000-017   000-080   000-089   000-104   000-105   000-106   070-461   100-101   100-105  , 100-105  , 101   101-400   102-400   1V0-601   1Y0-201   1Z0-051   1Z0-060   1Z0-061   1Z0-144   1z0-434   1Z0-803   1Z0-804   1z0-808   200-101   200-120   200-125  , 200-125  , 200-310   200-355   210-060   210-065   210-260   220-801   220-802   220-901   220-902   2V0-620   2V0-621   2V0-621D   300-070   300-075   300-101   300-115   300-135   3002   300-206   300-208   300-209   300-320   350-001   350-018   350-029   350-030   350-050   350-060   350-080   352-001   400-051   400-101   400-201   500-260   640-692   640-911   640-916   642-732   642-999   700-501   70-177   70-178   70-243   70-246   70-270   70-346   70-347   70-410   70-411   70-412   70-413   70-417   70-461   70-462   70-463   70-480   70-483   70-486   70-487   70-488   70-532   70-533   70-534   70-980   74-678   810-403   9A0-385   9L0-012   9L0-066   ADM-201   AWS-SYSOPS   C_TFIN52_66   c2010-652   c2010-657   CAP   CAS-002   CCA-500   CISM   CISSP   CRISC   EX200   EX300   HP0-S42   ICBB   ICGB   ITILFND   JK0-022   JN0-102   JN0-360   LX0-103   LX0-104   M70-101   MB2-704   MB2-707   MB5-705   MB6-703   N10-006   NS0-157   NSE4   OG0-091   OG0-093   PEGACPBA71V1   PMP   PR000041   SSCP   SY0-401   VCP550   000-080   1Z0-051   300-208   350-029   102-400   1z0-434   220-801   70-347   1Z0-804   210-260   640-911   300-135   NSE4   EX200   070-461   70-534   700-501   9L0-012   MB6-703   400-101   70-480   M70-101   SY0-401   PMP   1Z0-061   9A0-385   642-732   000-017   9L0-066   JN0-102   1Z0-061   70-411   1V0-601   300-206   400-051   MB2-707   640-692   101   70-346   CISSP   HP0-S42   PR000041   PMP   300-075   200-125  , 300-135   CCA-500   2V0-620   CISM   OG0-093  

Growing Up Online: Getting a Grip on the Internet of Things – Greater Pensacola Parents Growing Up Online: Getting a Grip on the Internet of Things – Greater Pensacola Parents

Growing Up Online: Getting a Grip on the Internet of Things

It’s no secret that things are getting smarter. Devices let parents check in on sleeping babies and keep track of kids. Home management systems turn on lights, lock doors and monitor use of water or electricity. Entertainment apps notice what we like so they can offer similar products.  Even little kids have apps and toys that learn their preferences by interacting with them.

Taken together, all these smart, app-driven devices are called the Internet of Things (IoT).  By 2020, there will be 50 billion of these intelligent devices according to one report from the Federal Trade Commission  (tinyurl.com/IoTpolicy).  Proponents promise that this technology will integrate seamlessly into our lives, anticipating our needs and simplifying many chores. Beguiling as that scenario is, it comes with a price. All of these devices are “smart” because they are collecting information about our families—what we like, where we go, what we do and even what we say.  It’s not paranoid to wonder who has access to all that information.

The first line of defense is purchasing from reputable companies that make the extra effort to build security into their products. Before buying anything that claims to be smart, find out whether there is a procedure for updating security if the device is hacked.

Second, figure out exactly what information the device collects. Devices and the apps that run them often sweep up information that isn’t essential for their mission. A step counter, for example, needs to keep track of how many steps you took, but not necessarily where you went.  Give permission only for information needed to make the device functional.

Third, understand what use is made of the information. Many companies collect anonymous information to spot trends that help them improve their products.  Some companies use data to determine what you like so they can recommend other things you might want to buy. And some companies share information with government agencies or sell it to other unrelated companies. Depending on the situation, these policies may seem perfectly OK or highly intrusive. You can’t make an informed decision unless you understand the company’s policy.

Hacking, of course, is a risk even for products purchased from a reliable company that handles information responsibly.   Many security experts are concerned that the Internet of Things is highly vulnerable to manipulation. Unlike computers and cellphones which come with elaborate security systems and update procedures, devices are not required to have protection. As a result, they may give hackers backdoor access to wireless systems and sensitive data on other devices.  Consumers can defend themselves by taking these precautions.

Install updates. Hackers are constantly testing systems to see if they are vulnerable. Responsible companies develop fixes as soon as they are aware of problems, but those solutions won’t help if you don’t install updates. Keep track of the smart devices your family uses.  Set up software so updates are downloaded automatically if possible.  Or designate one day a month as Security Day.  Log into the apps and websites that control your smart devices and install any updates.  Delete apps controlling devices that aren’t being used.

Take passwords seriously.  Many experts recommend a unique password for each device. That way, even if one device is compromised, hackers won’t have access to other information. Of course, it’s not easy to keep track of dozens of passwords. A password storage program like Last Pass will generate and keep track of truly random passwords, but are vulnerable to hackers.

Another alternative is to develop your own system for creating unique but memorable passwords. Start with a ten or twelve word phrase that has meaning for you.  It could be a song lyric, a favorite quote, the punchline to a family joke, something cute one of your kids said, or a simple fact about your family.

Pay special attention to microphones and cameras.  Devices with microphones and cameras can eavesdrop on your family, so they require extra supervision.  Learn how to disable cameras and mute microphones when they aren’t in use.  If you don’t have confidence in the controls, think twice about purchasing the device. Or cover lenses with privacy stickers, available from companies like camjmr.com.

Consider a separate Wifi connection.  As smart devices proliferate, some experts suggest having two password protected Wifi connections for your home. One provides access to computers, tablets and cellphones and the other allows communication among things—toys, toasters, thermostats and home management systems like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home. Some routers make this easy by providing a guest network option, but most families will need a professional to make sure everything is configured properly.

Although smart devices have the potential to make family life more convenient and entertaining, they can also be an expensive distraction. Ultimately, parents have to be the smart ones, evaluating each product to decide whether it’s useful enough—and secure enough–to deserve a place in your home.


Carolyn Jabs, M.A., has been writing the Growing Up Online column for ten years. She is also the author of Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart.  Available at Amazon and Cooperative Wisdom.org.  @ Copyright, 2018, Carolyn Jabs.  All rights reserved.

Carolyn Jabs

Carolyn Jabs, M.A., raised three computer savvy kids including one with special needs. She has been writing Growing Up Online for ten years and is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict. Visit www.growing-up-online.com to read other columns. @ Copyright, 2016, Carolyn Jabs. All rights reserved.