The Technology Behind Most Crime


Over the years, we have become incredibly streetwise when protecting ourselves from crime. Our homes are often fitted with specialist alarms and locks to keep the bad guys away. A combination of our natural instincts and general self-awareness also ensures that we are careful to display any form of wealth in public or share our PINs with anyone.

After taking these many precautions, many will pat themselves on the back safe in the knowledge that homicide, burglary, and robbery figures are dropping. The good guys won. But, these crime figures are failing to tell the whole story when even serious crime faces disruption by technology.

While the headlines have been busy concentrating on how all businesses need to disrupt or be disrupted, we have failed to see how the common criminal has taken their crime spree online. Meanwhile, the common sense that we possess in the physical world seems strangely absent when we are faced with a shiny device and an internet connection.

A study by Europe’s police agency recently warned that technology is now at the “root” of all serious criminality and represents the “greatest challenge” to police forces. Forget smart homes; we seriously need to start thinking about the smart burglar who could be tracking your publically visible social media posts or vulnerabilities on your home network.

Even when locked behind bars, prisoners have been using drones to smuggle drugs and mobile phones over the prison walls. There is no doubting that technology brings more good than harm to our world and makes our lives easier, but with that great power comes an even bigger responsibility.

It is not uncommon for home networks to now have over 25 devices connected, but how many people understand the importance or regular software updates that close security loopholes? Alternatively, the weakest device connected to your network could hand over the keys to your life and lifestyle habits. Recent reports that the CIA had hacked TV sets illustrates the vulnerabilities hidden under the hood of the always-online devices.

Analysts believe there are currently between six and twelve billion IoT devices in the world increasingly hogging our bandwidth. Considering that this number is expected to grow beyond 20 billion by 2020, this cautious IT guy has a few reservations around filling your home with smart products without understanding the implications.

Those wanting to add automation to their kitchen can now purchase a smart refrigerator, cooker, dishwasher, microwave, washing machine or toaster that is given a unique IP address on their home network. Many of these devices might last for 5-10 years, and yet worryingly there is no mention of software updates or lifecycle information on Samsung’s Smart Fridge warranty page.

When making a purchase of any smart home product, nobody stops to think about what could happen in three years time when the manufacturer has moved on and stopped releasing security patches. How many people can safely identify exactly how many items are connected online and when they were last updated?

Hacking a home network could quickly enable a burglar to build an overview of your lifestyle habits and when you are home. If your heating is off or your refrigerator and cooker have been out of use for a few days, it would be relatively easy to assume that you are on holiday.

Manufacturers often seem to tag on IoT security to their product range as an afterthought. But, as we keep adding devices to home networks, many are starting to question if the industry has created a ticking time bomb that we will all have to face in the very near future.

However, this is not always the case. Tesla is an excellent example of how to do things right and clearly state their latest software releases. Nobody is saying we should turn our back on this technology or live in fear of their devices. As a global community, we just need to use take our streetwise vigilance with us when we go online too.

We now manage nearly every aspect of our life online, but our attitude towards securing the virtual playground is often boarding on negligent. Getting cyber streetwise with our digital lifestyle in an always connected world will probably be your best chance of ensuring that you are not a victim of crime.

The next time you find yourself shopping for a new smart home product, will you be checking for a software release schedule or how long the product will be supported for?Are you the kind of person that skips software and find them annoying or do you find yourself educating family members?

Let me know your thoughts, experiences, and insights by commenting below.

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