The IoT (Internet of Things) explosion has led to a revolutionary shift in the way we conduct our lives. From smart speakers to remote security monitoring, self-driving cars, or the ability to dial up the heating and air-con in the office from a distance, there’s barely a corner of our lives that isn’t touched by such tech-related services and products.
This codependent connectivity, while life-enhancing, has presented considerable security issues. With an estimated 40 billion+ devices currently connected (a number that’s growing exponentially), the opportunity for hackers and cybercriminals is one that everyone needs to be aware of and take the necessary steps to control.
Why is IoT Security Important: The rise of cybercrime
- Hackers and vulnerabilities
- Privacy issues
Hackers and vulnerabilities
The biggest issue with the IoT is its vulnerability to be hacked. The nature of the tech is that the items concerned are constantly connected and always switched on. What this means in practice is that it’s not simply the individual devices need to be secure, but also the gateways that connect them to the network and manufacturer networks.
For those who think this might not apply to them, then consider the following:
- IoT baby monitors have recently been hacked, allowing unauthorized access to view and control the device.
- Motion sensors have been discovered implanted in smartwatches to steal health data or even track what you’re typing.
- The 2015 well-publicized hack into Jeep Cherokee whereby some tech researchers hacked into a car via the dashboard connectivity. They were able to take control of the safety features and, rather frighteningly, the complete control functions of the car itself.
This is just a handful of examples that demonstrate the reason why everyone needs to ensure proactive action to adequately protect everything that’s connected via the IoT.
The reasons hackers exploit this tech are plentiful, including:
- Information mining: Perhaps to sell on for profit or to use in elaborate spear-phishing attacks in the future.
- To take control of devices: And cause disruption on all levels.
- Blackmail and extortion: Information is valuable. For instance, managing to monitor and record footage of private acts is a highly effective blackmail strategy.
- Stealing digital data: From your fridge use to lighting frequency in an office block, such digital data is a commodity for those looking to build behavioral patterns that can be used as a blueprint to carry out physical acts of crime.
IoT Defenses: Security by design
- Proactive, not reactive
- Data minimization
Proactive, not reactive
The key to effective IoT security is that of proactivity. In other words, actions must be put in place before a breach happens, rather than retrospectively after an incident. So-called ‘security by design’ is crucial to combating the hacking risk, and is something that manufacturers are now beginning to take far more seriously.
Unfortunately, many IoT connected items have been churned out over recent years with no security built in to protect against vulnerability. This makes it essential for every user to review their devices and systems, ensuring that all patches and software updates are completed promptly.
Reducing the amount of data each device uses is crucial for staunch security. Manufacturers should utilize a variety of different approaches to prevent any unauthorized access through the internet. Of course, the onus should be on manufacturers to be transparent with their customers, providing simple information regarding the use and collection of data each device presents. They must also provide details as to how to easily turn off various aspects of sharing and data us, should you wish to do so.
However, this shouldn’t detract from the individual’s responsibility to understand how their devices work and take proactive action to secure their data. In practice, this is more difficult than it first seems, which is why many companies and individuals turn to professionals for advice on how to adequately carry this out.
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