Did you know that your fridge, washing machine, fitness bikes or even your smart Doorbell may be fitted with an Internet/Wi-Fi device? More and more of our household machines and ‘things’ are now being fitted with wi-fi receivers, sensors and other technological software.
The Internet of things (IoT’s) describes the network of physical objects—a.k.a. "things"—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.
For us consumers, it means that our things can be ‘controlled and Programmed’ without the aid of a keyboard or screen. Many of our household objects and appliances can take instructions from a connected network, with very little human intervention.
For businesses, the value of gathering data from IoT’s is enormous. Researchers can use IoT’s to gather data about our personal preferences and behaviour, though as you can imagine, this has serious implications on our privacy and security.
But like all Technology, there is a downside, IoT devices are just like any other laptop or mobile phone that can connect to the internet. They have internal systems complete with firmware, software, and operating systems. As a result, they are exposed to the same vulnerabilities, namely malware and cyber-attacks.
A reason why IoT devices are so vulnerable is due to their update abilities, or lack thereof. IoT devices lack the crucial security updates afforded to laptops or mobile phones. Because they do not frequently receive updates—and in some cases, never—they do not receive the necessary security patches to remain secure.
Another weakness is if the developer goes out of business, there is no way to update the existing technology. Alternatively, as newer models become available, older devices become less of a priority for developers and will not receive as many updates.
Without these updates, cybercriminals can hack into these devices and taking advantage of the hardware components that make them a significant risk to users. For example, they can track someone’s location through a device’s GPS, or eavesdrop on private conversations through a video camera or audio systems.
Some tips to keep your IoT’s protected.
- Research—before you race out to buy, do your research, Look for devices that have built-in security features, when possible, and check other users’ reviews before you buy to see if there are any issues, such as known exploits or vulnerabilities.
- Change Default Passwords—As soon as you bring a new connected device home make sure you change the default password to something hard to guess. This is because cybercriminals often know these default settings and can use them to access your devices. If the device has advanced security options, take advantage of them. DO NOT LEAVE THEM WITH FACTORY SETTING PASSWORDS!
- Keep them separate—Consider setting up a separate network just for your IoT devices. This way, even if a device is compromised the attacker will not be able to leapfrog to other data-rich devices on the same network, like computers and smartphones. Check your router’s user manual to learn how to setup a second, or “guest” network. Or, consider investing in a network that has built in system to protect your IoT devices. Security is now being upgraded into home routers, providing first-line protection for all the devices connected to the network.
- Keep your firmware up-to-date—Manufacturers often release software updates to protect against potential vulnerabilities and upgrade features. Set your device to auto-update, if you can, so you always have the latest software.
- Use comprehensive security software—Again, perhaps one of the most important tips to implement, is investing in a reputable internet security software, like Norton 360 Range or McAfee Total Protection Range that can help safeguard your private information and stop known threats.
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