How to stay secure in an always-connected IoT vulnerable world
Technology is a massive part of our lives, and it’s all thanks to IoT.
From smartphones to smart homes, the world of connected tech seems to march forward with the tenacity of a juggernaut. New innovations in consumer electronics and the medical field have helped millions of people.
Because of technology and the Internet of Things, life seems easier and a wee bit faster. As IoT continues to grow and play a significant role in the daily lives of a lot of people, cybercriminals have taken notice.
What is IoT?
IoT or the Internet of Things is an array of interconnected electronic devices linked together via the internet. These devices “talk” to each other by transmitting and receiving data. The first IoT device was a Coke vending machine that sent stock and cooling level data back to HQ.
The world of IoT has come a long way since vending machines. The Internet of Things is now a global phenomenon, and almost everyone uses it. In fact, the number of IoT devices this year has already exceeded the world’s 7.7 billion population.
Types of IoT
There are two types of IoT: Business and Consumer
Business IoT has applications in plenty of industries, including:
- Utilities (water, gas, power)
- Smart cars
- Health and medical
Consumer IoT has applications and devices for smart homes, wearables and other electronics such as:
- Door locks
- Light bulbs
- CCTV and surveillance systems
- Refrigerators, coffee makers, etc.
- Smartwatches and fitness bands
Cybersecurity acts as a shield protecting the ICT framework and systems from online attacks. Cyber attacks breach defenses to steal company or user data that can cause disruption or harm. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated and can adapt to changes in security protocols.
The primary role of cybersecurity is the identification, prevention, and neutralization of threats. Examples of these attacks are network attacks, breaches via hardware, software exploit, and hardware theft. Cybersecurity protocols must improve over time, to tackle new attacks and zero-day threats.
Despite the benefits of the modern-day internet, it is still a dangerous place. There are a lot of shady characters that even services that provide advanced background check opportunities can’t flush out. Since everyone is already using IoT technology one way or another, there must be a conscious effort to stay protected.
IoT is vulnerable to cyber attacks
Amidst the rapid growth of the IoT industry, cyberattacks against it have increased as well. There is a growing concern among industry experts that IoT devices make easy targets for cybercriminals. By their very nature of being always online and connected, IoT devices are vulnerable.
All an attacker needs to do is identify the weakest link in the network of devices and hack it. RFID Journal even went as far as calling IoT technology “a Doomsday scenario waiting to unfold.” Security experts say that one of the reasons IoT has become a target is due to the cheap devices that make up the network.
Manufacturers of these low-cost machines spared little-to-no expense into making these products secure. IoT devices are often disposable, and would never make it to market if it weren’t for the low price. On IoT consumer systems, attackers target CCTV equipment the most because these are the most vulnerable.
Identifying IoT security risks
As cybercriminals continue to expose vulnerabilities in the IoT framework, cybersecurity in IoT will be a game-changer. For instance, IP camera companies that emphasize security will sell more than the competition.
Following the rapid growth and use of IoT devices, here are some risks associated with business and home use:
- Data storage management (storing files in the cloud)
- Data privacy and protection (network, CCTV, computer system hacking)
- Personal and public safety (smart car, traffic systems hack, identity theft)
Cyber attacks in the real world
The “unsafe” nature of the internet makes IoT devices a lot less secure as well. Several significant breaches in the past few years have seen attackers using IoT devices as nodes in widespread botnet attacks.
1. In 2016, attackers used the Mirai malware on networked devices running Linux OS. The malware targeted consumer IoT devices that were always online, such as home routers and IP cameras.
2. Mirai malware was also used in one of the most significant Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks ever. Hackers targeted the French cloud computing website OVH, and American DNS provider Dyn a few months after.
Knowing that IoT devices are targets of cyber attacks, how can consumers and businesses stay secure in an always-connected world?
The task first falls on IoT device manufacturers to include security in all phases of their design development. These security protocols need to have regular updates until such time that the device is obsolete and needs replacement.
The second task falls on consumers and businesses that use IoT devices. Securing the network from attack is one of the best ways to protect against cyber attacks. Another way is only using machines with proven security controls from the onset.