The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the network of physical products and devices that connect to the Internet. Common household IoT devices include Internet-connected thermostats, alarm systems, and televisions, and even kitchen appliances. And it doesn’t stop there – IoT makes its way into everything from your automobile to these 10 “smart” gadgets that are just plain dumb. By 2020, there will be over 30 million IoT devices worldwide.
There is no doubt about it, “smart” devices have become a part of everyday life. But the thing we have to remember is: If it connects to the Internet, it has the potential to be hacked.
What makes IoT devices particularly vulnerable?
While reputable IoT products typically incorporate some security features, there are various reasons why smart devices can be dumb when it comes to security:
- Manufacturers minimize costs to improve profits, and security is often where they trim the fat as it’s not typically the key product feature.
- IoT devices often use a simplified operating system that can have increased vulnerabilities or backdoor access.
- Software updates and patches, if they happen at all, aren’t always advertised or easy to install.
- Factory default passwords are rarely unique to a single device. Many are easily found with a quick Google search!
In 2016, the infamous Mirai Botnet attack targeted IoT operating systems with unchanged factory default passwords to form a botnet, or “army” of connected devices. The combined computing power was able to take down huge parts of the Internet in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
My refrigerator gets hacked by a cybercriminal, so what?
With some IoT devices, the effects are clear. A hacked security camera, pet camera, or baby monitor can mean that a cybercriminal can potentially see and hear inside the home. But what about smart household devices such as refrigerators? Trust us – attackers can do more than melt your ice cream. Any Internet-connected device can be a “gateway,” meaning that a successful attack could allow a hacker into your network to monitor what you’re doing and/or compromise your data or systems.
This doesn’t mean swearing off IoT devices altogether; there are many trustworthy products on the market. Just don’t forget to keep security in mind when buying and installing a smart device.
Be Smart with Smart Devices
When considering an IoT device, do your research. Unrecognized or generic brands sometimes lack security information, and it’s hard to know whether the manufacturer will patch vulnerabilities. Invest in a reputable brand that offers robust security documentation and a track record of software updates. And remember to take these two important security steps:
- Change the default password to a strong, unique passphrase.
- Set software to update automatically. If that’s not an option, check for updates frequently and install them as soon as possible.
Products that are smarter, faster, cheaper, can seem appealing on the surface, but it’s what’s under the hood—or not—that we have to pay attention to.
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