Internet of Things and Connected Lives: An Insecure Relationship
We live in a crazy connected world these days, and the Internet of Things makes it abundantly clear. IoT is probably one of the hottest emerging technology trends right now. Put simply, the Internet of Things is the technology of putting internet connected computer devices into everyday objects. Anything from refrigerators to light bulbs are now being produced with the ability to connect to a network and be controlled remotely.
As far as technology trends go, sales revenue and market value can rise and fall like the tides. This leaves it as no surprised that so many tech manufacturers are trying their best to come up with the next big Internet of Things device. The tech sector expands by leaps every year, so staying on top is a monumental, never ending task. However, as great as being able to control everything (I mean everything) from your phone sounds, there is great security risks involved.
Internet of Things Security in the News
The largest security threat in IoT news recently was the massive DDoS attack on Dyn, a company that provides DNS services to, well, half the country. The targeted devices used in the attack: IP security cameras. There has been the recent disclosure of CIA tools that turned internet of things devices such as smart TVs to spy on American homes. And you can’t say you haven’t seen the stories of baby monitors being hacked and used to listen in and even talk to whoever happens to be in the room.
In an article from Linux Insider, the growth of Linux based malware is discussed. With much of the IoT world in the hands of Linux based controllers, attackers have started focusing their efforts on Linux exploitation. And in a wonderful article on Fast Company, we hear the concerns of Vint Cerf, commonly known as the “Father of the Internet”. Perhaps one of the more subtle, but telling quotes from the article, Vint expresses
“Basically you’re relying on software doing the right things, and if it doesn’t do the right thing, you have very little to say about it. I feel like we’re moving into a kind of fragile future right now that we should be much more thoughtful about improving, that is to say making more robust.”
Internet of Things and the Common Consumer
As technology abounds and our world gets more connected, the common consumer has become more tech savvy than in years past. However, I find that tech savvy and and tech minded tend to be two different things. Basic understanding of your technology makes you tech savvy. A more definitive understanding makes you tech minded.
One thing a lot of common consumers do not realize about IoT devices, is the inherit security risk you bring into your home. In a most basic explanation, every device that ends up connected to your home router is a security risk. This means anything from computers, to cell phones, to connected devices like security cameras, TVs, and other appliances. With each new device introduced, the risk of attack goes up.
Unfortunately, even the most basic of security practices that help protect a home network are not in use by most common consumers. So when they decide to add even more attack points to the home network, it comes as no surprise that IoT products have started to become a favorite target. Your smart home is quickly becoming the smartest botnet in the world, and you don’t even know it. What stops an attacker from using your own appliance against you?
Internet of Things and Health Technology
This is a really scary talking point. Not only have we invited inter-connectivity into our normal home lives, but we have also invited it into our health decisions. Modern hospitals, and medical practices with recent equipment upgrades now have connected devices. IV pumps, insulin pumps, oxygen apparatus, the list goes on. Everything in the medical community is being connected.
This isn’t the scary part though. Being able to better monitor a hospital ward with a centralized computer system that shows such detail, that’s a great thing. The scary part is that, just like home devices, these new bits of medical genius come with their security flaws. Whether it’s outsider control of the device, to using the network node to get in and steal personal information, the security of such things hasn’t been well thought out with the technology.
The Future of IoT Security
The future of IoT security has to start in the present. It starts with manufacturers being able to quickly resolve current issues and patch vulnerabilities. A quick response is a great way to assure your consumers that you take their security seriously. On the other side of that, security must be part of the end product that is released. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing IT fronts, yet too many companies still don’t take it seriously. Manufacturers must take security not just of the present, but of the future seriously when planning and building new products.
For the common consumer, the practices of basic network security should be learned and applied a lot more than they are right now. If you didn’t know that your router can get software upgrades, raise your hand? If you raised your hand, then you have a lot of learning to do. Just like our phones and computers, internet connected devices can and probably will receive updates. The biggest reason for these updates? You guessed it, improving security.
Internet of Things is no doubt the future technology that will run our everyday lives. It’s almost the next inevitable step. However, like other technological leaps in the past, IoT doesn’t come without its flaws and concerns. Manufacturers and consumers have to work together to preserve security. Manufacturers have to do their jobs in preventing and maintaining the security of the devices they release. Consumers have to do their part to implement the security basics on these devices and their home network in general.
A connected world with connected lives will not be this terrible thing that the older generations think it will be. It will not be a disillusioned dystopia of tech zombies with no interaction. However, without the proper procedures and practices, we can’t hope to totally eliminate the slight possibility.