News and IoT sites flunk security and privacy tests

In a new security and privacy audit of top consumer-oriented websites, news and IoT websites scored the worst, according to a report released today by the Online Trust Alliance

Internet of things nest stoplights traffic IoT cameras
Credit: CSO staff

In a new security and privacy audit of top consumer-oriented websites, news and Internet of Things websites scored the worst, according to a report released today by the Online Trust Alliance.

Only 20 percent of sites in the Internet of Things category passed the organization's audit, and news sites did even worse, with only 8 percent passing the audit.

By comparison, out of the top 500 retail sites, 42 percent passed, as did 46 percent of the top 100 banking sites. Social sites did the best, with 58 percent passing.

This is the first year that the alliance looked at the IoT category, which consists of 25 leading sites related to wearable technology, and 25 related to home automation.

"These companies are collecting a tremendous mount of data on your lifestyle, your health data, your personal well-being," said Craig Spiezle, executive director and president at the Bellevue, Wash.-based Online Trust Alliance.

"These companies have clearly not invested in security and privacy as much as other sectors."

One reason could be that these companies are just starting out, he said, and are racing to get to the market with innovative new products.

"They haven't yet started to consider security and privacy holistically," he said.

This is the second year that news sites have been audited, and the passing rate has grown from 4 percent to 8 percent -- an improvement, but still substantially below that of all other sectors.

According to Spiezle, this is due to the news media's reliance on advertising.

"Those sites rely heavily on sharing data with ad networks," he said. "In most cases, that is one of the primary reasons why they have failed."

Sites were ranked in three categories -- how well their domains were protected, how well their servers and sites were protected, and on their privacy policies.

News sites scored the worst on privacy, with a 50 percent failing grade. Federal agencies scored the best, with only 10 percent failing.

However, when it comes to securing servers and domains, IoT sites scored the worst, with a 14 percent and a 70 percent failure rate, respectively.

The top 100 retail sites scored the best on both security rankings, with a 3 percent and a 9 percent failure rate, respectively.

Domain protection has to do with how well the company is protecting the domain from being hijacked and emails from being spoofed.

"The IoT has not recognized this as an attack vector," he said.

The most surprising thing about this year's report, Spiezle said, is that while most companies do better and better each year, others are falling farther and farther behind -- and fewer companies are in the middle.

"People either overperformed or underperformed significantly," he said.

A record number of sites made the honor roll this year, he said, even though the criteria on which sites are being judged have been getting tougher.

"But, conversely, that 45 to 47 percent that are failing aren't acting in the best interests of their consumers or their stockholders. and that's a concern," he said.

Twitter received the highest score of any sector for the third year in a row. In the retail sector, American Greetings achieved the highest ranking.

The USAA Federal Savings Bank scored the best among the banks, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was the highest-rated government agency. Businessweek had the highest scores in the news sector, and Dropcam in IoT.

This story, "News and IoT sites flunk security and privacy tests" was originally published by CSO.