Importance of Security in IoT
Whether you realize it or not, chances are IoT, or Internet of Things, devices play some role in your life. As these devices continue saturating our lives, it’s crucial to understand the importance of security in IoT- hint: it doesn’t work like the antivirus software you have installed on your PC.
What is IoT?
IoT stands for the Internet of Things. That sounds like a broad term, and in many ways it is. However, just because something connects to the internet doesn’t make it an IoT device. In fact, the term IoT is more often than not used to describe things that typically wouldn’t connect to the internet, like a coffee pot or thermostat. Because of this, you won’t see laptops and smartphones in the IoT category. If it helps, think of items that you would never assume connect to the internet a decade ago.
Examples of IoT devices include:
- App controlled lights and light bulbs
- Smart coffee makers
- Internet connected sensors
- Automated, smart agriculture equipment
- Fleet vehicle trackers
- Smart home systems
- Sensors for monitoring smoke detectors, and CO2 meters
- Biometric identity authentication systems
- Smart home climate control systems
Related: Gray areas in IoT. There are some devices that fall in between IoT, and devices we might expect to connect to the internet. For example, smartwatches and smart health trackers. In their traditional forms, like a watch or heart monitor, we don’t expect them to connect to the internet. However, as part of their modern design, we do expect them to, hence why we call them smart.
Is IoT Secure?
Like any other devices we use in our daily lives, IoT devices can have malfunctions. However, unlike a standard coffee pot, these devices connect to the internet through our networks. Your standard coffee pot can’t be infiltrated and let a hacker into your network. However, a smart appliance can, and as a result, hackers can gain access to the rest of your information if it’s in the same network.
Is IoT technology secure?
There’s no blanket ruling for the security levels of IoT devices. Much like the different web browsers you can use on your PC, each has different levels of security in place. We’re always learning more about the different security flaws or strengths in each of the parts and ways we use the internet. IoT devices are no different.
However, because IoT devices are newer, and beginning to become part of our homes and daily lives, they do come with some additional concerns. That’s not to say that we can’t and shouldn’t use IoT technology because of these concerns. What it does mean is that we should be aware of how we use them, and how to keep our information secure. Going back to our example about internet browsers, we can see that a lot of times the level of security is built into the product, by the manufacturer. However, even the most secure system can cause a security breach when the end user isn’t employing the best security practices.
Basically, if you’re wondering whether IoT devices are secure, it really comes down to the manufacturer, and how you use them.
Why is Security in IoT Important?
If you already secure your computer, and your network, is it really that important to make sure your IoT devices are secure too? Actually, it really is. As these devices become more and more advanced, they also gain the ability to store more of your information.
When you’re at home, there’s less risk of your devices sharing personal information without your knowledge. However, when you connect an IoT or bluetooth device to an unknown or public device, you can open up a pathway for hackers to steal your personal information.
Whether or not you realize it, by their very nature even the most simple IoT devices can contain plenty of personal information. While you might consider personal information to be more on par with your banking information, there’s more to it than that. All hackers really need is access to your network to get to the data you transmit from it. And after all, the very point of IoT devices is that they’re connected to the internet.
The fact of the matter is that creating secure encryption for smart devices, especially in the small packaging we expect today, is rather difficult. While it can be done, it does take more work on the part of the manufacturer.
Consider that IoT devices are made to work in, and connect a variety of different digital areas. That means that your home climate control might only need to control your heating and cooling. However, it also needs to connect to your wireless network, and the apps you use to control it. You might use the app through your smartphone, or use a smart assistant like Alexa to manage the system. For most people, these all run on the same network. This network allows all your devices to connect to the internet, whether it’s your PC, smartphone, smart home systems, or even your smart tv.
One of the real issues with this is that by having all these devices running on the same network, they can all access the same data, more or less. That means that any weak link within your network, whether it’s unsecured wifi, or a device with poor encryption, can weaken the entire network’s security. As a result, any device running on that network is more vulnerable to cyber attacks and data theft.
Reasons Security in IoT is Important:
- Unencrypred devices weaken the entire network
- IoT devices transmit data across multiple sectors
- One weak link opens the entire network to cyber attacks
- Increasingly advanced IoT devices continue storing larger amounts of data
- Sensitive data theft is harder to notice in some IoT devices
What can you do?
There are a few basic measures you can take to increase your security when you use IoT devices. While we go into more detail with these, and other measures, in our next IoT guide, these can get you started.
First, make sure you buy any IoT devices from a company you can trust. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be one of the big names in tech. However, you do need ample information about the security protocols they create their devices with. A good developer should be able to tell you about how they secure and encrypt their devices.
Next, use good password practices. Avoid using the same password for all your accounts, and make sure it’s a strong password. It’s best to change your password every six months, and every year at the very least.
Never connect any IoT devices to a public, or unsecured network. This even extends to bluetooth devices, like headphones. To really improve your network security, whether at home or at work, it’s best to keep IoT devices on a separate network. This might seem like an excessive step, but it’s actually very manageable with today’s routers. You don’t need extra equipment, your regular router should be able to host a separate wireless network for your IoT devices. In turn, this makes an extra barrier of protection for your personal network. The extra step is certainly worth the protective buffer it gives you, and your personal data.