Americans are wary about IoT privacy

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Americans are in an “it depends” state when it comes to disclosing personal information over internet-connected devices, according to a new Pew Research Center study. The study proposed different scenarios to which 461 Americans expressed whether they believed being monitored by a device was acceptable, not acceptable, or depended on the situation. Pew Research Center found that some scenarios were acceptable to the majority of Americans, but the answers often came with caveats. For example, most consumers find a security camera in the office acceptable, but with restrictions; one person said, “It depends on whether I would be watched and filmed every minute of the day during everything I do.”

Here are the responses to the IoT-related scenarios the study presented:

• Office surveillance cameras: More than half (54%) of Americans believe that it’s acceptable for a surveillance camera in the workplace, making it the most acceptable of the six proposed scenarios. Another 21% answered “it depends,” while 24% said it would not be acceptable.

• Sharing health information with your doctor: 52% of Americans believe it’s acceptable for their doctor to utilize a website to manage patient records and schedule appointments, 20% answered “it depends,” and 26% thought it was not acceptable. This correlates with iTriage survey, which indicated that 76% of consumers feel comfortable transferring wearable health data to their practitioner. 

• Usage-based auto insurance: 37% of respondents answered it was acceptable for auto insurance companies to collect information via a UBI dongle, such as Progressive’s Snapshot, and offer discounts for safe driving. 45% said it was not acceptable, while 16% said “it depends.”

• Smart thermostat: 27% of respondents said it was acceptable for a smart thermostat in the house to track where the occupant is and share that data. More than half of respondents (55%) said it was not acceptable, and 17% answered “it depends.”

Through focus groups and open-ended answers, Pew narrowed down the top reasons consumers believe sharing information is unacceptable: Through focus groups and open-ended answers, Pew narrowed down the top reasons consumers believe sharing information is unacceptable:

1) The threat of scammers and hackers;
2) Being repeatedly marketed from companies collecting data;
3) They do not want to share their location;
4) They think it’s “creepy”;
5) The companies collecting the data have ulterior motives to use it.

Data privacy will continue to be a big trend as the Internet of Things market matures. Device makers should be transparent about the data being collected and what it’s used for. Further, they should ensure the devices and their associated data storage bases are secure.

To read more of this article and the original story follow this link to Business Insider.

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NSA whistleblower: No software is ‘safe from surveillance’

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A former NSA official said the agency has "more resources" for surveillance than the average user can ever hope to defend against.

William Binney doesn’t have a membership card to the small group of which he’s a part — people who have spoken out against the National Security Agency, and been left relatively unscathed — but at least he has the next best thing, a valid passport.

The former National Security Agency official, who spent three decades of his life in espionage — and is said to have been one of the reasons why Edward Snowden took and handed thousands of classified documents to journalists two years ago — still talks about his time in the intelligence community.

“The biggest threat to US citizens is the US government,” said Binney in a Reddit “ask me anything” session.

Which in itself would be a bold claim if it weren’t for the most recent revelations, which we can thank his whistleblowing “successor” for.

The NSA, once called the “No Such Agency” for its clandestine and secretive operations, has been embroiled in a string of intelligence-gathering and law-bending practices that have not only ensnared much of the world’s communications, but also the data belonging to Americans — the same people the agency is tasked with protecting.

One of those operations included developing cyberweapons based on hardware and software security vulnerabilities.

“I don’t think any software is safe from surveillance,” said Binney, in response to a question about free and open-source operating systems and software, such as Linux.

A few days earlier, the NSA, known for exploiting vulnerabilities in software, said in more than 90 percent of cases it would disclose flaws, with the exception of when “national security reasons” outweigh the public good. The NSA did not say when it would disclose those flaws, however, leaving open the possibility that they are used before they are turned over to be fixed.

Binney’s comments run contrary to how many see, in particular, open-source software, which many regard as more secure than closed-off systems, like Windows.

Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, the encrypted email service said to have been used by Snowden prior to his departure from the US, said in phone conversation earlier this year that although he distrusts some US software, “you don’t have to distrust everything.”

“The true problem is that you don’t know what can be trusted and what can’t. I personally find myself seeking open platforms, systems, and tools, where I can go in and look — or at least if not myself, one of my peers,” he said.

Other open-source developers, like Cryptocat developer Nadim Kobeissi, have also said that open-source code makes it near-impossible to include backdoors.

To read more and the full story follow this link to ZD Net.

WIFI Alliance Introduces 802.11ah

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For the last decade or so, wireless networking has been entirely about short range, high speed communications. The type of networking needed by an Internet of things is fundamentally incompatible with WiFi, and the reason for this is due to the frequencies used by WiFi networking gear. 2.4 and 5 GHz are very fast, but cannot penetrate through walls as easily as lower frequencies.

This week the WiFi alliance introduced IEEE 802.11ah into the WiFi spec. It’s called WiFi HaLow (pronounced like angel’s headwear), and unlike other versions of 802.11, WiFi HaLow uses low frequencies for low bandwidth but a much larger range.

WiFi HaLow uses the 900 MHz ISM band to communicate, divided into 26 channels. The bandwidth is low – a mere 100 kbps, but the range is huge: one kilometer, or about four times the approximate range of 802.11n.

This is not the only WiFi spec aimed at the Internet of Things. In 2014, the WiFi alliance introduced 802.11af, a networking protocol operating in unused TV whitespace spectrum between 54 and 790 MHz. 802.11af has a similar range as 802.11ah – about one kilometer – but products and chips utilizing 802.11af have been rare and hard to find.

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For more information and the original story follow this link hackaday.com