The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects accessed through the Internet that can identify themselves to other devices and use embedded technology to interact with internal states or external conditions. The IoT is an environment where an object that can represent itself becomes greater by connecting to surrounding objects and the extensive data flowing around it.
When we talk about interconnection, we usually think in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones. IoT describes a world where just about anything can be connected and communicate in a “smart mode” by combining simple data to produce usable intelligence. With the IoT, the physical world is becoming one big information system with an ultimate goal of improving quality of life and empowering new business models.
However, this also means that more personal information and business data will exist in the cloud and be passed back and forth through thousands of devices that may have exploitable vulnerabilities. One weak link in the security chain could provide hackers with nearly limitless doorways that could potentially be unlocked and lead them to data.
Cybersecurity Landscape for the Internet of Things
Privacy is a serious concern not just in the IoT, but in all the applications, devices or systems where we share information. Even when users take precautions to secure their information, there are conditions that are beyond their control. Hackers can now craft attacks with unprecedented sophistication and correlate information not just from public networks, but also from different private sources, such as cars, smartphones, home automation systems and even refrigerators.
Currently, more things are connected to the Internet than people, according to an infographic from Cisco. It goes on to say that 25 billion devices are expected to be connected by 2015 and 50 billion are slated to connect by 2020. In this quickly evolving world, all the things that connect to the Internet are exponentially expanding the attack surface for hackers and enemies. A recent study showed that 70 percent of IoT devices contain serious vulnerabilities. There is undeniable evidence that our dependence on interconnected technology is defeating our ability to secure it.
The industry needs to learn from its mistakes as it innovates and builds devices to function interconnectedly with the Internet. Many of the best security practices can be leveraged, such as hardening the systems, using secure protocols for communication or installing the latest updates, fixes and patches. Innovators need to consider that future security will be managed automatically by the system instead of users, and designing secure technology will require a new approach and mindset.
Information technology security experts have been warning the public about cyber threats for years, using conferences such as Black Hat to publicize new vulnerabilities in systems and software. At the 2014 Black Hat conference, many discussions were focused on the IoT. Still, users seem not to pay attention to these alerts either because they aren’t particularly knowledgeable on the technical aspects of exploits, vulnerabilities and threats, or simply because they do not care.
The Mission of Secure IoT Is Just Beginning
The Open Web Application Security Project’s (OWASP) Internet of Things Top 10 Project aims to educate users on the main facets of IoT security and help vendors make common appliances and gadgets network- and Internet-accessible. The project walks through the top 10 security problems that are seen with IoT devices and discusses how to prevent them. Its list is as follows:
- Insecure Web interface
- Insufficient authentication or authorization
- Insecure network services
- Lack of transport encryption
- Privacy concerns
- Insecure cloud interface
- Insecure mobile interface
- Insufficient security configuration
- Insecure software or firmware
- Poor physical security
These types of projects are just the beginning of the future security standards that must be developed to create a network of devices that benefits users in a secure environment.
It seems that capable hackers are everywhere, and their growing focus on the IoT is a natural progression since they are looking to where the world’s data is flowing. The interconnected world is coming, but so are its hackers.
The good news is that the cyber security landscape is already adjusting to the new demands of this widespread network. The bad news is that we are far away from that utopia, where the IoT manages security automatically by the same interconnected devices and provides a safe infrastructure for users and their personal information.
Just as experience has shown us in the past, in a few years, there could be a whole new class of things to worry about in the cyber security field. Hopefully, by then we will have already taken care of the current problems we are facing in the smart IoT network.