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As Companies Ready Cloud-Connected Devices for the Home, Security and Privacy Remain Major Concerns

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Those who might otherwise bring more internet-connected devices into their homes are concerned over the security and privacy implications of a “connected home”, according to a new survey.

A newly released survey, “Internet of Things: Connected Home,” sponsored by network security provider Fortinet and conducted by GMI, a division of Lightspeed Research. The survey polled 1,801 tech-savvy homeowners in June 2014 across 11 countries between the ages of 20 and 50.

Overall, most respondents said it is “extremely likely” that we’ll live in homes that are seamlessly connected to the internet via sensors embedded in homes and appliances will become a reality in the next five years.

Some of the biggest online service providers are internet companies are entering the Internet of Things field. Most notably, Google acquired Nest Labs, the maker of an internet-connected thermostat, in January for US$3.2 billion. More recently, Google’s Nest Labs division acquired home surveillance company Dropcam for $555 million.

But one of the fears for homeowners, is that the IoT could be subject to data breaches. According to the Fortinet survey, a majority of all respondents (70 percent) said they were either “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that a connected appliance could result in a data breach or exposure of sensitive, personal information.

“The battle for the Internet of Things has just begun,” Fortinet marketing VP John Maddison said in a statement. “The ultimate winners of the IoT connected home will come down to those vendors who can provide a balance of security and privacy vis-à-vis price and functionality.”

Many survey respondents (44 percent) said they would ask that data from their connected home only be made available to individuals who have their permission, and 34 percent of Americans said that either the device manufacturer or their ISP should have access to the collected data.

In terms of security, about half of people (48 percent) said the device manufacturer is responsible for security.

Maddison stated that various security technologies will be required to deal with IoT security such as remote connection authentication, virtual private networks, malware and botnet protection, and application security. And this protection will have to be applied across devices and the clouds with whom they communicate.

The companies hosting this personal data will have to a crucial responsibility to keep information private and secure, and not provide pathways for hackers to gain access to devices like cameras.

It appears that the security challenges faced by increasingly connected homes are already starting to be experienced by workplaces dealing with more connected devices. A recent survey of US small and medium-sized businesses are worried about the negative impacts of IoT, which fear that device management will spiral out of control.

While IoT has some exciting implications, it opens up more possibilities that corporate data could fall into the wrong hands, but it could also impinge on the privacy of homes. Device manufacturers will have to work with hosting providers to convince users that their data is secure.

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