Security Experts:

Consumers Ready for Internet of Things, But Fear Data Privacy and Security Implications: Survey

Security vendor Fortinet released a survey that shows homeowners want to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT), but are worried about privacy and security.

In a survey of 1,801 homeowners, Fortinet found that 61 percent of U.S. respondents believe the connected house - a home where appliances and home electronics are seamlessly connected to the Internet - is "extremely likely" to become a reality during the next five years. Eighty-four percent of homeowners in China felt that way.

But the excitement over the prospect is tempered by security concerns. A majority of respondents (69 percent) globally said they were extremely or somewhat concerned a connected appliance could result in data breach of sensitive information. Among U.S. homeowners, the figure was 68 percent. When asked how they would feel if a connected device in their home was secretly or anonymously collecting information about them and sharing it with third-parties, 62 percent said they would feel "completely violated and extremely angry to the point where I would take action." The strongest responses came from South Africa, Malaysia and the U.S., with the U.S. coming in at 67 percent.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the U.S. also agreed with the statement that "privacy is important to me, and I do not trust how this type of data may be used."

"The Internet of Things promises many benefits to end-users, but also presents grave security and data privacy challenges," said John Maddison, vice president of marketing at Fortinet , in a statement. "Crossing these hurdles will require clever application of various security technologies, including remote connection authentication, virtual private networks between end-users and their connected homes, malware and botnet protection, and application security − applied on premises, in the cloud and as an integrated solution by device manufacturers."

Many of respondents said they felt they should have access to any data collected by a connected home appliance. Sixty-six percent said that only themselves or others whom they have given permission should have access to this information. In the U.S., the number was 70 percent, with about a quarter also stating they thought the device manufacturer or their Internet Service Provider (ISP) should have access to the collected data as well.

Forty-two percent said the government should regulate collected data, while 11 percent said regulation should be enforced by an independent, non-governmental organization. In the United States, only 34 percent of respondents felt the government should regulate collected data.

Still, the respondents felt the device manufacturers should be primarily responsible for securing the device if a vulnerability is found. Forty-eight percent of all those surveyed agreed that the manufacturer is responsible for updating and patching their technology. However, almost 31 percent responded that it was the responsibility of the homeowner to keep the device up to date.  

"The battle for the Internet of Things has just begun," Maddison said. "According to industry research firm IDC, the IoT market is expected to hit $7.1 trillion by 2020. The ultimate winners of the IoT connected home will come down to those vendors who can provide a balance of security and privacy vis-à-vis price and functionality."

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