Securing the Internet of Things

Millions of unsecured devices, that constitute the Internet of Things (IoT), has provided an equal number of access points through which the security of any network can be compromised. In the face of evolving cyber-attacks, how can IoT be secured to ensure safety and data privacy?

Securing the Internet of Things
Security of IoT devices risk ‘single-point’ attacks on the system

The availability of myriad software-driven electronic appliances has enabled them to be interconnected, usually through private or public networks. The grid of such connected devices is known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.  Through connectivity and data transfer, IoT devices help save both time and money, assisting our race to adjust to the rapid digitization of the world. However, concerns regarding the security of these devices have curbed their market potential and applications. In order to lower the price of products, manufacturers usually neglect to install sound security firewalls on them – making them vulnerable to hackers. Once a hacker gains access to a smart IoT device, the individual can mine personalized data, use it to launch attacks on alternate targets, and manipulate the functioning of the device in itself. In a world terrorized by cyber-attacks, IoT devices, instead of preventing it, has opened millions of doors to facilitate it.

So, what are the various ways in which manufacturers, corporations, and users mitigate the vulnerability of IoT security? One such method is to ensure consistency in the technology used to power the security of such devices. If a network of IoT devices has just one unsecured appliance, it will be the access point used to infiltrate the system. Such “single-point” attack methods make the collective as vulnerable as the individual. Instead, a consistency in security technology of each device is crucial to provide end to end solutions and ensure the whole system is robust to a certain degree. The security community has pushed for “the practice of building security into the basic design of devices that will be attached to a network rather than trying to patch designs after they’ve been connected to the network.”

In addition to maintaining consistency, the security of such devices should also be standardized. Giving the risk of using such devices, independent governing bodies should be set up that can determine the minimum safety standard for each component. At present, no such standardized certification exists – meaning higher-end devices have better security protocols than cheaper ones. So, if you have one device in your IoT network that doesn’t meet the minimum safety criteria, your whole system is prone to attack.

As IoT devices generate huge amounts of data, corporations mine them to understand public behavior and tendencies. The analyzing of such copious amounts of data leave them at a risk of being accessed by hackers. Thus, the presence of legacy infrastructure is crucial to ensure that such data gets analyzed without ever having to fall into the hands of malicious parties who can use it for personal gain.

There are also, several ways in which an IoT user can ensure the safety of their devices and privacy of their data. It’s usually advisable to isolate all IoT devices from data-storage appliances like phone and computer. This could be achieved using a smart router, which can set up a separate network for all the IoT devices. Moreover, many IoT devices don’t provide any added benefits of connecting to the internet. It’s recommended to keep such devices offline. Ensuring regular security update of devices will help them keep up with the latest trend in cyber-attacks.

By 2020, it’s estimated that more than 30 billion IoT devices will be operational, reaching a global market value of $7 trillion. If not properly secured, it could be a goldmine for hackers – as they can use any of these devices to access the network. IoT’s are a testament to the continuous evolution of connectivity, and its security is vital to safeguard sensitive information that they generate.


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