How Will the Internet of Things Be Leveraged to Ruin Your Company’s Day? Understanding IoT Security

The Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived with a big bang. Business Insider predicted that there will be 24 billion IoT devices by 2020. The report further detailed ways in which IoT will help businesses and government agencies reduce operating expenses and boost efficiency.

Let’s take off our rose-colored glasses and look at this massive transformation realistically. What about IoT security and privacy?

Vendors Neglect IoT Security

According to the recent “Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep,” the IoT is overhauling the threat landscape for companies of all sizes. The fourth annual report reviewed 314 separate IoT devices, including medical equipment, smart TVs, utility meters and connected cars.

Results of the study showed that few companies leveraging IoT devices are focused on privacy and security. For example, approximately 60 percent of global respondents said communications did not adequately explain how information is collected, used and disclosed. The numbers just get worse from there. Another 68 percent of respondents said they were unable to explain to clients how their data is handled, and 72 percent could not provide information about how the data might be deleted.

Smart Things at Risk

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Michigan and Microsoft successfully breached an IoT smart home platform. According to Wired, the researchers purloined the PIN code for the front door and gained access to thermostat controls, lights, sprinklers and other devices connected to the hub.

Even more concerning, according to The Hacker News, millions of IoT devices use the same hard-coded secure shell (SSH) cryptographic keys. This means that if an attacker knows one key, he or she knows them all.

The Power of DDoS

Meanwhile, French internet service provider OVH faced the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on record, which peaked at over 1 Tbps. The attack implicated more than 152,000 IoT devices.

Indeed, none are immune when devices are hijacked and used in a DDoS attack. Noted investigative security reporter Brian Krebs was also subjected to a sustained DDoS attack on his website, which effectively censored his content and prompted him to temporarily take down his blog. He detailed the event on his site, Krebs on Security.

Imagine the myriad ways in which a DDoS attack could harm a small or medium-sized business. How many days without commerce can your company withstand? Does your firm use a DDoS mitigation service or other risk management solutions? Should you be? A new era is upon us and we must collectively push vendors to build IoT security into their devices. Otherwise, preparing for the worst is all we can do.

Download the IBM X-Force research report: Weaponizing the Internet of Things

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Christopher Burgess

CEO at Prevendra

Christopher Burgess is the CEO of Prevendra, a security, privacy and intelligence company. He is also an author, speaker and advocate for effective security strategies, be they for your company, home or family. Christopher co-authored "Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost: Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century" (Syngress, March 2008) and authored the e-book, "Senior Online Safety" (Prevendra, March 2014) and is the voice behind the website, "Senior Online Safety." Prior to the founding of Prevendra, Christopher held a variety of private and public sector positions, which included, chief operating office and chief security officer of a big data analytic company, Atigeo; Senior Security Advisor to the CSO of Cisco, a Fortune 100, and 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA awarded him the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal upon his retirement. Christopher resides in Woodinville, WA with his family, two dogs and two horses.