Data protection on the Internet of Things: Security awareness highest among Germans

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The Internet of Things is associated with plenty of positive changes. However, increased networking is also opening up completely new gateways for hackers. That is why 76 percent of Germans are demanding that networked devices provide themselves with security updates on a regular basis. So in an international comparison, Germans appear to be the most prudent when it comes to data protection. That was the conclusion of the electronica Trend Index 2020, for which 7,000 participants around the world were surveyed.

Increased networking of electronic devices in all areas is making peoples’ lives more convenient. However, immense quantities of data are also being generated that could allow others to draw several conclusions about the user and his behavior and could make it possible for the data to be deleted or manipulated by unauthorized persons.

Which is why three-fourths of consumers in Germany are calling for networked electronic devices to autonomously get software updates with the latest security patches — wirelessly or by wires—on a regular basis without the user having to do a thing. 90 percent of Germans had a positive view of such measures. By comparison: In Japan, only about half of all consumers feel that corresponding anti-hacker protection is necessary. That figure is about 65 percent in France and Great Britain, and about 70 percent in Italy, the USA and China. That is what the electronica Trend Index 2020 showed. As part of the international study, 7,000 consumers in China, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the USA were surveyed on behalf of the international trade fair electronica.

Data protection and security in the smart home

In the case of electronics applications in “security-critical” sectors such as medicine, power supply and air traffic, people are aware that IT security must be part of the overall architecture. But in the smart home, people use plenty of consumer electronics to send information over the Internet that is not subject to security standards when it comes to the data. For example, coffee machines could have security gaps that expose the users’ WiFi access codes. Other networked devices such as televisions and washing machines are potential security risks. Security expert Kaspersky proved that nearly all networked devices in the home are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers can gain access to personal data, manipulate devices, use the toaster to send out spam or carry out denial-of-service attacks. If an attacker manages to hijack the power meter, not only can he shut down the alarm system, he can also tell from the consumption figures when the residents are not at home.

When it comes to the networked home, Germans must strike a balance between convenience and security. Right now, only 48 percent want to be able to check the opened/closed status of their windows and doors when they are on the go, and only about half are interested in remotely operating devices in their homes. The French and the British are similarly critical. However, the Italians and US Americans who were surveyed said they could imagine warming up to smart-home technology. The approval rating there was about 65 percent.

Be careful when monitoring—except in the case of cars

Germans are also critical in their views about gathering data in the public sphere as it is increasingly practiced in smart cities. For example, comparatively few Germans (57 percent) favor more camera monitoring to deter criminal activity. Consumers in other countries such as Italy (73 percent), China (72 percent) and the USA (64 percent) are more open about the use of data for that purpose.

Germans become noticeably more accepting about transmitting data as soon as it comes to their “favorite child”—i.e. their cars: 69 percent said they would favor cars that send their locations to the police when someone tries to steal them. In this case, Germans are in the group of international leaders. Self-protecting cars only scored higher marks in China (76 percent) and Italy (76 percent). Cars that alarm the police when someone tries to steal them are less popular among Japanese consumers (45 percent).

Very cautious about patient data

When asked about personal information in the medical sector, the majority of German consumers see red: 76 percent demand highly effective protection of patient data—no other country attributed greater importance to this topic. Only 28 percent said that they would expressly agree to having their medical data collected online and evaluated for research purposes. 31 percent clearly rejected the idea. In this area, Germans joined the Japanese in expressing the greatest reluctance. In all other countries that participated in the survey, the explicit approval rating was more than 40 percent. In China it was just less than 70 percent.


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