge can order more for you.
While smart home gadgets have definitely seen a surge in popularity, it’s only the beginning. In fact, we’re already starting to see a whole new line of internet-enabled devices, including smart pet feeders, smart water bottles, and even smart coffee pots. (Yes, it’s a thing.)
There’s no denying Internet of Things (IoT) has reshaped our daily lives, but what about our work?
The growing emergence of IoT in the workplace
Many businesses have been quick to adapt to these emerging technologies, revamping their floor plans and enacting smart devices wherever and however they can. In fact, according to a recent IT survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would welcome a fully automated workplace.
Already, smart office assistants like Alexa for Business help make every day work assignments easier by giving users the ability to not only set up shared network devices across the office but also use these networks to adjust the room temperature, change the lighting, and more.
With so much new technology being incorporated in the workspace, it’s even getting to the point that businesses are expected to use the most up-to-date internet technologies or risk falling behind the times.
How Internet of Things is changing the way we work
Instead of simply making our lives a little easier, workplace IoT is primed to reshape how we work. This doesn’t just include automated reports, taking lunch orders, or utilizing autonomous assistants (though that’s surely part of the equation); instead, Internet of Things will make every device more intelligent—giving employees more tools to conduct their business at a faster and more efficient rate than ever before.
And though the idea of robotic assistants is still a ways off, we’re already starting to see the budding effects of this interconnectivity at the office. Company-wide fitness initiatives, which typically use digital trackers to chart staff health goals, have become commonplace among businesses hoping to engage with employees by offering more health-conscious incentive programs.
There’s no denying IoT has improved productivity. With the amalgamation of machines and new technologies, employees have never had more resources at their disposal. Unfortunately, this new connectivity has left our personal information incredibly exposed.
Unfortunately, this new connectivity has occurred at the risk of our personal information incredibly exposed.
More automation, more privacy problems
Because IoT is so new, most companies haven’t taken the time to address the potential risks involved. In fact, many of the newer internet-enabled devices have been found to have very weak privacy settings, with some having none at all.
Man-in-the-middle attacks, which occur when hackers take control of one network and then gain access to others, has been a prime concern among privacy advocates for years. With so many common household devices having access to our private and sensitive information, the overall probability of these devices getting hacked has exponentially increased.
What’s more, because these devices work in tandem, a hacker could, in theory, gain access to a common backdoor vulnerability in your watch’s software and with that information access your email, social media accounts, bank info, and more.
But that’s just on the digital side. The potential real-life implications are equally as terrifying. Because IoT devices are constantly sharing and storing information, your risk of privacy exposure has never been higher. Imagine your health app sharing your personal information with your insurance company, or current employer using your online application to access your browser history.
There are currently no laws in place to help prevent this type of oversharing from occurring, which means the only way to prevent your information from being abused is to protect it yourself.
How to safeguard your sensitive information
Although IoT has made our lives easier, the added convenience carries an extremely high risk of privacy exposure. Fortunately, there are ways you can help stay secure.
First off, remember to use strong passwords and update your devices whenever a new one becomes available. While it’s easy to get into the habit of using the same password for every service, it makes it incredibly easy for hackers or snoops to gain access to your online network.
Try to use a combination of letters and numbers and keep your pets, beaus, and family members out of it.
Password managers like LastPass are safe and effective ways to keep track of your various accounts. Plus, most offer their own robust password suggestions and store them all under a single master password. So instead of having to keep track of 30 different passwords, you only need to know one.
It’s also worth taking the time to go over your various app settings and check which services they have access to. While it’s normal for Instagram to have access to your photo library, there’s really no need for your gaming app to have access to your contact list.
By limiting the amount and scope of what your apps can access, you’re essentially reducing your risk of cross-device exposure.
Finally, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an easy and safe way to anonymize your network and encrypt your devices. As more employees are now to work remotely, the risk of privacy exposure on public networks has become a growing concern. Fortunately, having access to a VPN will help keep those confidential work files encrypted—regardless of what network everyone’s using.
In the following video, industry leaders discuss cybersecurity concerns around the Internet of Things and the role NIST can play to help secure our future.
Featuring thought leaders from: Global Cyber Alliance
Internet of Things may be changing the workplace, but it doesn’t have to do so at the expense of our privacy.
By keeping up with your current devices and being more aware of the information they share, you’ll help safeguard your anonymity and keep your information private.