“A day without connected devices is unimaginable”

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Q We have heard that cyber-attacks can cause disruption and destruction and it is not only limited to enterprises and firms. Who else is affected in this process and how?

A. Even public utilities like electricity are vulnerable to hacks, like the massive cyber-attack on an electricity grid in Ukraine earlier this year, where people were left without electricity for a couple of hours in the freezing winter.
As cities adopt technology at a faster rate, like envisioned in the government’s smart cities mission, it is important to evaluate how, for instance, intelligent street lighting systems, are protected against cyber threats. Today, there is a lot of talk of smart meters. A smart meter has wireless capabilities that can communicate with both the consumer to at-home devices for managing electricity usage at home, as well as the utility, to help oversee distribution of electricity load. Trying to find out how these products can be potentially compromised, what security risks and threats they can pose, is an ongoing exercise.

When it comes to homes, recent research as shown that as far as interconnectivity is concerned, devices are 60-80% unsafe. If an outsider can access one of connected device in a home network, he can access all the information stored in those in real time. Someresearchers also say that wearables devices are increasingly posing a threat. It could be a watch or health monitoring wrist band or a shoe. They all have components that could be hacked into. One weak spot can get the whole system affected and threat perception gets magnified. It is very important to understand the scope of what interconnectivity can lead to, as consumers will keep adding on devices.

Q. In most cases customers are not aware as to what electronics/devices in the smart segment have been tested for safety and compatibility. Are there compatibility tests in place before it is decided that the products are to be made public?

A. When it comes to wearable devices, the fundamental aspectis safety. There are a host of other compatible parameters –
• Electromagnetic compatibility is something that should not be overlooked. The compatibility standard addresses the effects of wirelessdevice with other devices in proximity.
• Another dimension to wearable devices is Bio-compatibility which studies the effects of the materials and environments in which the devices are being used and how they impact the human body.
• Specific Absorption Rate or SAR revolves around the potential emissions and absorption rates that could affect humans if they reach harmful levels.
• The last, is obviously, cyber security and how these devices are protected against cyber threats.
It is essential to test and verify if these wearable devices are conforming to these parameters. As most wearable devices can be interconnected, security of these devices is of paramount importance.