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Covid-19 and the Internet of Things

  • Written by Bridget Black

By now we all know what Covid-19 is, but what is the IoT? Well, it’s a term used to describe any physical device that is connected to the internet and has the capability to transmit data. Many of the electronic devices that we use on an everyday basis belong to the Internet of Things.

Advancements made in technology over the past few decades have meant that connectivity is not just limited to large computer and laptop devices. Rather, everything from your watch to your fridge can now be connected to the online world, offering increased convenience and personalised experiences.

The term IoT is generally reserved to refer to items that you would not normally expect to have connectivity capabilities — a smart light bulb, for example.

While devices belonging to the Internet of Things have the potential to provide responsive, adaptable user experiences, there are significant security concerns associated with broadening our online networks — particularly since there are no global regulations on the types of security protocols that IoT devices must adhere to. A good rule of thumb? Always be wary of any device that requires your personal information to function.

However, for many developers and manufacturers across all industries, the positives of being connected to the Internet of Things far outweigh the negatives — proven on countless occasions through 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

What role has the IoT played throughout the Covid-19 pandemic?

2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic was — and continues to be — a challenging time for all. Alongside the very real threat the coronavirus poses to the health of millions around the world, lockdowns and border closures have meant that many services have ceased to function. The world has had to come up with new and innovative ways to conduct essential operations.

Enter the Internet of Things. Smart technology has been adapted by many industries in order to navigate the unique challenges involved by a global pandemic.

For example, one of the most significant challenges currently facing healthcare workers is ensuring that vaccines are transported and stored in appropriate conditions. Several of the Covid-19 vaccines must be kept at very cold temperatures to function correctly. IoT technology has been implemented to monitor and log temperatures throughout the transportation chain, ensuring patients receive safe and functional doses.

IoT technology has also been used by those in charge of making sure that healthcare facilities are kept as clean and sanitised as possible. Robots have been deployed to clean potential sites of infection whilst smart monitoring technology has been implemented to track both the frequency and standard of these deep-cleans.

Security and the IoT

As demonstrated, the IoT can be harnessed to great effect, particularly in situations where unexpected circumstances have disrupted the normal chain of command.

Despite all the good that the Internet of Things offers, there are very legitimate security concerns about the continued use of ‘smart’ devices. Gadgets connected to the Internet of Things function by utilising user data in order to create a personalised experience. For example, your AI assistant can use cameras to monitor your home for intruders.

However, in the wrong hands, this information can lead to devastating consequences. A cybercriminal who manages to hack into your security system can check the cameras to see if anyone is home. An empty house can be all the encouragement they need to conduct a real-life robbery.

Much of the concern surrounding the Internet of Things relates to how our data is stored. If not secured correctly, hackers can infiltrate customer databases to access all kinds of personal information to sell on the dark web.

With this in mind, it’s important to secure any device you own or use that has connectivity capabilities. Other Internet of Things security tips that should be followed include:

  • Use strong passwords on all of your accounts: When you purchase a new IoT device, you often have to set up a user account. Be sure to use a unique, strong password, made up of a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters — this password might be all that stands between yourself and a hacker accessing your personal information.

  • Read the privacy policy: IoT devices and their associated apps will have a privacy policy, which many of us often skip over without reading. However, it’s very important that you understand where your data is being stored. Always read the privacy policy before handing over any of your personal information and avoid any devices with suspicious fine print.

  • Use a trusted VPN: A VPN is an essential security tool that encrypts the data that you exchange between devices. Be sure to use a trusted VPN in Australia at all times, whether you are accessing the internet via your phone, laptop, smartwatch, or any other type of connected device.

  • Check for firmware updates: IoT developers and manufacturers are always looking for ways to make your devices and data safer. Check regularly for firmware updates that can patch holes and vulnerabilities in a device’s security armour.

  • Install security software: In 2021, everyone should be using trusted security software. Look for a software package that defends against the top online threats — viruses, malware, phishing, and hacking — and ideally protects every device connected to your home router.

The future of the Internet of Things looks bright and we are lucky that we have the technology and creativity to come up with a solution to any problem. However, privacy and Internet of Things security should always be at the forefront of our mind if we are to behave safely and protect our private information online.

Bridget Black is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.

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