What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Let’s keep it simple, IoT (or Internet of Things) refers to billions of physical devices connected to the internet, that gather and share data amongst themselves. The difference between IoT and the internet is that IoT does not require human intervention, they have a variety of sensors that collect and process data to communicate information with other devices through the internet. This has allowed us to merge our physical space with the digital space making it possible to automate tasks in our daily lives.
With the number of network connections growing exponentially each year, the diversity of devices also increases. IoT devices have proven to be highly scalable and adaptable across industries but also in smaller environments, like our homes.
IoT is now revolutionizing industrial processes and workflows. In an era where working remote has become essential many companies are relying on IoT devices to ease the transition. Those that have adopted these technologies are finding they allow them to stay competitive, in an environment that is constantly changing. Industries taking advantage of IoT include aerospace, finance, healthcare, agriculture, automotive, and many others.
Cyber Security Risks of the IoT?
With new technology always comes new cybersecurity concerns. Initially IoT was thought to be out of reach of cyber criminals, however in an industry that has outgrown the drug trade nothing is out of reach, given a bit of time. The puzzling issue about the Internet of Things is the cybersecurity risks associated with it. IoT adoption continues to stance significant cybersecurity threats to areas that previously were considered out of reach by cybercriminals.
Introducing these devices in places like manufacturing and offices creates vulnerabilities. Putting a business’s IT infrastructure at risk and potentially bringing the business to a complete halt. Cyber criminals aren’t strictly targeting business’, they have also been able to access smart home systems, allowing them to view activity through cameras, and take control of the smart home ecosystem, which can sometimes include security systems and locks.
While the connection of our physical world to the virtual world can provide many benefits, we must learn where the risks come from and then secure them to prevent a breach. There are four things that cause IoT to have significant cyber security risks: the interaction between physical and virtual environments, the ability to not only gather but share robust data, centralization of infrastructure, and the complexity it creates in an environment.
Devices are always a risk factor, from the seemingly innocent DVD player, to IoT devices. Obsolete components, gaps in default settings, and unreliable updates are easy gaps that attackers will exploit. The firmware, memory, network services, as well as physical & web interfaces are common places for security weaknesses to exist.
There are various protocols IoT devices use to transfer data between devices, that can have security exposures that go undetected, leaving them open for attack. While the ability to share real time data is what gives these devices their power it is also what puts them at risk.
Software and Applications
Cybercriminals continuously monitor software and applications used in IoT devices such as web apps to exploit any security loopholes. This especially happens when application or software updates meant to close these gaps are not installed on time or ignored.
Cyber Attacks to Be Aware Of
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to understand what you are up against. So now that you understand what the IoT is, and where its weaknesses are let’s look at some of the common ways they are attacked.
Physical attacks: Try to secure IoT devices so that they can’t be tampered with. If a criminal gains access to the device(s) they could spread malware using a small USB device.
Firmware hijack: Firmware updates help keep secure, if your devices are not up to date it leaves a door open for cyberattacks.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack: Many devices simultaneously receive a signal sent using a botnet that cause them to simultaneously request service, shutting down the system. This is due to an exhaustion of resources while trying to service the requests.
Encryption susceptibilities: Attackers can sniff data when transferring it using unencrypted devices and channels and use the stolen credentials to launch attacks.
Man-in-the-middle: A hacker intercepts communication between two devices and redirects the wrong data. The recipient doesn’t know of the interception and believes the data received is valid, which can release critical information to the hacker.
Ransomware: Ransomware is becoming more and more common and is when a device, or network is locked down and the attacker requests a ransom payment to return the locked down data.
The cybercrime industry is now larger than drug industry and continues to grow. Understanding how attacks occur and ways to protect yourself against them is critical to prevent attacks. Today the question isn’t if, but when you will experience an attack, so don’t forget about securing your IoT devices.
If you are like us, you have already welcomed a significant number of IoT devices into your daily life both at work and home. The devices are incredibly helpful and can free up a good amount of time, the key is cybersecurity awareness and policies built to keep your information secure.