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As more everyday devices connect, the potential for security risks grows.
Today, sensors and other embedded devices are ubiquitous: They are
used to track the transportation route of packages, to transmit data
from implanted medical devices and to control household appliances from
smartphone apps. And all of these devices have the capacity to send and
receive data through the Internet. Technology experts refer to this
rapidly expanding global nervous system as “the Internet of Things”—and
it is likely to revolutionize the way work is done across industries.
Its implications for HR are great. The Internet of Things, or IoT, will
influence the way data about workers and work processes are collected,
analyzed and used. It will affect recruiting and benefits administration
as well as employee safety and disaster planning.
Unfortunately, because so many devices can connect in ways never before possible, the IoT is also susceptible to
Proportion of most commonly used Internet of Things devices that contain serious vulnerabilities
malfunction and hacking. In July 2014, Hewlett-Packard’s Fortify on Demand application security testing service released its Internet of Things State of the Union Study.
It showed that 70 percent of the most commonly used IoT devices contain
serious vulnerabilities; the most common were related to privacy,
authorizations, Web interfaces, software protections and transport
Some of the consequences of such vulnerabilities could be extremely
serious, and few industries are immune. Wired magazine reported earlier
this year that hackers could remotely gain control of medical devices
such as drug infusion pumps or heart defibrillators and even take down
critical hospital and lab equipment during emergencies. Electronic door
locks and security systems connected to the Internet are also
susceptible to attack, as are factory equipment, transportation
equipment and communications devices.
Since IoT data breaches have grave implications for workers and the
public, HR professionals need to work closely with their IT teams to
uncover and protect against vulnerabilities within their organizations’
Average number of vulnerabilities in Internet of Things devices
including those used to manage work processes and in HR
technologies. For HR, a key issue is how to ensure that private employee
data is kept secure—and, conversely, that confidential employer
information doesn’t walk out the door with employees. In some cases, HR
may need to create specific policies regarding the use of devices,
The IoT represents another way “big data” will shape the HR profession
in the years ahead. But new opportunities bring new risks, so HR
professionals must balance the benefits that IoT devices bring to the
workplace with their need to safeguard data and protect their customers
Jen Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.
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