Security can be a very dry and impenetrable topic. But if the steady creep of connected devices into people’s homes and day-to-day routines continues there’s arguably going to need to be a very broad effort to widen awareness of potential privacy risks.
Not least because IoT devices are all too often all too easy to hack. Given that expensive and sophisticated corporate networks have been shown, time and again, to be far from immune to hackers, cheap products like Internet-connected dolls and babycams stand precious little chance of being able to guarantee sensitive domestic data is locked away from prying eyes (especially if governments persist in trying to perforate encryption — but I digress… ).
What’s more, a lot of IoT products are used in domestic environments where kids live. So there’s a direct educational imperative to raise children’s awareness of the risks of the IoT devices that increasingly surround them — and do so in an engaging and accessible way.
In an attempt to illustrate IoT risks to a young audience, VPN provider HideMyAss.com has created an ‘I Spy’ book — based on the children’s guessing game — and a lesson plan for primary age U.K. school kids that aims to teach them about the darker side of connected devices.
The I Spy: The Things That Spy On Me book covers 27 different connected devices — such as smart home security systems, smart locks and Internet-connected toys — explaining potential vulnerabilities; reasons why hackers might be trying to break into them; and looking at methods to prevent future attacks. (Presumably the kid-friendly advice for securing webcams when not in use would be stick a sticker over it, just to be sure… )
The book is co-written by ethical hacker Marcus Dempsey, and has been offered to 100 U.K. schools for free by HideMyAss. The company is also offering a set lesson plan and in-class Q&A with an ethical hacker to interested schools (who it says can get in touch via its website) — trialling this at primary schools in East London and Greater Manchester.
“Each session focused on identifying vulnerabilities of Internet-connected objects, understanding the techniques used by cyber criminals and the methods of preventing future attacks,” it says.
Certain U.K. schools do already teach Internet Safety as part of the curriculum for pupils aged 8 to 11 years old but the swift spread of IoT devices means educational material is going to need to shift pretty quickly too.
Obviously HideMyAss has its own business incentive to raise awareness of privacy issues, given it sells VPN software. But there’s no doubt the Internet of Things has a big, ugly and growing problem with security. So any move to offer a counterweight to the apparently inexhaustible hype around ‘smart’ devices amounts to welcome balance.
Bottom line: connectivity can cut both ways, and as manufacturers embed Internet connectivity into more and more everyday objects, it’s increasingly important to convey the other side of the story to a public that’s being increasingly surrounded by a web of Internet-linked devices. And to tell that tale in a compelling and accessible way.
So if that means the bogey man of the modern day kids’ story becomes the wi-fi connected lens lurking in the corner of the bedroom, so be it. Move over Mr Wolf…