Thursday, November 01, 2018

Beware: IoT Devices Bring Features AND Security Risks

IoT or Internet of Things devices provide capabilities and functionality that once seemed improbable. From things as simple as making phone calls to more complicated tasks like adding items to a grocery list, ordering food, managing the temperature of rooms and turning lights on, internet connected devices provide a vast array of features. 

IoT devices access the internet to accomplish many of their features. For example, the internet allows them to:
  • Connect with servers that manage their software
  • Connect with other devices and third-party applications
  • Sync with other devices and applications
  • Install security and feature updates
  • Add new features
  • Much more
Unfortunately, like anything connected to the internet, an inherent security risk is introduced by having this capability. A Consumer Reports investigation from earlier this year reported that millions of televisions could potentially be controlled by hackers exploiting security flaws in these devices. You might not be concerned about a hacked television, but other devices that control temperatures and more, present a much larger risk.

Beware: IoT Devices Bring Features AND Security Risks

The images below show features from an IoT fan and light device. The device app controls room temperature based on time of day and days of the week, lighting, motion lighting, fan speeds, light brightness, and much more. Device features can be manually changed or scheduled in the application.

Devices with access to the internet have become a target for security threats. Exploiting the ability to connect to the internet, hackers can access security flaws and connect to those devices. Once connected, they can use this access for nefarious purposes whether it be accessing credentials, changing settings or other uses. 

There are two main things to consider to best protect yourself when adding IoT devices to your home. These are:
  1. Purchasing IoT devices from a reputable company that has been around for some time and in all likelihood will remain for many years to come.
  2. Updating the firmware on the device as soon as you install it, and keeping it up-to-date in the future.
The first item is important because a well-established company is more likely to have the appropriate funds to spend on implementing decent security on their devices. Also, they are typically less likely to put their reputation at risk due to risking your personal information. Additionally, if something does go wrong, a reputable company will do everything it can to quickly resolve the issue, provide appropriate compensation and keep you informed of the issue, as well as what they plan to do in the future to prevent repeat offenses.

The second item is critical because keeping the software up-to-date reduces security risks. It is important to update the software if at all possible once you get it as there are likely already updates. Updating a device can usually be accomplished in 5 - 10 minutes and is well worth the time to reduce the security risk. Also, additional features are often included in updates making them well worth the time. Lastly, remember to update these devices on a regular basis so any new security risks discovered are also patched.

There are many different types of IoT devices, all of which perform differently, update differently, and integrate into our lives differently. The important thing to note is that they should all have a settings menu somewhere. For smart televisions and devices that connect to televisions, there is often a button on the remote or in the software interface. Other devices use applications that control settings. Whatever the device type, you will almost always find an update feature within the settings menu. 

IoT devices are becoming more and more common and will not be going away any time soon. Even if you do not utilize their features, you can be introducing their security risks when you purchase a device with internet capability. It is important to understand the risks a device presents and reduce the risk as much as possible. Purchasing from a reputable brand and keeping the device up-to-date will help reduce your risk.

As always, more features means increased risk exposure. Knowing how to be proactive and best protect yourself is key! 

Enjoy this post? Subscribe to our Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment