There is a lot of hype about the Internet of Things (IoT), as the technology has finally emerged into mainstream public view. IoT is changing our lives right from how we drive, to how we make purchases and even how we get energy for our home, and what not? But, there are also serious security risks associated with this technology. As the IoT ecosystem expands, so does the attack surface for cybercriminals to exploit and other potential threats and security issues. In this post, we will talk about the IoT vulnerabilities and a few potential solutions.
The Devil’s Ivy: IoT Vulnerabilities
Co-authored by Felicia Williams (TechWarn.com)
Internet of Things (IoT) devices answer to our ever-growing desire for connectivity and convenience. A smart-appliances-integrated home gives us a glimpse of a utopic future with technology where our every need can be taken care of by robots and electronics. But dubbed as the ‘Devil’s Ivy’, IoT devices are full of security flaws that can render your household vulnerable to serious cyber attacks. Before we look into that, it’s important to know what the Internet of Things is.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The concept of IoT is broad but simple. The Internet of Things explains the web of connected smart devices that exist throughout the world. As smart devices have become more popular, the concept of IoT has grown in popularity.
Just think back a few years, before self-driving cars and A.I home assistants like the Amazon Echo became popular. The only devices you had connecting to the Internet were your new smartphones and computers. Now, everything is made to connect to the internet. Cars, fridges, thermostats, the list is endless. With this evolution in technology comes downsides, the main downside is one of security.
With the concept of IoT just now booming in popularity, we are still in its early days. No new technology has ever had smooth early days, and IoT shows no signs of discontinuing this tradition.
Security Issues and IoT Vulnerabilities
As smart devices continue to gain popularity, the security of these devices is being ignored. While the idea of the world being connected is a fascinating one, it may just create more problems than solutions.
With each smart device comes a new “backdoor” so to speak. For example, let’s say you only had a smartphone and a computer. These two devices are the only devices of yours that can be hacked. If you have a home full of smart devices, the risk of being hacked increases. Though, this isn’t that big of a concern. No one is focused on hacking a fridge or toaster.
But what about your smart cars? Medical equipment? TVs? These are smart products that we must be concerned with. Imagine your car is controlled by a hacker while you’re on the highway. Scratch that, you don’t need to imagine it; Multiple sites have tested the hackability of smart cars with terrifying results.
Security and hackability isn’t the only issue. Many smart devices that connect to the internet don’t use a form of encryption. Because of this, anyone with a decent understanding of technology could find ways to receive your data. You can encrypt a smartphone, but not your cars or assistants like Alexa. It’s especially bad for home assistants, as they usually carry account data and request history. If anyone was to intercept this data, they could get into your account or worse.
Technical Risks associated with IoT
In case a fire breaks out at your smart home while you are inside and if you don’t have access to the manual overrides – you will get locked inside your house caught with fire.
If a bunch of sophisticated burglars hacks into your smart home security system, your home security and sensitive personal data will be compromised heavily.
Compatibility Issues with Commercially Available IoT Devices
The proprietary systems owned by big firms – Google, Apple, Amazo, and Facebook. Most IoTs are not compatible with other smart home systems and are built to be independent systems. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa cannot control LG’s intelligent refrigerators. Similarly, Apple and Google’s IoTs are not built to be compatible.
This non-compatibility forces users to implement an IoT infrastructure from a single manufacturer, thus taking away important future-proof features like upgradability and flexibility. Users are further impeded when their technology becomes obsolete.
Apart from the above technical risks, there are many social and commercial risks involved with IoT. Read the full article IoT for Smart Homes is potentially dangerous.
Not all hope is lost though. Cybersecurity is making gradual advancements in the IoT, and while we must wait, there are a few things we can do to protect ourselves.
Solutions to a Widespread Problem
There are two groups that hold power to aid in cybersecurity: the developers of the product, and the consumers of the product.
Some may scoff at the prospect of the consumer having to solve the security issue on their own, but it’s what needs to be done until companies set standards for security in smart devices.
On the developer’s end, it’s important to set standards across the industry. Cybersecurity is the standard that must be focused on. Internet of Things is still a new concept to some companies, and the concept will only continue to grow. As growth continues, standards must be met.
Cybersecurity to Counter IoT Vulnerabilities
The cybersecurity standard must keep the user in mind. The user’s data should be protected always through encryption. Smart devices need security checks and fail-safes. There are many ways to set high standards in the industry, but many companies must adopt before others follow suit. Developers have the job of making sure these standards are kept and continued through the years.
Users, on the other hand, don’t have as much on their plate. Us users count on the developers to keep to standards. Because of this, any attempts made by us may feel hopeless. But this isn’t the case.
VPN routers are important for security. In case you may not know, a VPN, a Virtual Private Network, is used to keep your data encrypted as it travels to and from the Internet. This keeps the data secure and makes the data seem invisible to outsiders looking for the data.
While software VPNs exist, a VPN router is the most secure option for home and business users. Instead of encrypting data at the software level, data is encrypted at the hardware level. This way, your smart devices have no choice but to keep data encrypted, as all data must go through the router.
Avoiding IoT Security Pitfalls
According to IBM, IT professionals and device owners must take security into their own hands by following basic IoT best practices. The most important rule of thumb for IoT devices manufacturers is to test security during each phase of the development process. It is much easier (and less costly) to nip security issues in the bud during the prerelease stages than to waste resources fixing bugs after devices have infiltrated the market.
Protecting Data Privacy
For organizations deploying IoT technology, it’s crucial to establish an incident response team to remediate vulnerabilities and disclose data breaches to the public. All devices should be capable of receiving remote updates to minimize the potential for threat actors to exploit outlying weaknesses to steal data. In addition, security leaders must invest in reliable data protection and storage solutions to protect users’ privacy and sensitive enterprise assets.
To ensure the ongoing integrity of IoT deployments, security teams should conduct regular gap analyses to monitor the data generated by connected devices. This analysis should include both flow- and packet-based anomaly detection.
Awareness is the Key to IoT Security
As with any technology, an organization’s IoT deployment is only as secure as the human beings who operate it. Awareness training and ongoing education throughout all levels of the enterprise, therefore, are critical. This applies to both device manufacturers and the companies that invest in their technology
Tread Carefully with IoT
As we said before, the Internet of Things has grown, is growing, and will continue to grow. With the growth of this concept and the smart devices that accompany it, cybersecurity will need to keep up. Until then, cybersecurity will remain a challenge and the holes must be patched by developers and users alike, and users considering getting more IoT devices should tread carefully and invest in the right tools for proper protection.
The IoT has the potential to boost efficiency and productivity in both domestic and enterprise settings. However, the exposure of IoT data — or the illegal takeover of devices themselves — can cause immeasurable damage to a business’ bottom line and reputation. The keys to unlocking the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls of this technology include embedding security into apps and devices throughout the development life cycle, investing in robust data protection solutions and prioritizing security education throughout the organization.
If everything in the world was ideal, an IoT takeover would be nothing but smooth. Security would keep up with smart devices at every turn. Smart devices would be able to encrypt data on the fly without user intervention. The average citizen would never need to worry about their data being stolen or viewed. All of this is ideal but impossible. Until the standards of cybersecurity are updated to follow the trend of IoT, we must keep a close eye on our data.