The “internet of things” refers to the myriad electronic devices connected to the web to collect, receive and share data – without using people in the process.
When it comes to state agencies, the internet of things includes electronic toll collecting, health and environmental monitoring devices, roadway surveillance cameras and many items that have GPS sensors, to name just a few.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump’s office surveyed dozens of state agencies in 2016 to get a picture of how widely the internet of things technology is used, how confident agencies are – or aren’t – in the security and reliability of those devices, and how well agencies are “effectively and efficiently” managing the risks associated with this network.
This is an extremely important area as more parts of government adopt technology to collect, store and analyze data about all of us. Are agencies using the data properly, without violating individual rights or protecting the security of personal information? Are state departments and agencies subject to hacking, which could disable access to information, operation of machines and stability of security on a wide basis?
The summary of what Bump’s office found notes, “Every device that is connected to an organization’s network increases the opportunities for it to be attacked by a hacker. According to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey on information security breaches, the question is not whether a data breach will occur but when. Anything that has an internet protocol address could be hacked. As the world becomes interconnected, cybercriminals have more opportunities to perform cyberattacks.”
Countless private companies have been hacked in recent years, with personal data on millions of Americans stolen. Some of the most alarming and personal breaches of internet of things technology have come at the hands of hackers accessing home webcams and baby monitors. It’s logical that local and state governments also could be at risk from hackers as technology and the growth of these networks continues.
The state auditor’s efforts to get a picture of where Massachusetts government stands is important, but it’s only a beginning. Following up to ensure coordination among agencies, tight standards for internet of things security, and appropriate monitoring of data storage and dissemination is essential.
To read the report: www.mass.gov/news/audit-shows-need-for-greater-focus-on-effective-adoption-of-internet-of-things-technology.