The term Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the various devices we use today which we connect to the internet. The number and manner of these devices is ever increasing, ranging from thermostats, fridges and children’s toys to lightbulbs, toothbrushes and driverless vehicles. IoT devices increase the connectivity of our world, through the connectivity of ‘things’, aiming to make tasks easier, more measurable and smarter. However, while the number of IoT devices in our daily lives increase, more of our physical items are vulnerable to attack.
Examples of cyber attacks on IoT devices are numerous, highlighting the need for in-built and uncompromising cyber security on all devices. Increasing numbers of cyber attacks on cars illustrate the ways in which everyday objects can be exposed to cyber attackers. Keyless car theft exploits vulnerabilities of keyless doors and systems, and other vehicles have been susceptible to attack too. Objects from doorbells to watches have been hacked, and the possibilities of attack are endless.
Security researchers have discovered vulnerabilities across the board in IoT devices, where opportunities to track movements, listen to phone calls or gain access to important information are abundant. The nature of IoT devices means that the data and information which they store can often be sensitive or personal, risking not only a leak of information but also invasions of privacy. With many IoT objects in the home, data on what we say or do may be stored, and therefore must be done so in the right way, or destroyed in the right way.
On a larger scale, cities themselves are now often made up of connected systems reliant on cyber security. This can be seen in traffic lights, telephone networks, billboard signs and more. While there are great benefits to these connected systems, again, there is the potential for vulnerability to attack. There have been instances in the USA of false missile alerts sent to the phones of residents of Hawaii, and false extreme weather warning sirens hacked and set off in Dallas. Such wide-reaching systems being hacked or compromised reveals the harsh reality that increased connectivity can mean increased opportunity for attack which could be vastly devastating.
IoT devices are progressively becoming integral to how we run our lives, our businesses and our cities. They offer benefits of considerable connectivity, required in our globalised world. They provide the ability to monitor and control things remotely and to make tasks easier and more efficient. IoT devices certainly play an important role for almost everyone in some shape or form. With this in mind, the risks of attack on these devices must be duly considered and treated seriously. Often day-to-day objects, IoT devices may not be seen by many as a threat to their cyber safety, though it is clear that hackers have, and will, take advantage of these vast vulnerabilities. From this definite trend, increased cyber security measures must emerge in IoT devices as a priority.
While the security of IoT must be addressed at a larger scale, there are things we can all do to use the Internet of Things more securely. Simple measures such as ensuring the use of strong passwords can be considerably useful. Where possible, activate multi-factor authentication to add another layer of protection to devices and data. As IoT devices are connected to the internet, avoid using public WiFi where possible, and keep your home WiFi network safe by creating a strong password for access. It can be useful to check the settings of your IoT device, disabling features which you do not require, as well as turning on automatic updates where available. This is important because many security flaws are discovered after the product has reached the market, therefore regular updates may address some of these issues. Always be mindful of listening features on IoT devices when speaking about personal or delicate information. Applying these measures will add vital protection to the IoT devices which have become standard objects in our lives. Enhancing and making daily tasks simpler, IoT devices should be embraced and enjoyed after having implemented the necessary security steps.