How do you feel about having a smart home that can make you coffee in the morning, warm the bed for you, and regulate the temperature and window blinds to save energy?
Well, almost every one of us would love the convenience of interconnected devices to make everyday tasks easy. The number of IoT devices continues to grow as smart device manufacturers continue to put IoT sensors into refrigerators, cars, electric outlets, light bulbs, and other gadgets. The sensors connect the gadgets to the internet and enable them to interface with other computer systems.
According to some research, IoT devices are expected to grow by 140% to reach 50 billion consumers by 2022. IoT devices present us with a whole new set of solutions, but, we may not enjoy the possible fraud risks that this convenience brings. The rising number of IoT devices means the danger from unsecured devices is also growing. In fact, in the near future, IoT is likely to fuse the virtual and the physical worlds in ways that are difficult to grasp at the moment.
Risks that Come with IoT Devices
By their very nature, IoT devices are easy to hack as most of these gadgets and applications are not designed to serve the privacy and security risks. Every day, IoT gadgets are targeted by hackers and intruders. HP study revealed that 70% of these devices are very easy to attack.
Another problem is that many of the IoT devices don’t come with security features. While the technology used in these devices has become more sophisticated in itself, there is often no substantial IoT security system to protect them.
Even when these devices do incorporate security features, users are always never keen on setting them up properly and maintaining them. Consumers are always excited to get a new smart gadget that they leave the part of configuring security settings for later; only that they never do it. This leaves these devices vulnerable to different security breaches.
For the past few years, IoT devices have taken data collecting to high levels, making IoT privacy worries one of the most troubling issues facing the industry. Examples include Samsung smart TVs that were found to be recording conversations while listening to commands, and teddy bears or other toys that were found to be recording kids’ voices and sending information to the manufacturer.
IoT devices can amass all kinds of information, including your habits, your daily routine, and the design of your home. Furthermore, one study revealed that a good number of consumer smart devices actually send data to third parties apart from the original manufacturer.
Since most IoT devices don’t come with security features, it doesn’t take hackers that much time to break into them. Smart devices are likely targets for malware infections, just like mobile phones and PCs. Some IoT malware simply halts the devices by “bricking” them, while some hackers use malware to turn smart devices into “botnets” and use them to spread malware or stage DDoS attacks.
Since the number of IoT users continues to grow, cybercriminals have begun devising advanced software especially aimed at attacking smart devices. And, with the low levels of security coupled with the mountain of personal data stored on these devices, it’s very clear they’d be attracting so much attention from cybercriminals.
Once inside a network connected to an IoT device or inside the IoT device itself, cybercriminals can gather information about a household and sell it to third parties who may use it maliciously. You might think this is nothing; after all, how much value does your household behaviors history hold? But, the risks are really huge. Some IoT devices store encryption keys, passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal data as plain text, making it easy for hackers to read.
These devices can reveal your IP address which can expose your residential address. This information can fall in the hands of hackers who may, in turn, sell it to someone interested in knowing about your family’s comings and goings, and about your possessions.
Rogue IoT Devices
As discussed earlier, the number of IoT devices is growing at a very high speed. This growth brings one big challenge—how to manage all these devices and close the perimeter. Rogue devices or counterfeit venomous smart gadgets are beginning to get installed in secured systems without approval. A rogue device is one that replaces the original one or merges as part of a group to gather or modify sensitive information. These devices interrupt the network perimeter.
A rogue smart device can be in the form of a Wi-Fi pineapple or Raspberry Pi that can be altered into a rogue video camera or thermostat and be used to intercept incoming data communications without the knowledge of the users.
The Nest in-home security camera is a recurrent target for cybercriminals looking to take over IoT devices without the owner’s knowledge.
Examples of hijacked devices can be smart TVs that can be hacked because they are internet enabled. The hacker can steal detailed information about TV users, or play offensive content and change channels. And, since TVs are becoming the highlight of smart homes, hackers will soon be able to influence a compromised TV to potentially control other IoT home devices including washing machines, cameras, and thermostats.
There have been cases where hackers have taken control of the thermostat and raised or lowered household temperatures; people receiving fake warnings about ballistic missiles, and others being threatened with a fake kidnapping.
How to Stay Protected
Most of the mentioned situations occurred due to poor user security behaviour. The problem with IoT is that unlike your laptop or smartphone applications that warn you when an intruder tries to get in, most IoT devices don’t do that.
Moreover, since these devices are connected through the internet, a hacker only needs to gain entry into one gadget, and from there, they will be able to gain access to all other connected devices in the home.
That’s why it’s vital to safeguard your smart home. Here are some of the things you can do to stay safe even as you enjoy your smart devices.
Use Strong Passwords on your IoT Devices
The same way you should do it for your smartphones, apps, computers, and accounts, it’s advisable to use strong, unique passwords on all your IoT devices and change them periodically. And if you are having problems remembering the many passwords, you can use a password manager to create and store your unique passwords safely.
Don’t forget to change the default password that comes with your device since these are known to hackers and they will occasionally check to see if they are active. Also, if any of your smart devices support multi-step authentication, ensure you enable that too.
Encrypt your Traffic
One of the best ways to stay safe while enjoying all the benefits that come with IoT is to use a VPN. You can install it on all your devices to ensure privacy. A lot of families also install in on their router so all gadgets can be protected.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts the data you send and hides your internet connection, keeping you private. Hackers and other parties will not be able to see your online traffic. Protect your private communications using a VPN and ensure your messages, sensitive data, and passwords, do not land in the wrong hands.
Monitor Threats Regularly
Constant innovation is required when dealing with internet-related attacks so that you can stay ahead of the hackers. You can check out any IoT security services system that utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify and block threats and can ensure that your home network remains safe.
Check your smart devices for security updates and see if they have firmware upgrades, if their software has been updated, or if they now support multi-factor authentication, or any other security elements that you can take advantage of.
Buy the Right Device
Before bringing any smart device into your home, you should do some research and buy devices only from reputable brands that take the issue of cybersecurity very seriously. To ensure total privacy, make sure all the microphones and cameras that are not in operation are turned off. Look out for software updates as those could enhance security. Also, the importance of creating strong passwords both for your devices and accounts cannot be stressed enough.
IoT devices are quickly infiltrating our homes as an upgrade to our everyday gadgets including video doorbells, smart speakers, smart washing machines, cameras, refrigerators, TVs, and more. These devices, with all their benefits in helping control various day-to-day aspects of life, can also bring security and privacy vulnerabilities to your home. It’s important to learn the various risks associated with these interconnected devices so that you can learn how to stay safe while still enjoying the convenience they bring.