What is the “Internet of Things?”

These days, it seems as though anything can be turned into a smart device from security camera systems, cars, and doorbells to the strangest of items like hair brushes and refrigerators. “The Internet of Things,” or IoT, is the connection of these smart devices which allows them to share data with each other.  When these devices are connected with an automated system, the devices collect information, read and analyze it, and can subsequently create a useful outputted action. 

IoT is growing by the day.  According to Statista.com, there were 23.14 billion IoT connected devices worldwide in 2018, and 75.44 billion expected by the year 2025.[1]

IoT allows for the collection of data, and lots of it. There are many pros to having machines sharing the data directly to one another.  Some of the pros of IoT:

  • Efficiency/Accuracy - Not only is data shared instantly, but as IoT helps reduce human error in data collection, results are also highly accurate. IoT allows workers to focus time on other parts of the project.
  • Transparency - Machine-to-machine communication helps maintain transparency by reducing the allowance of data tampering or hiding of data.
  • Cost-Effectiveness - Automating business processes eliminates manual interventions and improves quality and predictability, resulting in lower costs.

There are also cons to the growing web of connected devices as well, though. 

  • Less Jobs for Humans - As mentioned, IoT can help reduce company costs. Unfortunately, this includes human labor costs, or salaries. As more tasks become automated by IoT devices, the need for certain jobs will be reduced or even eliminated completely.
  • Over-Dependency on Technology - Automation can be good in moderation, however, as we move further into an IoT-driven world, users will grow to rely on it for even the simplest of tasks. If there is a crash or bug in the system, over-dependent users will be left in a vulnerable state.
  • Security Problems - The more connected devices on a network, the greater the risk of cyber attacks. IoT networks are more vulnerable, and because there are multiple devices connected, attackers could lock down entire networks.

IoT Cyber Security Problems

IoT devices improve efficiency, energy conservation, and are convenient for the user.  Unfortunately, however, many of these new systems can threaten the privacy and integrity of data as well as the continuity of services. 

According to a 2016 report entitled, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” intelligence services could potentially use IoT for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.[2]  The same reports states that “devices designed and fielded with minimal security requirements and testing, and an ever-increasing complexity of networks could lead to widespread vulnerabilities in civilian infrastructures and US government systems.”

Imagining hackers gaining personal data about you via your phone or tablet is scary.  But even scarier is thinking about hackers taking control of hospital machines, smart cars, aircrafts, factory equipment, the list could go on.  SAM Seamless Network stated that IoT devices are the most targeted by hackers as cracking into them allows them to easily crack into your entire system.  Hackers could then essentially wreak havoc from there. 

Security cameras account for nearly half of IoT hacks, followed by home automation systems, and network-attached storage devices.[3]  Even printers and smart TVs are at risk and can allow hackers to get into the computer network attached to these devices.

How to Protect your IoT Devices

The more functionalities a user adds to their smartphone, the more data is stored, making them even more vulnerable to attacks.  Protecting these devices is crucial.  Here are some precautions you could take to do so:

  • Use strong and unique passwords
  • Install internet security software
  • Do due-diligence on apps before you download - read their privacy policy, find out what data the app wants to access, etc.
  • Check the device manufacturer’s website routinely for firmware updates
  • Double check social media posting settings - e.g. location attached to posts
  • Consider turning off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth access in public and always be sure you are connecting to a legitimate WiFi connection

While IoT can make daily life easier, it is important to be aware of the risks it can bring.  Be a smart user and stay aware when using and connecting your devices.  Always take precautions to protect your data and devices. 


 

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/471264/iot-number-of-connected-devices-worldwide/

[2] https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/SASC_Unclassified_2016_ATA_SFR_FINAL.pdf

[3] https://www.zdnet.com/video/the-internet-of-things-devices-that-are-most-targeted-by-hackers/

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