IoT devices could snoop on you, says US Intelligence

US intelligence director, James Clapper, reveals smart connected devices in the home can monitor owners

Tags: Cyber crime
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IoT devices could snoop on you, says US Intelligence  The influx of smart devices entering the home could provide surveillance opportunities
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  February 10, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) market is booming and its impact is conveniently changing consumers' lives, but now US Intelligence say agencies could possibly use smart household devices to increase their surveillance abilities, in other words, spy on you.

The influx of smart devices entering the home range from TVs, children toys, kitchen appliances and home security devices, all of which are embedded with microphones, cameras and motion sensors, but warnings over security continue to be voiced.

In a testimony for Senate, the US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, revealed there is a distinct possibility that connected household devices provide new opportunities for US intelligence services, plus the data could be monetarised.

"Smart devices incorporated into the electric grid ... can threaten data privacy, data integrity, or continuity of services," he said. "In the future, intelligence services might use the [Internet of Things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.

"Commercial vendors, who aggregate the bulk of digitised information about persons, will increasingly collect, analyse, and sell it to both foreign and domestic customers."

In fact, security specialists have warned for years that IoT-enabled deceives lack password and encryption features. This was also echoed last week by a team of academics who released a paper on how IoT devices provide opportunities for snooping.   

The paper said: "The IoT promises a new frontier for networking objects, machines, and environments in ways that we are just beginning to understand. When, say, a television has a microphone and a network connection, and is reprogrammable by its vendor, it could be used to listen in to one side of a telephone conversation taking place in its room - no matter how encrypted the telephone service itself might be. These forces are on a trajectory towards a future with more opportunities for surveillance."

Research house Gartner predicted that, by 2020, a black market exceeding $5bn will exist to sell fake sensor and video data for enabling criminal activity and protecting personal privacy.

The IoT has enormous potential to collect continuous data about our environment," said Ted Friedman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

"The integrity of this data will be important in making personal and business decisions. A black market for fake or corrupted sensor and video data will mean that data can be compromised or substituted with inaccurate or deliberately manipulated data.

"This scenario will spur the growth of privacy products and services, resulting in an extensive public discussion regarding the future of privacy, the means to protect individual privacy, and the role of technology and government in privacy protection."

Also revealed, President Barack Obama's latest Cybersecurity National Action Plan initiative, addressed concerns over IoT-enabled devices and a call the Department of Homeland Security to test and certify connected devices.

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