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Should IoT Devices Come with Public Safety Warnings?


You know, like the ones on cigarette packets.

There’s certainly a strong argument to be made for it as an idea. Whether it’s hackers taking control of cars, childrens’ toys, or vast swaths of devices as an Internet-crippling botnet of things, connected gadgets are not what you’d call totally locked down. Security experts have even warned Congress that the Internet of things could actually kill people.

That’s the kind of thinking that inspired online security coach Troy Hunt to mock up a series of updated ads for connected devices that clarify just what consumers are letting themselves in for when they buy them. The example shown above is, remarkably, accurate: Standard Innovation, the maker of the Internet-connected We-Vibe vibrator, was forced to settle a lawsuit for $3 million when one of its users took it to court for collecting “sensitive” personal data without her consent.

Hunt isn’t the first to suggest that some form of IoT security warning would benefit consumers. Earlier this year, a British police chief suggested that companies should publish a security rating on their products, much as they’re required to list energy efficiency ratings in many countries.

Neither idea is likely to prove particularly appealing to device manufacturers, and arguably the second suggestion would be hard to implement, not least because of the slippery nature of defining a device’s security. But both would go some way to raising public awareness that a life filled with connected devices is a life that can be more easily recorded by nefarious types.

And until that happens, consumers will continue to buy hardware and connect it to the Internet with little idea of how secure it really is.