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These everyday devices could be storing your data, without you even knowing it
As technology has progressed over the years, their ability to process and store data has progressed with it. While we carry compact computers in our pockets, are we aware of the overlooked devices which might hold sensitive data without us knowing it?
Although we may not think of our office or at-home printer as a data storing device, some makes can and do store your files and documents. Modern wireless printers can hold a significant cache of pending documents, all stored in the device’s internal memory. Some can even hold documents for reprinting weeks after the request was sent, so it is important to check and delete data frequently.
Printers tend to store data for the main purpose of functionality. If you begin to print a document but then lose internet connection, the printer will continue the process. This is because it has already received the information from your computer and stored it, so it is now reading the request from its memory. This can be a particularly useful function; however, it can leave sensitive documents at risk if the memory cache is large and not wiped.
Furthermore, printers tend to hold information about the network they are connected to. To ensure your redundant printers are not holding sensitive information, wipe them by clearing the cache and have them properly destroyed if needed.
Most newly manufactured cars have a built-in navigation device to aid drivers when they travel. Many people know you can add favourite places and even set your home address, storing the data all inside your car’s memory. The collected data by the vehicle can then be sent to the user and automaker for review.
A lot of drivers may already be benefiting from car data, with Blackbox users able to lower their insurance premiums by displaying good driving practices while on the road.
But the capabilities of this data are endless, with some models able to send out distress signals for assistance if the car breaks down or is stolen.
As automotive technology progresses, the abilities of our cars are likely to expand, along with the data they can collect.
In the advancements of home security came smart doorbells. Users can see, speak to, and even allow entry to visitors by using a camera fitted to their front door and a mobile app. One of the most popular smart doorbells is Ring, an Amazon-owned brand with millions of users, but not all of them know what data is being collected about them.
In a report, the BBC found that Ring could record a range of data including:
- When the app was opened.
- Footage collected by the camera.
- How long the doorbell rang for.
- The type of operating system used to access the app.
- The type of network supplier.
Although these elements individually may seem harmless, this data can become harmful in the wrong hands.
An incident in 2019 found hackers in the US able to access the accounts of Ring users. The homeowners experienced their doorbells being used to set off alarms, shout at people, and even have their homes spied on. The event has left users wary of electronic doorbells and the personal data they weren’t aware was being stored on them.
Wireless keyboards are one of the most common devices used on this list. Much like a printer, most wireless keyboards have a short-term memory log which encrypts the data you type into it and sends it to the computer to be interpreted and make characters appear on the screen. This is a relatively safe process, providing that your keyboard does encrypt the data.
Research conducted by IT security company Bastille discovered that a selection of wireless keyboards was susceptible to hacking and keystroke spying.
By intercepting the signal the keyboard sends to the receiving keyboard, a hacker can see the keystrokes of the user. This leaves the ability to gather any information the user has typed into their device such as bank details, passwords, and emails.
Although this test was only on a select number of keyboards, it is always worth checking the model you are using to ensure you cannot be keystroke spied.
Many of us do not think about how medical equipment works, but some are incredibly sophisticated in their tracking and selective storage of certain data.
For example, ECG monitors (used to measure and track a patient’s heart rate) store and refresh their data storage on a loop every 30-60 seconds. This is because if a patient experiences symptoms, they can press a button and the device will log what happened to their heart rate at that moment as well as just before and just after. ECGs can also be programmed to do this automatically, logging data when it detects a discrepancy such as an irregular heartbeat.
For on-going conditions, some medical devices can be implanted into a patient’s body and store data for up to 2 years, holding onto patient data inside their own body.
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