The Internet of Things (IoT) has undergone several new developments in a relatively short time. Today, lots of appliances, like washing machines and smartwatches, have live internet connections. Together, these connected devices perform different functions like cut down energy consumption, boost user productivity, and monitor user health.
The imaginations and limitations for the applications of this field are quite broad. As such, businesses seek to push the boundaries of what they can do with IoT.
However, this great avenue for innovation and application comes with matching cybersecurity risks for IoT. Generally, hackers and other perpetrators of cybercrime may use these devices as a backdoor into your corporate network.
Usually, cyber attacks target the weakest links in network security. As it happens, this weak link could be an Internet of Things connected device.
Thus, enterprises must have a good understanding of the effects of cybersecurity on the Internet of Things. By doing so, you may not find yourself in a position where you have to explain how you were hacked through your light bulb.
This kind of security breach might sound humorous but make no mistake; the threats are very real. To better understand the subject, here’s a brief overview of the Internet of Things.
Overview of the IoT
You can refer to any inter-networked connections of devices through the internet as an Internet of Things. Primarily, these devices exchange data among themselves across the network. The devices can be of many different kinds. You can have hardware sensors, watches, or even farming tools forming part of IoT.
Because IoT devices send and receive data, with modern technology and sensors (which traditional devices can’t do), they are often called “smart” devices.
Hence, devices like smartwatches, smart fridges, smartphones, or any other gadgets with “smart” preceding their names fall into the IoT category. A quick look back in time and you find that modern IoT evolved a great deal over the past couple of years.
The category now covers lots of unique devices. As such, many of these devices have features that allow them to provide detailed analytical reports, offer real-time communication, and also learn on the fly.
You can date IoT way back to the 1980s. During the early years of the 1980s, a vending machine was created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that could connect to the internet. The researchers could collect data from the vending machine upon request. Information such as the machine’s stock, the real-time temperature of stored drinks, and inventory were readily available.
Though the growth of IoT was very slow in the early days, this changed in the late 1990s. You can attribute this to the advances in wireless internet, which earlier proved elusive. According to a 2015 report by Gartner, Inc, 2020 should see about 21 billion IoT devices in circulation.
Possible Cybersecurity Risks of IoT
The first incident of concern was raised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about IoT products in an attempt to protect the privacy of the American consumer. Wired reported this incident also in 2015.
The report stated a total of 25 billion objects, which the FTC mentioned were connected to the internet. Together these objects could collect, share, and distribute data according to preprogrammed protocols.
Remember, Wired published this report in 2015. Therefore, you can expect an increase in this number in the last five years. However, the FTC didn’t stop there. The government agency proceeded to work with industry leaders to create a security checklist for companies in the diverse technological fields that manufacture IoT devices. This was one of the early and main steps securing the information IoT devices collected from users.
The essential recommendation FTC made back in 2015 included a call on companies to create security protocols directly into IoT devices. Hence, companies have to ensure each hardware is secure against cyberattacks before implementing them into the internet network. By so doing, you perform security tests on the devices ahead of time. Instead of tackling security as an afterthought.
Thus, the risks of any holes in the firewall and security settings reduce exponentially.
Hence, when hackers attempt to prod and poke devices for weaknesses, your cybersecurity measures rise to the occasion. However, should your device sustain a breach, the entire network becomes vulnerable. According to a 2014 Hewlett-Packard Enterprise report, about 70% of all IoT devices are susceptible to cyber-attacks.
Therefore, the need to build more security frameworks into and around IoT devices is essential moving forward.
Protocols of Cybersecurity to Decrease IoT Risks of Cybersecurity
The high percentage of vulnerable IoT devices necessitate measures to safeguard this growing technology and the networks on which it’s devices thrive. Hence, FTC also recommended a “defense-in-depth” approach to cybersecurity. Thus, an IT department and enterprise must put security measures in place. Instead of releasing patches for cyber vulnerabilities of IoT devices in bits.
To accomplish this recommended “defense-in-depth” security measure, you need to understand your IoT device from a security perspective. You need to know how it works, and how it connects with networks. Also, you have to perform security tests for possible security issues and flaws. Hereafter, you need to write essential security systems and firewalls for each device.
In addition, IoT consumers should receive regular patches to cover potential flaws their usage might generate. On the other hand, employees of tech companies must receive regular and up-to-date training on the correct usage of Internet of Things devices and the effects of cybersecurity on such devices. This training must cover the security measures necessary to protect the network of the entire corporation.
Furthermore, placing a limit on the amount of collected data can significantly reduce the risks of a cyberattack. The introduction of cloud computing and technology was a great advantage to the commercialization of the Internet of Things devices. However, IoT hardware now required continual data communication with the cloud. Hence, this placed such devices at a higher risk of a cybersecurity breach.
The Internet of Things shows great potential for growth. Which means we are yet to realize its full capabilities. You can boost the productivity of your company, drive future projects, and cut expenses across many departments in your company. However, the same can be said for the cybersecurity threats it poses. As such, all the benefits of IoT are for not if you don’t take the needed cybersecurity measures.
Hence, the priority of all stakeholders of IoT should be to safeguard all the newly minted internet access points connected across the network. This is not to imply that the Internet of Things makes up a large percentage of data usage within any given network. On the contrary, IoT’s data usage may take up a small portion of an entire network.
Nevertheless, there should be active and specific cybersecurity in place. Hence, you always need to consider the potential cybersecurity risks before implementing any new IoT hardware and software into your network.