Way back in 2015, we wrote about the security risks associated with the then fledgling Internet of Things, or “IoT”. Our primary concern was that the rapidly increasing array of web-connected devices that were proliferating in our lives had little or no security infrastructure protecting them. Here we are seven years later and not only are our original fears still valid, but the sheer number, diversity, complexity, and connectedness of these devices today is mind boggling. The IoT truly has infiltrated every corner of our lives.
What Exactly is the Internet of Things?
To give a quick refresher, the Internet of Things is basically all the devices in our lives that connect to the web for various purposes and goals. With domestic products like lights, thermostats, refrigerators, and other common appliances, being connected to the web may offer convenience, better performance, remote operation, and even firmware bug fixes from the manufacturer. Many automobiles are now connected to the web offering drivers one button roadside assistance and more personalized navigation, and car companies the ability to diagnose, adjust, or repair their automobiles remotely.
But the IoT doesn’t stop there. Many industries, including utilities and medical, have embraced the IoT to offer better services and share information more conveniently. The Internet of Things is truly everywhere and interconnects every aspect of our lives. The concern here is that this network of devices has very little security protecting it.
Internet of Things Security Vulnerabilities and Challenges
As mentioned above, the Internet of Things includes some pretty important and sensitive areas of our lives. Having a camera in a refrigerator may offer you the convenience of remotely checking its contents while at the grocery store, but that same camera could be used to record you while you are rooting around looking for a midnight snack. While it is a great convenience that at a push of a button, an auto technician can diagnose and make adjustments to your car, this means that so could a hacker.
On a bigger, more dangerous scale, utility companies and hospitals now have an unfathomable number of “points of entry” for malicious hackers. Vulnerabilities here could lead to anything from remotely manipulating a dialysis machine to shutting down a power grid.
Basically, the vulnerabilities of IoT devices could lead from anything from theft of personal data, to malware and device manipulation, to an all-out larger scale cyber-attack.
The Rise of Remote Work and the IoT
With so many people having the ability and desire to work from home these days, the technology wall between work and home has been torn down. With every home network potentially being tied to a myriad of web-connected devices and business web environments, the potential for web security threats to both home and businesses has exploded.
Protecting Yourself and Your Business from IoT Security Threats
Honestly, it seems unlikely at this point that there will be some sort of more pronounced security infrastructure for web connected devices anytime soon. The good news is there are already a number of things you can do right now to protect yourself, your family, and your business from IoT security threats.
- Identify the IoT devices in your home and workplace. Knowing what devices around you are tied to the web is the first step in assessing any vulnerabilities. Make a list of these devices and their locations and keep it updated as new devices replace old or are brought into service.
- Change Your Passwords. You should already be routinely changing your passwords on your web accounts and profiles, so the same diligence should be applied to the passwords of devices connected to the web. In most cases the user never changes the password from the default password set up by the company. If the device doesn’t have a password, contact the manufacturer to find out what you can do to best secure the device.
- Perform Firmware Updates. If your device’s firmware doesn’t update automatically, it’s good practice to make sure the device is running the most current firmware and update it yourself. Firmware information and updates can most often be found on the manufacturer’s website.
- Consider the Price of Being Connected. While some IoT devices offer an incredible amount of convenience and life enhancement, some web connected features are really more of marketing bling than something that provides real world value. Before you buy any device, consider if you really need it to be tied to the internet or not. Is that functionality really something that you will use? Sit down with the list you made above in number one and deeply consider if you want all those potential security risks in your home.
Living with the IoT
In the end, the IoT isn’t going anywhere and will be a bigger and bigger part of our lives as we move forward. There is no reason not to embrace some of the great convenience, functionality, and possibility the IoT offers, but being educated and aware of vulnerabilities and risks will go a long way to keeping that experience a positive one.
If you have questions about internet security for your small business, don’t hesitate to call our team of web technology professionals at (941) 548-9950.