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What devices should you never connect to the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is a glorious web of technology, but some devices remain vulnerable – which should you avoid connecting to the IoT?

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internet of things

We love the Internet of Things, but there’s a catch

The Internet of Things has changed our personal environment, giving everyday objects the ability to transmit and receive data, and also creating new vulnerabilities to our privacy, children, and even our own safety. In 2014, a study conducted by researchers at HP Fortify found that there were at least 25 vulnerabilities per device. These devices ranged from webcams, sprinkler controllers, home alarm systems, to even remote power outlets.

Daniel Miessler who led the study said, “When you think about what all is involved in an Internet of Things device, you’ve got the device itself, network access, authentication, the Internet component; and all these pieces together are what stack up to be the Internet of Things device. If you’re not looking at the big picture, you’re missing a lot of stuff.”

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Between the years 2013 and 2015, the nation had its first large scale “Internet of Things” cyber-attack, and hackers were able to send 750,000 phishing/spam emails from refrigerators. Samsung Fridges were the most vulnerable to being attacked from their own software’s lack of security, and hackers took advantage of this vulnerability when they used back doors to send your information like passwords, and data about your buying habits without verifying the SSL certificate, which means that your fridge doesn’t know who it’s talking to.

Either it is your worst enemy or best friend; your fridge doesn’t care, and it wasn’t made to keep your information secure, just to keep your food cold.

Refrigerators, fitness trackers, and baby monitors

Buying a GPS-connected running shirt might seem like a great idea, but did you know that hackers can actually use that information to find out when you’re not going to be home?

One horrifying fact is that connected baby monitors are not safe from attack either. It has been reported that it is ridiculously easy for a novice to hack into the browser of your baby monitor by using brute force attacks on IP addresses, found on sites like Shodan. Your baby’s video and audio can be intercepted easily and a novice hacker can even talk to your baby.

Smart locks are vulnerable

Something that you will find ironic is the fact that smart locks are not isolated from this threat either. In 2013, Wired reported that millions of Kwikset locks were open to being hacked. Yes, a lock can most likely be broken using explosives or a sledge hammer, but if we are allowing them to replace our conventional locks to secure our valuables, we need to have a comprehensive approach to securing our information, and our livelihood.

A lot of banks, shops, and offices rely on sophisticated encryption to secure themselves from attack, but relying on that false sense of security has given way to millions of opportunities for breaching security.

It’s not all doom and gloom

My tone might seem ominous, but it comes with a logical sense of protecting our privacy. Technology is vertical, changing our infrastructure, and in its nature it is disruptive, changing society and our economy.

We have to be conscious of the causes and effects, the niches, and industries that emerge from human progression. With further separation of our most rudimentary tasks, comes a lack of control, and always those looking to take advantage of our momentary lapses of reason.

#InternetOfThings

John Linneman is a Portland, Oregon native who owns and operates small digital marketing business. He went to school at Portland State where he studied business, and writing. He majored in writing and theater at PSU, and still holds these things true, but has since moved on and transferred his talents to the business, and marketing world. Connect with him on Twitter or on his blog.

Tech News

Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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onboarding made easy

Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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Say goodbye to browser cookies – Google wants to give you ‘trust tokens’

(TECH NEWS) Google plans to do away with third-party cookies in favor of “trust tokens”. The question is, will they gain our trust?

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Privacy concerns should be at an all-time high with the sheer number of people working from home–something that may have been factored into Google’s recent decision to begin phasing out third-party cookies in their Chrome browser.

In doing so, Chrome would join browsers such as Safari and Firefox–two popular alternatives that have been more proactive about protecting user privacy in the past, according to The Verge.

Cookies, for those who don’t know, are small pieces of information stored on your computer by websites you visit; when third-party cookies are downloaded from these sites, they can track your activity across the internet, thus resulting in unpleasantries like targeted ads and location-based services appearing in your browser.

It’s all a little too accurate to your habits for comfort, so Google is proposing a separate solution: trust tokens.

No, trust tokens are not the newest form of currency on CBS Survivor–they’re “smart” iterations of cookies that will validate your access to a specific website without tracking you once you leave that page. This way, you get to keep your website-specific data–passwords, usernames, and preferences–without having your privacy encroached upon any more than Google already does (admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much of a change, but bear with us).

The real catch for trust tokens is that they don’t actually identify you the way that cookies do, and while some of the side effects of trust tokens may resemble cookie use–e.g., advertisers knowing you clicked on their ad–tokens are a decidedly less personal, more private way to access web content.

Google isn’t just throwing out third-party cookies as a gesture, it seems. Along with the announcement about trust tokens, Google mentioned that they plan to create more transparency around ads–specifically by allowing you to see why you’re seeing a specific ad and from whom and where the ad originated. An extension to help lend additional information about ads is also in the works.

These changes are expected to be implemented within the year. For now, though, you should stick to Firefox or Safari if you’re worried about cookies–you’ll be able to get back to your Chrome tabs soon enough.

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