IoT amplifying the cybersecurity threat at home and work

25 Sep 2015

The embracing of an Internet of Things (IoT) future could lead to more cybersecurity threats, with hackable devices set to have an integral place in our society.

As we move towards smart cars, smart homes and a smart society, the growth in gadgets and gizmos that we will inevitably become reliant on could pose a threat.

That’s according to Gartner, which predicts that one-fifth of all enterprises will have digital security services devoted to protecting business initiatives that rely on IoT by 2017.

The issue is that the narrowing gap between society and machines will bring a new physical target for hackers.

This could lead to either compromised devices that perform in an incorrect way or, more likely, a data transportation scenario that is almost impossible to protect.

IoT cybersecurity: a growing concern

“IoT redefines security by expanding the scope of responsibility into new platforms, services and directions,” said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research vice president at Gartner.

He argues that the whole realm of security – governance and execution – will need to be “significant”.

“IT will learn much from its operational technology predecessors in handling this new environment.”

The problem, though, won’t be limited to big business, with the average consumer wrapped up in an IoT future, too.

FBI taking it seriously

So much so that the FBI has gotten involved, warning of the threats to a growing, advanced tech landscape.

With home devices like thermostats, fridges, garage doors and ovens all manageable, or soon to be manageable, remotely, it raises obvious concerns.

“The rapid development and adoption of new web-connected smart devices is drastically increasing the cyber-threat landscape that businesses and consumers must now face each day,” said John Iannarelli, a former FBI special agent.

“For example, if a hacker gains access to your smart refrigerator, it could serve as a conduit to any other device connected to your home network, such as your home security system or personal computer.”

Tips to help

The FBI goes so far as to highlight IoT devices that people should be wary of, with pretty much each one susceptible to breaches due to the need for Wi-Fi connectivity, or the standard human need to rely on that ‘remember my password’ setting that should never have been invented.

Things like lighting modules, security systems, medical devices, thermostats, TVs, wearables and even fuel-monitoring systems are all worth investigating.

The FBI does, though, offer advice on what procedures you can take to help keep your devices secure.

Among the tips are some very easy but much-needed steps, such as altering default passwords, making device settings work for you, not you for them, and isolating IoT devices onto their own protected networks.

“Patients should be informed about the capabilities of any medical devices prescribed for at-home use,” the FBI warned.

“If the device is capable of remote operation or transmission of data, it could be a target for a malicious actor.”

Lastly, always protect your passwords (note the plurality), and change them regularly.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic