In 2014, there were over 10 billion smart devices connected to the internet. Cisco, a leading network equipment manufacturer, estimates there will be over 50 billion devices connected by 2020, skyrocketing the Internet of Things (IoT) industry value to some $7.1 trillion.
What is the IoT? Though you may not be aware, you are in contact with the IoT on a daily basis. The IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the internet. This includes smartphones, thermostats, cameras, stereos, dishwashers, wearable technology and anything else you can think of.
The IoT seems to be a consumer’s paradise! What could possibly be the problem with such a great advancement in technology? You can see what is in your fridge while grocery shopping, control the locks and thermostat of your home from virtually anywhere in the world, adjust the color and brightness of your lights with your smartphone and the list goes on and on. The IoT is an incredible enhancement of lifestyle, but it does not come without its deficiencies. One of the greatest shortcomings the Internet of Things currently faces is its lack of security.
Weak security has allowed the rise of thingbots – a collection of “things” that have been unknowingly compromised and are used to execute illegal activities, such as spamming, denial-of-service attacks and hosting illicit pornography. Perhaps even more unsettling is the possibility of invasion of personal privacy. For example, hackers gaining access to a network camera or baby monitor is not necessarily difficult.
While your personal computer and even your mobile phone have antivirus software to combat security threats, you cannot install antivirus on your smart light bulb or coffee maker.
It’s not that the industry is intentional about such lax security. Many companies that are entering the industry are new to being “online” and may simply overlook the security aspect. For example, a fridge manufacturer has never had to consider online security in the past.
The increasing understanding and awareness of device security is propelling action. There are efforts underway to make the IoT more secure. The Allseen Alliance is one such effort – a non-profit focused on establishing industry standards among products and brands to provide for a more secure IoT. While manufacturers are trying to get it together, what can we do to protect ourselves?
Most smart devices found in your home are connected to your wireless network. Be sure to have your network’s security enabled and have a secure password. Always make sure to use best practices when selecting a password: use upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters; avoid using dictionary words and pop culture references; and remember length beats complexity.
Many smart devices have security, but it never gets enabled, or the default password never gets changed. Make sure to use what security is available on your smart devices and always change the default passwords.
Always apply the latest updates. Check the device’s manufacturer website for software and security updates regularly.
Pay attention the brands you purchase from. Only purchase brands that take security seriously.
As National Cyber Security Awareness Month nears its end, we should continually seek to be informed about ways we can use amazing new technology in a secure fashion.
This article concludes a series submitted to The Bengal from the National Information Assurance Training and Education Center in honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month.