New advice to protect businesses and consumers from criminals who target sensitive information controlled by electronic smart devices has been unveiled by the government.
Developed alongside technology experts, the online guide aims to inform individuals about the possible crime risks posed by the ‘internet of things’ – the term used to describe the technology that allows smart devices and systems to connect and share data.
It includes the latest apps that can operate household items such as washing machines and televisions, as well as systems such as alarms and central heating that can be activated by smartphones or tablets.
However, many apps designed to connect smart devices often contain sensitive financial information and give an insight into peoples’ daily routines and whereabouts – leaving them vulnerable to crimes such as fraud and burglary.
The new guide gives advice to both the public and businesses on how they can take precautions, encouraging them to set strong passwords, accept the latest security updates and do their research on the built-in security in apps and devices they purchase.
Developing new crime prevention tips for the ‘internet of things’ was one project established under the Home Office’s Crime Prevention Panel programme, which brings experts together to study emerging crime types and prevention strategies.
Professor Jeremy Watson (UCL STEaPP), who led the project which produced the guide, said: “The Internet of Things is with us now, and is going to become more central to our lives as billions of smart devices in our homes and the workplace communicate with each other and the internet. This will bring enormous benefits, but also opportunities for criminals and hackers. This timely work by the Home Office and UCL aims to make society aware of some straightforward measures which can be taken to minimise risk.”
Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone, said: “The ‘internet of things’ has many benefits, giving individuals and firms more control over household devices and the ability to make systems more efficient. But it also provides new opportunities for criminals who seek to access sensitive information or disrupt services. This guide will help better inform people and advise them on ways to protect themselves with simple precautions.”
The scale of the ‘internet of things’ is increasing rapidly with experts estimating that 25 billion devices will be connected to each other by 2020.
They predict that advances in technology will soon mean, for example, that central heating systems will be able to communicate with window or door security, and both will be able to be activated by tablets or smartphones.