We live in an increasingly connected world, and if the Internet of Things (IoT) has its way, technology is poised to change life as we know it – by interconnecting everything around us and integrating technological insight into physical everyday items.
This means every device you own, whether it’s your smartphone, TV, fridge or microwave, will be connected to the internet, and will ultimately have the independence to perform some basic functions without much physical human touch.
A 2016 Cisco study estimates that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020 due to the rapid growth in the popularity of IoT. Research company African Analysis forecasts that the IoT installed base in South Africa will reach 35 million by 2020. As the adoption of IoT increases, a new dimension of cyber vulnerability will open up.
Lizette Erasmus, Insurance Expert at IntegriSure, says IoT will change the nature of insurance risk. “Insurance providers will have to change the way we look at risk. Risk assessments will no longer be just about the physical security measures customers put around their home or vehicle, but will extend to security in cyber space.”
Erasmus believes it is a matter of understanding what risk and loss will look like in an IoT-enabled world. “Will breaches in cyber security result in cars being stolen or smart homes being set alight? What should underwriting models look like in a smart world? Technology companies are already building sensors into everyday items – this could provide advanced warning on potential maintenance issues such as a leak before a pipe bursts – saving the insurance provider from dealing with an expensive claim and the client from a headache.”
While IoT-based risk may seem a few years away, Erasmus says that consumers should always be alert when doing anything online.
“We speak of cyber security in terms of hackers and spyware, but sometimes criminals do not need to be so technologically sophisticated,” Erasmus says, referring to the incident where reality TV personality Kim Kardashian West was robbed of £8 million (R133 million) in jewellery by gun-wielding men at a hotel in Paris.
The robbers later revealed that they relied on social media where the star had outlined her travel plans, including her time of arrival – and had targeted her because they had seen the expensive jewellery she poses with on social media.
Erasmus advises keeping to the basics of cyber security and ensuring personal security in the online environment.
- Consider what you post on social media. Be aware of posting information which criminals can use to track your movements. Turn off location settings when posting updates especially when you are away from home.
- Invest in cyber security software. Perform regular anti-virus checks and make sure your antivirus software is up to date across all devices.
- Update your software regularly. Pay attention to your computer or mobile device prompts for software updates. Allowing for automatic software updates will make sure your device is updated with the latest software patches.
- Guard personal information. Be wary of giving out personal information to unfamiliar websites. Hackers can create phony websites which look like real sites, check for obvious grammar and spelling errors, and rather type the address into your browser than clicking through a link provided in an email.
- Create a strong online password. Strong passwords are still one of the best forms of security. Change your passwords regularly, including special characters, and don’t use the same password repeatedly.
- Back up your data. Make sure your important files and data are stored in an external hard drive.
- Educate yourself. Cyber criminals are constantly reinventing themselves. It is important to regularly read cyber security articles and blogs to keep abreast with the latest scams.
Erasmus advises that while you may not believe you are interesting enough to be a target nor have particularly important data to protect, when it comes to personal cyber security, a bit of paranoia helps more than it harms.
“Much like insurance, it is quite easy to see cyber security as a nuisance; that is, until the worst happens and you wish you were covered. A principle in insurance is to not leave anything to chance; try as much as is within your power to prevent avoidable incidents. The same can be applied to cyber security,” Erasmus concludes.