What is the Internet of Things?
Since the invention of smart phones and tablet PCs, technology has been growing at lightning speed. We now have the ability for internet connectivity on so many devices throughout our homes and businesses. Simply put, IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the internet and to one another. Smart devices are now being used in a multitude of industries from Energy and roadway safety to your home and healthcare.
According to an article by TechTarget.com;
A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low — or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.
Since the invention of technology we’ve seen this coming. An age where everyone and everything is connected.
“In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. I will use the internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations.” – Neil Gross 1999
Here we are only seventeen years later and we now have the ability to do almost everything from the palm of our hand. The reality is that IoT allows for endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we cannot even begin to comprehend today. More than 90% of homes in the United States of America have three or more devices which are connected to the internet. The average American household consist of two adults, two children, and a pet. The following table shows an example of the devices which may be within that home.
||Number Within Home
These items add up to between eight and fifteen items which are connected to the internet on a regular basis. This doesn’t include any other smart devices you may have hooked up such as; lights, door locks, electrical outlets, thermostats, smart sprinkler controllers, IP cameras, or the hands free speakers you control with your voice.
Issues with the Internet of Things
Security and Privacy are the biggest issues we face with IoT. For example, your new lamp simple as plug it in and it asks to connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Developers of these devices and applications, in many instances, have no experience in security. Their expertise is in creating devices or appliances for the home. Or maybe they are a startup company trying to develop their product as fast and efficient as possible, to keep costs low. Most of these devices have little or no built-in security and therefore place you and your data at risk. Without the proper software updates and security precautions, these devices can be hacked and have malware installed which can then propagate throughout your network. This not only leaves your devices at risk but it also gives would-be criminals access to your personal information.
Some of these devices actually ask for permission to access information which they really do not need. For instance, there was a flashlight application for smart phones here a few months ago which was requesting access to multiple services on the phone including;
- Phone Calls
- Network Communication
- GPS Location
The question becomes, why does an application that is supposed to only be turning a light on and off require access to things such as GPS location or have network connectivity?
Top 5 ways to secure your devices:
With all these devices, what are the best ways to protect your family and data from theft and corruption? We’ll look at the top five ways to secure your devices and protect your data.
Connect Only What Has to be Connected:
This is the simplest way to protect yourself and data when it comes to IoT devices. If a device does not need to be online to work then don’t connect it to your Wi-Fi network.
Have A Separate Wi-Fi Network:
If require an internet connection to work, consider creating a separate Wi-Fi network just for your IoT devices. Most wireless access points (AP) come with the capability of turning on additional networks, such as a guest network. Even the wireless AP you get from internet service provider will generally come with this capability ad is sometimes already configured. Another option would be to purchase a separate AP This ensures any device connected to this network will have no access to your main network therefore your other devices are safe from infection and your data as well.
Strong passwords are one of the best ways to protect your network. If your IoT device has the ability, change the password to a unique passphrase only you know. An example of a strong password would be something like the following:
This meets the follow requirements:
- Contains a capital letter
- Contains a lowercase letter
- Is apha-numeric
- Contains a special character ie. (!@#$%^&*-_=+)
If you can’t remember all the different passwords, then don’t worry, neither can we. You may consider using a password manager which will securely store them all for you.
4. Update When Possible:
Just as your PC, all these devices need to be kept up to date on their latest security and firmware updates. Most devices have the option to do this automatically. If so, enable it. There is no reason to leave a whole in your security because of an update.
5. Privacy Options:
Your IoT device may have privacy settings which can be enabled to limit the amount of information it shares. If possible, disable any information sharing capabilities. This will ensure your information is not shared outside of your personal network.
There is no one size fits all rule when it comes to IoT devices. You have to implement the measures which are right for you, your home or organization, and the devices which you are using. It is worth the time to do a little research on your devices and find out the best way to secure them. In the end, it is about privacy. If you wouldn’t share it with the world why give them access?