The IoT and Cybersecurity: Governments Step Up as Industries Struggle

The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. Even historically reticent industries such as insurance are now getting in on the act.

A new LexisNexis report found that 70 percent of U.S. insurance companies recognize the value of IoT data from sources such as fitness wearables, connected cars and smart homes. However, just 21 percent have an IoT strategy in place, and 43 percent agree that security will be a major challenge.

Healthcare faces similar obstacles with IoT and cybersecurity. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s “Cyber Safety and Resilience” report found that connected device attacks could have “severe, or even life-threatening, consequences on patient safety.” It suggested that governments should “consider the full range of possible levers for improving cyber safety and resilience, including regulatory and nonregulatory measures.”

A Disconnect Between the IoT and Cybersecurity

More industries now rely on off-the-shelf products to provide critical IoT data. For example, insurance companies often use data from smart thermostats and security systems to customize polices and deductibles, while healthcare agencies might leverage fitness trackers and connected mobile health apps to improve patient outcomes.

As noted by V3, however, researchers at Ben-Gurion University found that most of these devices come with “frightening” security risks. Simple factory resets, hardcoded passwords and easy-to-crack stock access credentials enable attackers to stake a claim to IoT products. In many cases, users aren’t even aware they’ve been compromised.

The result is a disconnect between data and danger: Companies recognize the need to leverage new IoT offerings as a way to collect actionable insight, but risk unwittingly exposing both consumer information and corporate networks to device-driven threats.

Purpose-Built Problems?

As noted by Internet of Business, companies also face challenges when it comes to securing hardware that is now part of IoT networks but was never designed to perform in a connected environment. This includes legacy devices in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and industrial control systems (ICS) that were purpose-built to handle industrial controls across corporate intranets. Suddenly, these devices, which lack the basic security features necessary to safeguard key data, are part of larger cloud deployments.

Pair these devices with newly designed IoT sensors and controls across industrial machinery, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Both new and old deployments alike are susceptible to low-tech, high-volume attacks.

The Government’s Role in Improving IoT Policy

So how can organizations strike a better balance between the IoT and cybersecurity? Researcher Yael Mathov of the Ben-Gurion University team hopes to “hold manufacturers more accountable, and help alert both manufacturers and consumers to the dangers inherent in the widespread use of unsecured IoT devices,” as quoted by V3. While this is a noble goal, current IoT forces favor speed over security — first to market often means better sales even if security features must be added after the fact.

Another option is government regulation. As noted by Informaton Age, the U.K. government recently released a new set of IoT manufacturing measures that require device-makers to ensure that passwords are unique and can’t be reset to factory defaults, and to encrypt all data transmitted by IoT applications. In addition, the government’s Security by Design review mandates that manufacturers create a clear point of contact for security researchers to report issues to as they emerge.

The intersection of the IoT and cybersecurity represents a risk for industries even as the data generated by connected devices becomes critical for long-term success. Government regulations aim to help organizations in insurance and other industries shift the IoT landscape toward better security practices.


Douglas Bonderud

Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and...