The Internet of Things – What it is, and What Risks the Technology Comes With
Nowadays, we use the Internet for a plethora of things. That ranges from entertainment to business, shopping, and everything in between. Even our modern household objects can communicate with each other via the web, all thanks to IoT technology. However, that also poses certain risks. We will tell you about the current security issues which should concern us all.
If you’ve been hip to the latest tech trends, you will know what devices are becoming incredibly capable, and for a large part, autonomous. Hoover robots vacuum your house on their own, fridges adjust their temperature automatically, and AC units can turn on before you even arrive at your home. Much of this is because IoT devices communicate with each other through the web. The Internet has brought us many fantastic things, the book of ra and IoT technology being just a few of them. However, the fact that much of our lives are attached to the Internet comes with security issues. Everything is great if things go according to plan, but how safe is your privacy? What happens if you get targeted by hackers who have malicious intentions? In this article, we will guide you through what IoT architecture is capable of, as well as what IoT issues you may want to consider before you fill your house with smart devices.
What is IoT?
Firstly, it is important to go over the definition of IoT. IoT stands for the Internet of Things. At the heart of it, it is a conglomeration of various objects and sensors that have the ability to communicate amongst each other via the internet. The devices collect and share relevant information. The data can get used to monitor a host of variables. IoT objects can be as simple as your smartphone, a sensor on a package, or a security camera installed in your home. The ranges and uses certainly cover a vast spectrum of operations. It makes things such as tracking parcels, monitoring your house from afar, and controlling it a breeze. From a practical standpoint, IoT has benefits galore. However, such extensive practicality comes with its risks. As everything becomes accessible through the internet, potential IoT security hazards are something that ought to be taken seriously.
Security Challenges of IoT
IoT devices are smart objects, perhaps a little too intelligent for the comfort of many. During the recent rise of smart home tech, the amount of data collection has risen drastically. There have been talks about whether it is ok that smart home assistants have the ability to listen to what is going on in our homes. Why so? Some factual cases are alarming. There is concrete evidence that smart TVs recorded the conversations of their owners without their permission. Even if there is consent, it gets tricked out of the consumer. The minute details are hidden somewhere deep in the terms and agreements, and agreeing is often non-negotiable if one wants to use their device.
Amongst other things, there have been cases where official police investigations tried to get companies such as Amazon and Google to disclose their recorded data whenever it was thought that their devices recorded relevant information to an ongoing investigation. Perhaps this is for our greater good, ultimately, to make us feel more secure. However, at what point are we compromising our privacy? While the intent behind smart devices is seemingly good, the reality behind IoT privacy leaks looks to be a lot different. It is known that out of 81 tested IoT devices, 72 were found to send recorded data to unknown third parties. Unless one shuts off the devices completely, it is hard to gauge how much data is being recorded and how much of the info is going to undisclosed sources. Some argue that even when smart devices are off, one can not be entirely sure that they stop peeking into your daily life. After all, some have internal batteries.
IoT applications and the software behind them are not necessarily full of modern security features. Unfortunately, that makes IoT devices susceptible to hacking attacks. Similar to any other capable machine, they can become infected with malware. The motives behind attacks can vary. Some hackers are out to destroy devices, which is also known as “bricking”. Others insert botnets to make your IoT device a super-spreader of malware. Often, hackers are after your personal data. As IoT devices can store a bunch of it, it makes them perfect targets. Private data is a very valuable commodity these days. It can be sold for marketing purposes or for exploiting your data to commit fraud. In any case, IoT has safety issues, and that should be a consideration before you store any important data on your smart devices.
IoT attacks can be a scary thing, especially when it comes to hijacked devices. Various incidents have been reported where hackers took over security cameras and projected their voices out of them. In one specific case, they took thermostat control over the house and raised the temperature to 90°F. While these incidents are not too common, they indicate what sort of IoT threats are out there. Depending on the level of maliciousness, complete control over your household devices could pose a serious risk. It certainly is alarming.
Such hijackings can often be prevented with the right security measures in place. The poor practice of having weak passwords on your smart devices should be avoided at all costs. It might be a hassle to fill in complex passwords at login, but rather stay safe than sorry. Smartphones and computers usually have strong security software in place, and it is not so simple to hijack them over a distance. IoT devices, on the other hand, often fail to be adequately guarded. That is why it is important to consider the software and security solutions behind a given IoT device when making a purchasing decision. Cheap no-name brands might be appealing in price, but you may end up paying with your personal data down the line. The wisest option is to look for units that are capable of multi-factor authentication. That provides an additional security layer in case someone is out to hack you.
A pertinent issue regarding IoT threats is that in many cases, a malicious intruder only needs to gain access to one smart device in your home. As everything is connected, access to one device grants access to all. Ensuring sufficient security on your own accord is something that each smart device owner should do. It is not enough to plug and play, one has to do the extra steps in making sure that your network is bulletproof if you want to be truly safe.
Depending on your stance on privacy, you may think that letting go of some data is no big deal. Some info will leak to third parties, and it will get pooled for advertising purposes. What is the big deal? The fact is that the risks of data theft depend on who is behind the attack. Smart devices can store a multitude of data, ranging from credit card numbers to the times you leave your house. If a malicious hacker has access to the information on when your family comes and goes out of the house, it could become dangerous. What if it gets sold to people who look for homes that they can raid? Smart devices can give insight into the possessions you have at home, and when your home is kept unguarded. Such a level of insight is not something you want to gamble with easily. Therefore, sufficient security measures and multi-purpose authentication factors should be necessities, rather than fancy options.
Protecting Your IoT Devices
It is evident that IoT devices pose a variety of risks. Now that you know the possible consequences, what can one do to prevent data theft from happening? Here are some key points that you should go over.
It is Not Necessary to Keep Your Devices On All the Time
In applications, IoT devices should be on only while you need them. Having them turned on once you have finished using them is a waste of electricity. It also poses data risks. Once you’ve had your coffee, does the smart coffee maker machine really need to be turned on just in case? The same goes for home assistants, smart TVs, and the like. If you want to go the extra step, you could also unplug them from the wall outlet. Another option is to have an outlet extension that has an on/off button. That way, you will not have to keep plugging your devices in each time you use them.
Have a Network Solely for IoT Devices
Creating a separate Internet network only for your IoT devices is a great way to ensure added security. In case a hacker gets access to your network, they will gain limited access only. Most importantly, the router of the network should be kept safe. Having a complex password and updating your software regularly are ways to ensure security.
Make Your Passwords Complex
It is a good practice to keep your passwords complex and unique. Use a combination of smaller and upper case letters, as well as a number combination. Most importantly, never leave your passwords unchanged from the default one your devices come with from the factory. Hackers may have access to them. In case you have trouble keeping up with your passwords, try to use a password manager to make things easier on you. If possible, enable multi-factor authentication on your devices.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Smart devices have to be updated regularly. That means you should check for software and firmware updates. If there is an option to enable automatic updates, it will make things even simpler for you. Updates usually secure the software of the device from the newest attack vectors. Reputable companies have teams that deal exclusively with security flaws. They check the newest hacking trends to make sure their software is capable of resisting them.
Purchase Dedicated Anti-Malware Protection for IoT Devices
If you want to go the extra mile on being secure from hacking and malware attacks, you can purchase dedicated software solutions. Programs such as Avast Omni are an example. It is a handy solution for people who want to stay as safe as possible without much hassle. The software will deal with the potential problems IoT faces for you.
We hope that you gained some insight into what IoT devices are capable of, and what risks they pose to your privacy. The security risks are not something that should have you in panic mode. Still, being educated about the issues is necessary. The growth of IoT is inevitable, and knowing how to navigate the surrounding matters is imperative. So long as you do your part to keep your passwords strong and your IoT device software up to date, you will make it challenging for hackers to intrude upon your network. Hacking attacks are not so common that they should worry you extensively, but they can occur. Whenever you buy a new smart device for your home, make it a point to investigate what security policies the company behind the device has in place. The correct security measures should add up to keep you safe. Do you have smart devices in your house? Does your business use IoT devices? Have you ever experienced a hacking attack? We would love to know about your experiences. Please share your comments in the section below!
About the Author:
Arthur Rowley is an avid writer specializing mostly in technology and marketing. Having spent years finessing his craft, he can now assure you that he has much acclaim for these areas and is dedicated to providing high-quality blogging content.
- Hakin9 is a monthly magazine dedicated to hacking and cybersecurity. In every edition, we try to focus on different approaches to show various techniques - defensive and offensive. This knowledge will help you understand how most popular attacks are performed and how to protect your data from them. Our tutorials, case studies and online courses will prepare you for the upcoming, potential threats in the cyber security world. We collaborate with many individuals and universities and public institutions, but also with companies such as Xento Systems, CATO Networks, EY, CIPHER Intelligence LAB, redBorder, TSG, and others.
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