The Internet of Things: How safe is 'smart' technology?

The items you interact with every day are smarter than ever. What are the risks of having our homes and cars so connected?

PORTLAND, Ore. – We are in a new era of technology. It's called "The Internet of Things."

From self-driving cars, to door locks controlled by your smart phone, to coffee makers that percolate through Bluetooth, the items you interact with every day are smarter than ever.


In Portland, where residents embrace new technology, a couple companies have become pioneers of the movement.

Quinn Simpson is the co-founder of Iotas, a company that is outfitting 100 rental units in Northeast Portland with smart technology. Every light switch and power outlet is connected to the Internet. There are motion sensors throughout the units.

"A user wakes up, they walk out and motion is detected," he said. "If they have, for example, a coffee maker plugged in, that will automatically start brewing coffee for them."

Residents can control every device in the home from anywhere in the world, using their smart phone. The system is also designed to analyze your daily patterns and learn from them.

Iotas co-founder Sce Pike also has another smart-technology company, +Citizen, which is one of the fastest growing companies in Oregon. +Citizen focuses on smart cars, which one day could drive by themselves.

But what are the risks of having our homes and cars so connected?

Another Portland company called Galois is focused on the security aspect of connected products. Recently, Galois scientists hacked into a drone operating system, taking control mid-flight. They were also able to hack into technology in cars.

Their goal was to try to find vulnerabilities in the technology, to help clients such as the federal government better protect themselves in the future. But the fact that Galois was able to hack into "smart" devices is concerning for consumers.

"Any system, as it gets more complex, the likelihood of a weak link in the chain grows," said Isaac Potoczny-Jones, computer security expert with Galois. "So as cars get these integrated entertainment systems or wireless features, these open up avenues of attack."

The most common cyber-attacks on cars have been thieves using simple electronic devices to unlock car doors and steal things. Any weak link in a smart home system could potentially pose a similar security threat.

Iotas engineers said they are making sure their systems have no weak links before they add electronic door locks, thermostats or even appliances like washers and dryers to the homes.

Experts said the best way to protect yourself while using smart technology is to make sure your wireless router is secure. If it's more than a few years old, it may be out of date and all of the devices that are online could be open to attack.

To protect yourself, make sure your router is up to date with the latest security features.

Hackers are now targeting your router


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