With the rise of smart gadgets like smart lightbulbs, smart refrigerators, smart TVs, smart cookware, smart locks, and anything else you can think of adding "smart" to, it looks like the future is going to be smart. That's great for convenience, but the smart gadgets that make up the so-called Internet of Things do highlight a concern that we've had for years.
So far, smart gadget security has been hit or miss, but mostly miss. Manufacturers either don't consider security at all, or when they do they make it incredibly basic or leave huge holes. That's why Princeton's Center for Information Technology just did a security review of a number of smart gadgets. What it found has the Internet buzzing.
While the researchers looked at a number of gadgets, including the Belkin WeMo Switch, a Smartthing hub, Ubi's Smart Speaker and others, the one that got the most attention was the Nest thermostat. That's because the Nest is one of the more widespread smart gadgets, and Nest is owned by Google.
So when Princeton revealed that Nest thermostats send unencrypted information over the Internet, including locations, a lot of people panicked. After all, unencrypted information is easy for hackers to pick up. However, the story isn't quite so dire.
It's true that the Nest was sending information unencrypted, but that information was just your ZIP code and the locations of local weather stations, not a specific home address. The other information it sends back to Nest's servers was encrypted. Nest has said that the unencrypted communication was a bug and has pushed out a fix for it.
Hopefully this kind of testing marks the beginning of better awareness and holding manufacturers accountable for poor security. Samsung has already said its 2016 smart TVs are going to have a full security suite installed, and there are third-party manufacturers making gadgets to protect every smart gadget.
If the future is going to be smart, it needs to have good security as well.