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The Threat of the Internet of Things (IoT): Security Concerns with Connected Devices

By Katelyn Orrok | Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) is what allows us to connect all of our devices to the Internet - these devices that we use every day to make our lives easier, more efficient and, most of the time, safer. IoT devices can be usually be monitored or controlled from a remote location. For example, we use baby monitors and cameras to watch over our kids and houses, apps to control the temperature and lights in our homes, and webcams chat with long-distance friends or conduct business meetings and interviews. Although there are enormous benefits to streamlining and connecting these devices across both business and personal settings, the Internet of Things can also pose a real threat to the security posture of both an individual and an organization. 

Like the recent DDoS attack which brought down major sites such as Twitter, Reddit and Netflix, sophisticated hackers can take advantage of these everyday IoT devices to gain access to networks and sensitive information. For example, hackers can release malicious malware onto the Internet that looks for vulnerable devices, including IoT devices. Once a device or devices are detected, the malware is then able to get into the network and cause disruptions, potentially leading to users losing control of functionality, shutting down of websites, or theft of information. 

One concern is that when developers design IoT devices, they often overlook the software needed to protect consumers. In many cases, they may be more concerned with functionality, design and the value said device will bring to users. IoT devices are easy to attack because they usually connect to the Internet by default and use stock code from open source software. Developers also can’t assume that consumers know the risks they face when using IoT devices. While robust security features, such as firewalls, can't truly be installed within IoT devices themselves, in the future designers need to pay closer attention to security to prevent devices from becoming easy targets. 

A study conducted by HP Security Research showed that 70% of the most commonly used Internet of Things devices had serious security flaws, with 90% of the devices using unencrypted network service and 70% protected by vulnerable or weak passwords.

To safeguard yourself from IoT device attacks, it is important to:

  • Update your password and don’t reuse old passwords

  • Use a complex and unique password for all devices

  • Change the default usernames and passwords on all of your devices

  • Use and update anti-virus and anti-malware software

  • Understand what information your device gathers, what is stored and what is used by the manufacturer 

For more security tips you may also be interested in reading:

IT Security Dos and Don'ts Guidebook
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