IoT Device Security

IoT devices are swiftly outnumbering traditional internet-connected servers, desktops, and laptops. In modern life, time is precious and we value the efficiency and ease that a connected network of devices can offer. But there are potential drawbacks.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly impacting and changing our lives; revolutionizing how we use our smart devices, streamlining our processes and automating them. Every household now has a number of smart devices — from laptops, phones, home appliances, and even our cars — all expected to function on demand. We want our devices synced and ready to go. Connection and collaboration is the target.

IoT devices are swiftly outnumbering traditional internet-connected servers, desktops, and laptops. In modern life, time is precious and we value the efficiency and ease that a connected network of devices can offer. We have communication, information, and connections at our fingertips. There’s very little we can’t do online. But, it also has its potential drawbacks: data breaches, security leaks, and botnets.

The simple fact is that smart devices are very susceptible to attacks, and it’s often complacency that leaves us vulnerable. Andre McGregor and Jason Truppi head up TLDR’s Security Division. Here they share their insight into the potential attacks on IoT devices and how to keep your network secure.

Easy Targets

Andre explains why IoT devices can be an easy target for bad actors:

“Day one in the FBI Cyber Division, I learned that every type of device can, and will, be compromised at some point.

IoT devices are even more susceptible to attack than traditional computers because the users of the devices don’t expect them to be compromised. That, or they are not concerned about the device’s security state, as long as it is serving its intended function.

Many times, a minor vulnerability on a single computer can have little effect, but compounding this minor vulnerability across a significant number of devices can be very powerful and potentially dangerous.”

Password Protection

The truth is, while we all have dedicated software to protect our laptop and desktop PCs from attacks, viruses, and malware, how many of us think to protect our other devices? Have you considered digital security on your phone? Your tablet? Or how about your virtual assistant hub?

Make sure you take the time to activate the inbuilt security devices of any new smart object that enters your home. It can be very exciting to bring home a new gadget, but taking just 5–10 minutes to protect your device can really prevent any future attacks.

Are you guilty of leaving your login details to your connected devices as the default? Username: Admin. Password: 1234. It’s not the hardest code to crack. But if you’re getting into cold sweats because we’ve just guessed your router login, don’t worry. There are ways to protect yourself. Jason believes it’s often the ease of use of smart devices that can leave users susceptible to attacks:

“Smart home devices make life in your home easy and efficient. Whether it is lack of knowledge or laziness, new users tend to keep the default username and passwords and then attach the devices to unprotected wireless home networks.”

Secure Your Software

Tech moves quickly, there’s always a new gadget to improve our lives. The flipside of this is that tech often moves so rapidly that by the time you take home a device and install it, the software is already months, or even years, out of date.

It can be tempting to rush the process and just accept the working, but outdated, software so you can use your gadget quicker. But Jason explains why you shouldn’t give in to temptation:

“It’s important to recognize that software vulnerabilities are found in every major product and therefore the consumer will always be exposed to security risks to the device on the network once it is plugged in. Unpatched and, in many cases, never patched devices are vulnerable to attack. Make sure to patch devices immediately upon installation and if the software allows for scheduled or auto-patching, turn it on.”

Productivity vs Privacy

There’s no denying that smart devices can make us more productive. The payoff for this is that we lose some of the privacy in our home or office space. Andre shares his thoughts:

“The idea of having a listening device or a camera in every corner of a house can be downright frightening. People who do have these devices need to understand that privacy may be out the window when it comes to manufacturers and even search warrants.

Personal device privacy has been abused ranging from the voyeuristic websites that scan the Internet for cameras and baby monitors to marketing companies siphoning conversations from voice recording devices to make better ad suggestions.”

There’s certainly been a lot of noise lately about just **how **much your digital assistant hears and records. Earlier this year a couple found that, in a string of extraordinary circumstances, their personal conversation recorded and forwarded to a colleague. The brands behind virtual assistants insist that the device online wakes up with a specific command. This may be true, but there’s always the potential for hackers to exploit these devices and change this setting. Andre has some tips to help to keep your smart home devices protected:

“Avoid commingling your IoT devices with your desktops and laptops by creating two separate physical or wireless networks to help prevent infected devices on the IoT network from interfering or infecting your other devices that contain your personal information.

Optimally, installing commercial security hardware is the best choice for people looking to secure their home networks from intruders in order to limit the exposure of devices to the open Internet through hardened router and firewall configurations.”

Jason adds to this:

“Be smart about how many devices you use and where you install them. Fewer devices equate to less chance for exposure. Be mindful where you position cameras and voice-activated devices inside your home to limit any privacy concerns you may have.”

As is often the case, complacency is the biggest risk to digital security for IoT devices. The unique automation and ease of use they offer can lure owners into thinking everything is set up and ready to go. But, by not taking the few moments to set up built-in security options, patch the product, and change any default passwords, you may save 5–10 minutes in the immediate short term, but what you stand to lose in the event of an attack is far more valuable.

The TLDR Recap

  1. The Internet of Things (IoT) is streamlining our processes and automating them, making life more efficient.
  2. IoT devices can be an easy target for bad actors and it’s often complacency that leaves us vulnerable.
  3. Always change the default password settings on any new device you set up in your home.
  4. Patch all software regularly. Make sure when you first set up a product that you update immediately to the latest software version.
  5. The trade-off for the efficiency that IoT devices can offer is often privacy.

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This article is based on views and information held by TLDR on publication date and may be subject to change, although TLDR does not undertake to update them. Nothing contained herein constitutes investment, legal, tax or other advice, nor a recommendation or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made or given by or on behalf of TLDR as to the accuracy and completeness or fairness of the information contained in this article.