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Survey: Constant Connectivity Leads to Conflicting Views

December 4, 2013 No Comments

Featured Article by John Pironti, President, IP Architects, LLC

Americans love their electronic devices and the connectivity they provide, as evidenced by the number of Internet-connected devices they own. But a new survey shows that most are struggling with data privacy and security concerns that come with the conveniences of an increasingly always-online lifestyle.

As more and more devices are becoming connected to the Internet—a trend known as the Internet of Things—privacy begins to look like an illusion and most likely a thing of the past. According to Cisco, 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. While this will deliver numerous benefits and enterprises are largely positive about the trend, it also leaves many consumers feeling conflicted and enterprises challenged, according to findings from the 2013 IT Risk/Reward Barometer survey distributed by ISACA, a global non-profit IT association.

The ISACA study examines attitudes and behaviors related to the Internet of Things, including whom consumers trust with their information, data privacy and what enterprise leaders view as threats and benefits. This two-component survey was taken by 2,013 members of ISACA, including 591 in the US, and more than 4,000 consumers in four countries, including 1,216 in the US.

Although 84% of consumers are not familiar with the term “Internet of Things,” 72% have used Internet of Things devices such as GPS navigation systems, electronic toll collection devices and smart TVs. Consumers are increasingly becoming dependent on the growing number of interconnected “smart” devices, which include phones, tablets, cameras, appliances and even cars and homes. However, it is important that consumers and enterprises are aware of the risks and know how to better protect themselves from security threats like hacking, sensitive data leakage malware, and unintended use cases.

Ninety-two percent of consumer respondents expressed concern about the information delivered to Internet of Things devices, including not knowing who has their online information and what they will do with it. While IT professionals believe that consumers should be most concerned about who has access to the information collected by their device, consumers note their biggest concern is someone hacking into their device and doing something malicious, followed by not knowing how the information that is collected will be used.

Despite these concerns, a majority of IT professionals believe that the benefits of the Internet of Things outweigh the risks for both enterprises (42%) and consumers (48%). Thirty percent of IT professionals surveyed have already seen greater accessibility to information in their enterprise through the Internet of Things, 52% have plans to increase customer satisfaction and 52% plan on achieving greater efficiency. And, enterprises are not the only ones seeing benefits; 38% of consumers say the number one benefit for them is time savings. While individuals often express privacy concerns, they are willing to make that trade-off for convenience and instant gratification.

While consumers are enjoying the benefits of constant connectivity, they don’t necessarily trust those who have access to their information. The majority (54%) of consumers do not trust anyone with their information on their Internet of Things devices, noting the makers of the apps on their phones as the institution they trust the least. Yet, 49% rarely or never read privacy policies before sharing their information online when they download an app.

Interestingly, while consumers do not feel they have control over how web sites use their information, 52% still share important information online. And, 90% of consumers are concerned their online information will be stolen, even though more than half of consumers use the same two to three passwords across multiple websites and 40% write down their passwords to remember them. These practices may increase the risk of data being stolen and can be prevented with better password practices. And, since consumers may own several Internet of Things devices, it is important that they make the effort to set individual passwords for each.

For enterprises, there are steps that should be taken to better protect the information they collect and to be “agile” in the Internet of Things era:

  • * Act quickly; enterprises must be proactive and cannot afford to be reactive.
  • * Govern the initiative to ensure that data remains secure and risks are effectively managed.
  • * Identify expected benefits and how to measure them.
  • * Leverage stakeholders to communicate benefits to the constituency and leadership.
  • * Embrace creativity and encourage innovation.

By harnessing today’s technology, the Internet of Things era offers an array of advantages for enterprises and consumers. But enterprises need to be prepared and understand consumer behavior to ensure these advantages do not get overtaken by privacy and security risks. Whether Americans are ready for this connected era or not, it is important for them to prepare because, according to 97% of IT professionals, it seems that the Internet of Things is here to stay.

Pironti, John photo 2012

John P. Pironti, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CISSP, ISSAP, ISSMP, is a security and risk advisor with ISACA and president of IP Architects.

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