CyberSecurityNational Cyber Security Awareness Month is back for its fourth week, with a focus on our evolving digital lives. This week is all about encouraging people to exercise cybersecure practices as more and more devices become connected to the internet. All around the country, NCSAM participants will discuss the current state of technology, projections of future technological development, and the implications thereof for cybersecurity practices—particularly in relation to the Internet of Things.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (aka the Cloud of Things) is basically the network of physical objects that are connected to the internet. Nowadays, when we think of connected devices, our minds immediately jump to smartphones, tablets, and computers. But the Internet of Things would encompass everything from washing machines to headphones to wearable fitness trackers to…really anything else you can think of.

Why would someone want a household appliance like a washer to have an online presence?

Imagine setting your morning alarm and knowing that when it goes off, your clock will trigger your coffee maker to start brewing and toaster to start toasting, and signal your car a half hour later to turn on and start heating up in preparation for your departure. As more devices link up to the internet, this kind of sci-fi-sounding scenario becomes a very real possibility.

Cybersecurity threats of the Internet of Things

Upside: automatically brewed coffee in the morning. Downside: cybersecurity risks abound.

Upside: automatically brewed coffee in the morning. Downside: cybersecurity risks abound.

Although most of us might leap at the chance to make our morning routines even slightly more bearable, it’s important to consider all of the vulnerabilities in this vast web of connected objects that cyber criminals could exploit. What if someone could hack into your alarm clock and worm their way through your network to access your home security system? What if someone could wirelessly hijack your car?

And we’re not just talking household devices, here—the Internet of Things would also connect components of machines like cars, airplanes, oil rigs, and even medical tools. According to an EY report, the number of devices connected to the internet is expected to exceed 50 billion by 2020. Depending who you read, that number could be as large as 200 billion.

An informal survey that the author of this post conducted via Facebook status revealed that Elon students are already packing a decent amount of internet-connected tech other than smartphones, tablets, and computers. Among these are Kindles, Apple TVs, iPod Touches, fitness trackers, and cameras. One recent Elon graduate boasts a wifi-connected light switch and crockpot. A crockpot. The future is now.

As our dependence on interconnected technology grows, so does the need to secure the sensitive information we’re storing and transmitting on these devices.

Get involved

Join the conversation about cybersecurity in our (rapidly expanding!) digital lives this week by following Elon Technology on Facebook and Twitter, where a new cybersecurity tip will be posted each day, and following the official hashtag for NCSAM 2015 (#CyberAware) all month long. You can also check out the full list of this week’s events here.

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Maria Temming

Maria Temming

Maria Temming is a senior physics and english major. She enjoys both creative writing and science/tech journalism. Most of her writing is fueled by too much caffeine (thank you, Oak House) and classic rock music.

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