The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken the world by storm, with growth rates so high that some experts see it turning into a multi-trillion-dollar industry in less than a decade. The rise of IoT devices can be traced to their futuristic capabilities, seamless interface, and unmatched convenience. The imminent introduction of 5G technology is likely to boost this trend to even greater heights.
Smart watches to track your physical activities, refrigerators to tell you what food you’re running out of, smart speakers that activate through voice command, and countless other devices all belong to the realm of IoT – and can be configured with your phone. To take but one example, smart home air purifiers can remove harmful PM 2.5 particles from your home or workplace, report on the current air quality, turn on automatically at scheduled times, and remind you when their filters need changing.
Tech lovers are eager to get their hands on these devices, but they are much more than convenient gadgets; IoT devices have entered the business world in a big way. From remote-controlled security systems, to sensors that detect when inventory needs re-stocking, the right IoT setup can make virtually all company information available to you. Advanced data collection and processing gives decision-makers access to important insights and business opportunities at the touch of a button .
But just like every other technology that relies on wireless integration, these devices raise real security concerns – and you should think twice before connecting them to a sensitive system.
Privacy and online security are among the main concerns of today’s tech community, and for good reason. Security breaches and leakage of personal data, which are often the work of professional cybercriminals, are never to be taken lightly.
As IoT devices revolve around wireless connectivity, hackers have an open playing field to work with. Any security oversight could result in your identity and financial information being stolen in the blink of an eye – making you vulnerable to reputational damage, blackmail, theft, and other serious outcomes.
Cyber lapses have become more frequent in recent years, affecting company reputation and consumer confidence. And the use of IoT has opened up a world of possibility for criminals looking for access. A North American casino suffered a major data breach when hackers got into something as simple and seemingly harmless as a fish tank, which had sensors in place to control temperature, food distribution and cleaning – all of which were connected to the casino’s internal computer system.
By gaining access via the relatively unprotected fish tank, the hackers were able to send around 10GB of casino data to a device somewhere in Finland. The casino has not disclosed what type of data was stolen, but we suspect the hackers were interested in more than just water temperatures and fish food.
Incidents like these should raise alarm bells for people and companies that put sensitive data on any kind of unsecured network. However, there are proactive security measures that you can implement in order to avoid turning your devices into a data mine for hackers.
Make life easier for yourself and harder for your adversary
When it comes to protecting your home, you can invest in the strongest front door on the market, with heavy steel and reinforced locks – but the entire effort will be meaningless if you have a habit of leaving the side window open. To avoid making a similar mistake with your online habits, we recommend implementing a few key safeguards for your IoT devices:
- Set up a private network
Your Wi-Fi router can create a separate network for personal or professional use. Be sure to reserve that private network solely for yourself, your family and your IoT devices. Never use the same network as your guests, because you never know when a trojan horse will be at your gate. Even a trusted person can unwittingly create a security breach, if they connect to your network with a device infected by a software virus.
- Change passwords regularly
This tip may seem simple, but it can make all the difference. Make sure you don’t set up passwords that are too easy to guess (we’re looking at you, people with “1234567890” as their passwords). Also, remember to use unique passwords for every account or website you use. As we mentioned in a previous article , a good password manager can make this task much easier.
- Read the label
Some IoT device manufacturers allow your own data to be sent directly to their company. Understand the privacy implications of having a microphone in your living room (a smart TV, for example, can hear what happens in your house) – or even security cameras for your property, if those sounds and images are to be collected and stored on hard drives far away.
- Update your software
Constant notifications about system updates may seem annoying, but they should never be ignored. Updates are often issued by developers specifically to enhance the security of their devices. Potential intruders are always testing for loopholes in every security patch – therefore it is best to enable automatic updates, so you can always get the latest and most secure software for your device.
- Practice healthy internet habits
Your thermostat may not have a lot of sensitive data attached to it, but your nanny cam does. Keep hackers away from your IoT network by making sure your phone and computer stay free of malware. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, run anti-virus software on your devices, and be careful about what you download.
- Use common sense
The Internet of Things may make life more convenient, improve productivity through optimization, and reduce human errors. Yet any security system is only as strong as its weakest link. When making use of IoT devices, remember to take adequate measures to safeguard your data, your wallet, and your identity. By securing your devices and your connection, the magic of IoT is all yours to enjoy.