The Internet of Things (IoT) is entering our lives at an increasingly rapid pace. Control of lighting or air conditioning commanded by smartphones is slowly becoming an everyday reality. Additionally, many companies more and more willingly introduce to their processes the solutions provided by IoT. According to the latest forecasts, by 2027 41 billion IoT devices will be connected to the internet. There is no doubt that IoT offers great opportunities. However, at the same time, there is no denying that it can also bring whole new threats. It is therefore worthwhile to be aware of the dangers that may be associated with the use of IoT.
An extensive network of IoT devices creates many opportunities for hacking attacks. Whereby the space that could potentially be attacked increases with the amount of IoT devices in operation. It is enough that the attacker will hack into one of these devices and gain access to the entire network and to the data that flows through. This poses a real threat to both individuals and companies.
The loss of data
The loss of data is one of the most frequently mentioned threats posed by IoT. Improper storage of sensitive data such as names, addresses, PESEL (personal identity number), or payment card numbers can expose us to the danger of being used in an undesirable way for us (e.g. taking credit, stealing money). Moreover, based on data collected by home IoT devices, the attacker can easily learn about the habits of the household, which can facilitate sophisticated scams.
Another threat is the risk of the IoT device being included in the so-called botnet. The botnet is a network of infected devices that hackers can use to carry out various types of attacks. Most often a common botnet attack is a DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service). It consists of combining the website with multiple devices at the same time, which can lead to its temporary unavailability. Another example of how a botnet works is the use of infected devices to send spam or produce a crypto valent. All these attacks are carried out in a manner unnoticeable to the owner of the device. It is enough that we click on a link from an unknown source that may contain malware. Then we unconsciously become part of a botnet attack.
Attacts on machines
From a company’s point of view, attacks on industrial robots and machines, which are connected to the network, can be a significant threat. Taking over control of such devices can cause serious damage to companies. For example, hackers can change the production parameters of a component in such a way that they will not be caught right away, but it will make this component useless. Attackers can also cause disturbances in the operation of machines or interruptions in energy supply. These activities are a serious threat to companies, that could suffer huge financial losses as a result.
How can we protect ourselves?
It may seem that it is impossible to eliminate the dangers of using IoT technology. However, there are solutions that we can implement to increase the safety of our devices. Here are some of them:
An important aspect in the security of IoT devices is password strength. Very often users have simple passwords, containing data that is easy to identify (e.g. names or date of birth). It often happens that the password is the same for several devices, making it easier to access them. Also, sometimes users do not change the standard password that is set by the manufacturer of the device. It is therefore important that the password is not obvious. Increasingly often, manufacturers force users to have strong passwords by setting the conditions they must meet. It is demanded to use upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. This is a very good practice that can increase security on the network.
Another way is to regularly update the software used by IoT devices. If manufacturers will detect a vulnerability in their security, they can protect users from a potential attack. They can provide them with a new version of the software that eliminates the deficiencies detected. Ideally, the device should be set for automatic system updates. Then we can be sure that the device always works on the latest software version.
Secure home network
Securing your home network is as important as setting a strong access password. In this case, it is also recommended to change the original password set by the router provider. Additionally, the home Wi-Fi network should use an encrypted connection such as WPA2-PSK.
Before buying a given device, it is good to consider whether we need it. There is no point in treating it more just like a cool gadget. Let’s remember that every subsequent IoT device in our environment increases the risk of a potential attack.
All the above-mentioned actions are the ones, which should be taken by users of IoT devices. However, the manufacturer of the device also takes care of its protection, such as via the encryption of network messages, which secures the interception of data during transport is on its side. The most commonly used protection is the TLS protocol (Transport Layer Security). TLS protocol helps secure the data that is transmitted over the network. In addition, the manufacturer of the device should regularly check its security features, so that it will be able to catch any gaps and eliminate them. It is also good to keep the devices secure from the beginning before automatic connection to open public networks.
In June 2019 the Cybersecurity Act was established, which aims at strengthening the cyber security of EU Member States. It regulates the basic requirements to be met by products connecting to the network, which contributes to the safety of these devices. Rapid IoT development makes more similar regulations, which will significantly contribute to maintaining global cyber security.
The advent of IoT technology has brought a huge revolution, both for individuals and for the whole of companies. Although IoT brings many benefits and facilitations, you must also be aware that it may pose a threat to the security of our data or ourselves. However, it is worth remembering that compliance with a few of our principles can make a significant contribution to the safety of your IoT equipment.