Over two-thirds of us fear internet devices and IoT gadgets will be hacked

Alistair Charlton 25 October 2017

As we invite more smart home gadgets into our lives — watching, listening and learning about us — fears over how they can be targeted by hackers are high.

Over two-thirds of adults across six countries are worried about their smart devices being susceptible to hacking, according to poll by Irdeto, cited by eMarketer. Such internet-of-things (IoT) devices include security cameras, smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, door locks, lights, toys, medical devices and even cars.

The popularity of these smart home gadgets, plus IoT devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches, shows no sign of slowing despite the security concerns.

Gartner estimated earlier in 2017 that 8.38 billion internet-connected devices will be online by the end of the year, up 31 percent on 2016. By 2020 Gartner expects this figure to have topped 20 billion, of which 12.8 billion will be used by consumers. The rest will be used in business applications, it is predicted.

IDC claims there will be 80 billion internet-connected devices by 2025 - the equivalent of 10 for every person on the planet, should the population grow as the United Nations expects it to. Put another way, that represents 152,000 new devices being connected to the internet every minute.

Smart speakers and control hubs are inviting more internet devices into our homesAmazon / Google

Having polled adults in Brazil, China, Germany, India, the UK and US, Irdeto found 69 percent of respondents were worried about their smart devices being hacked.

Fears were highest in Brazil, where a huge 88 percent of adults expressed worry about smart device hacking. India followed with 80 percent, while in the US the figure stood at 67 percent. The UK and Germany were least concerned about hacking attempts, at 60 percent and 52 percent respectively.

Follow-up questions revealed how 80 percent of adults between the ages of 45 and 55 are aware of security threats to internet-connected devices. Interestingly, this increased with age — for adults aged between 18 and 24 the figure stood at 72 percent.

Almost everyone — 90 percent — believed it is important for IoT devices to have strong security built in to thwart hacking attempts.

IoT hacks are as varied as they are terrifying. Earlier in 2017 it was revealed how pacemakers and defibrillators could be hacked, depleting their battery or administering incorrect shocks. In 2015 a team of researchers demonstrated how a Jeep could be remotely hijacked and driven off the road. Other IoT hacks have included vulnerable baby monitors, security cameras and even an internet-connected Barbie doll.