CSIDIn the past few years, we’ve seen the Internet of Things (IoT) take off, and there appears to be no slowing. A new report from BI Intelligence forecasts there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. Think: smart cars, fridges, thermostats, tvs, alarm systems and more. Simply put, this is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).

Take the car industry for instance. We’ve seen a surge in new, connected functionality, like: Where your car is? How much fuel it has? And, the ability to control its air conditioning remotely. While connecting our world brings added convenience to our everyday lives, it opens up a broader discussion around what we may be sacrificing from a security perspective.

Remember last year when cybersecurity experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated that they could remotely hijack a Jeep’s digital system over the Internet? Well, they are back at it again, but this time, they bypassed a set of safeguards deeper in the vehicles’ networks. While patches have since been implemented, our very own CIO Adam Tyler reminds us in our latest Firewall Chat’s episode that these devices are capable of the same risks we see with our laptops or smartphones.

“The fact that these devices are computers; highly advanced, highly intelligent, highly capable devices means that they run the same risks as those that we associate with our laptops and our phones.” Tyler said. “So just like exploits can be used to hack into your laptop, so too can these exploits be used to hack into these IoT devices.”

While the thought of a hacker gaining control of your fridge is perhaps less daunting than the idea of them taking control of your car, the reality is that these product may service as a gateway to more sensitive information.

So what can you do to stay secure? First and foremost, consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with using these devices. Read the privacy policies to understand how your data is stored, collected and transmitted. If passwords are used on the device, be sure you’re creating strong, long and unique passwords. Apply software updates when available to patch security vulnerabilities in the same way you do with your smartphone or laptop.

Learn more about the IoT in our recent podcast, and be sure to weigh in on Twitter or Facebook with your thoughts on security and privacy risks associated with the IoT.