Eyes everywhere: How to safely navigate the IoT video revolution

Cameras are becoming increasingly prevalent in the realm of connected devices. Inexpensive image sensors sourced from outdated mobile phones are saturating the market, ushering video capabilities into the Internet of Things (IoT).

An array of devices, ranging from vacuum cleaners and bird feeders to connected cars and even smart ovens, are now equipped with cameras capable of recognizing dishes and providing recommendations for remaining cooking durations. This represents a significant transformation in the functionality of connected devices, which have surpassed 15 million units worldwide. However, this progression also introduces complexities in terms of privacy and security for these devices.

As IoT continues to expand its presence in both households and workplaces, it is imperative for device creators and users to take additional precautions to ensure cybersecurity.

The problem with mixing devices and cameras

Certainly, the widespread availability of cost-effective cameras is reshaping the way we engage with various devices. This transformation is propelled by the reuse of cameras and video chips extracted from older smartphones, some dating back five to ten years. Instead of being discarded in landfills, these components are now being repurposed, adding value to a wide range of connected devices.

Consequently, video functionality has become commonplace, transitioning from being a primary feature to a secondary attribute. For instance, in ovens, cameras empower users to remotely oversee their cooking processes, ensuring dishes are prepared to perfection. Meanwhile, in automobiles, cameras serve multiple roles, including aiding in parking, offering a 360-degree safety view, and enabling advanced driver-assistance systems.

The proliferation of cameras in everyday devices reflects a broader trend toward smarter and more interconnected products. As cameras continue to become more cost-effective, we can anticipate the emergence of even more innovative applications, further enhancing our daily experiences.

However, there is a caveat. Connected devices, particularly those in the lower price range, often come with security vulnerabilities. Integrating always-on video feeds into such devices can lead to potential issues. Therefore, both device creators and users must take measures to protect themselves while embracing this transformative wave.

 

How can device creators create safer products?

For device manufacturers, the first step is to carefully assess what suits your product best. It’s essential to recognize that more than 60% of users are already concerned about the potential for their smart security systems or cameras to be compromised by hackers. This trust gap is likely to expand if cameras are added to other devices without a clear purpose.

Therefore, it’s important not to simply follow trends for the sake of it. Instead, thoroughly evaluate the specific use case and explore all available options. For instance, if your device needs spatial awareness but doesn’t necessarily require imagery, Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) sensors could be a more suitable choice.

If integrating a camera aligns with your product’s purpose, focus on tailoring your devices to ensure secure video experiences. This involves safeguarding communication between the device and the client with a private connection. Some IoT platforms employ peer-to-peer (P2P) communication, bypassing the cloud to establish direct data relay. Furthermore, these connections are encrypted to guarantee the authentication, confidentiality, and integrity of data. Consequently, you can enable remote device control and monitoring with minimal security risks.

To enhance the security of your encrypted communications further, consider leveraging Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), an authentication method that relies on cryptographic keys instead of conventional usernames and passwords. These keys are highly resilient against brute-force attacks and can be stored on dedicated hardware, ensuring their safety even in the event of a breach. Implementing PKI authentication can significantly bolster your commitment to providing end-to-end secure video solutions.

What can users do to protect their devices?

Users have legitimate concerns about introducing more cameras into their homes and workplaces. The reassuring news is that they can take proactive steps to safeguard their camera-enabled devices with relative ease.

First and foremost, customization is key. This involves making essential changes such as altering default usernames and passwords, regularly updating the device’s firmware and software, and staying well-informed about the latest cybersecurity threats. Implementing these straightforward measures serves as a robust defense against potential hackers, creating a protective barrier around your devices.

Another crucial strategy is to embrace edge computing. By processing and storing data at the edge, rather than relying solely on cloud services, you can significantly enhance the security of your endpoints. Storing data under your direct control provides a high level of assurance regarding who can access it and how. Additionally, users benefit from reduced data latency, particularly important when dealing with bandwidth-intensive video streams.

Lastly, it’s advisable to opt for trusted brands when selecting IoT devices. The security of your overall ecosystem is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, choose manufacturers with a proven track record in privacy and security. Additionally, consider the origins of these devices and assess the strengths and weaknesses of regional regulations, as I’ve previously discussed.

There’s no doubt that video-enhanced devices represent an exciting wave of innovation in the IoT landscape. However, both device creators and users must remain vigilant regarding these security concerns. Creators should prioritize safety in their designs, while users can enhance security by customizing settings, embracing decentralization, and choosing reputable brands. Striking the right balance between innovation and privacy is paramount in this evolving landscape.

Megafea Editors