Eyes everywhere: How to safely navigate the IoT video revolution
Cameras are coming to a connected device near you. Cheap image sensors from old mobile phones are flooding the market and bringing video to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Vacuum cleaners, bird feeders, connected cars and even smart ovens now come loaded with cameras that recognize the dish and suggest remaining cooking times. This is a major shift in the functionality of connected devices, which now number more than 15 million globally. At the same time, though, this evolution can complicate the privacy and security of devices.
With IoT taking over the home and office, device creators and users must take extra steps to stay cyber-safe.
The problem with mixing devices and cameras
Indeed, the availability of affordable cameras is reshaping how we interact with devices. This transformation is driven by the reusability of cameras and video chips from older smartphones, which are now five to ten years old. Today, rather than going to landfill, these components are finding new life and value across various connected devices.
As a result, video is ubiquitous, evolving from a primary feature to a secondary attribute. In ovens, cameras enable users to remotely monitor their cooking process, ensuring their dishes are perfectly prepared. Meanwhile, in cars, cameras serve multiple purposes. This includes assisting with parking, providing a 360-degree view for safety, and enabling advanced driver-assistance systems.
This proliferation of cameras in everyday devices reflects a broader shift toward smarter, more interconnected products. As cameras become ever more cost-effective, we can expect to see even more innovative applications emerge, further enriching our daily lives.
But there’s a catch. Connected devices, particularly those on the cheaper end of the spectrum, often come with security risks. Adding always-on video feeds to such devices is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, device creators and users must safeguard themselves while embracing this revolution.
How can device creators create safer products?
For device creators, first consider what’s best for your product. More than 60% of users are already worried about their smart security systems or cameras getting hacked. This trust gap will only grow if cameras are unnecessarily added to other devices.
So don’t just follow the trend for the trend’s sake. Instead, evaluate the use case and consider all options. For example, if you want your device to be spatially aware but don’t require imagery, Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) sensors might be a better fit.
Then, if the camera integration makes sense, tailor your devices to deliver safe video experiences. This includes protecting device-client communication with a private connection. IoT platforms with peer-to-peer (P2P) communication, for example, bypass the cloud to directly relay data. Moreover, these connections are encrypted to ensure that data is authenticated, confidential, and uncompromised. As a result, it’s possible to safely remote control and monitor the device with limited risk.
To further strengthen your encrypted communications, leverage Public Key Infrastructure (PKI): a type of authentication that relies on cryptographic keys instead of traditional usernames and passwords. These keys are highly resistant to brute-force attacks and can be stored on dedicated hardware that keeps them safe even in the event of a hack. This authentication method can up the ante when it comes to your posture in delivering end-to-end video.
What can users do to protect their devices?
Users are rightfully wary of bringing even more cameras into their homes and offices. The good news is that they, too, can protect their camera-enabled devices with some simple steps.
First, customize. This includes changing default usernames and passwords, updating the device’s firmware and software, and staying informed about the latest security threats. This is a simple yet effective way to create a barrier between yourself and would-be hackers.
Next, take it to the edge. Processing and storing data at the edge instead of the cloud is another surefire way to protect your endpoints. After all, by storing the information under your own lock and key, you can be sure about who can access it and how. Users also benefit from reduced latency by storing the information closer to home, which is particularly important with heavy video feeds.
Finally, buy trusted brands. Attack surfaces are only as strong as their weakest link. So, chose companies that have a proven track record when it comes to privacy and security. Likewise, as I’ve written before, consider where the devices come from and the strengths – or weaknesses – of regional regulations.
There’s no doubt that video-enhanced devices promise a new wave in IoT. However, neither creators nor users can afford to overlook the above security concerns. To navigate this evolution, device creators must ensure safety, and users should customize, decentralize, and prioritize trusted brands. Striking a balance between innovation and privacy is paramount.