If a smartphone is a basic necessity at this point, what other devices do you have at home? Do you ask Alexa for the weather in the morning or create meal plans on your Samsung refrigerator? Or maybe your thermostat learns your temperature preferences, adjusts the settings, and ensures that the energy bill stays low.
As connected as the world is now, it’s hard to fathom just how truly connected we are; most of us are surrounded by smart devices from the moment we wake up to when we lay our heads on our pillows. So what are these devices, how do they work, and what does this dependence on them mean for us? Let’s dive in.
What are IoT Devices?
As mentioned above, smart devices are used for an endless amount of tasks that make our lives a little bit easier and referring to these devices as smart is another way of saying IoT devices. IoT, or the Internet of Things, are machines that are connected to the internet so they both receive and send information and create an interconnected network amongst them.
Devices such as smart locks, doorbell cams, plugs, and even smart bidets are just some of the infinite amount of machines that are now connected to the internet. Outside of everyday household products, there are many IoT devices that are industrial and are important in enhancing our society too, such as factory monitoring and automation.
How do IoT Devices Work?
You may be lost in the clouds a bit about how IoT devices work but don’t worry, IoT is much more at home in the Cloud. IoT devices work cyclically in how they gather, analyze, and later present data to the user. It can be broken down into four steps:
For devices to be of use, they must collect data based on what they perceive in the environment. Some devices have sensors that gather the information from their surroundings and others are devices that take in data from various sources like a smartphone. For example, thermostats use their sensors to gather information on the temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors.
2. Internet connection
Now that the IoT has collected all the data, what next? The device shares the information that they have with the Cloud using their connection to the internet. The IoT can connect to the Cloud in a variety of ways such as cell data, WiFi, bluetooth, and satellite.
3. Data analysis
Now that the Cloud has the data, it needs to be processed. At this stage, software takes it and analyzes and organizes it so that it can be sent right back to the device.
4. User interaction
The data is ready for user access and goes to the device to display all the processed information.
IoT devices try to maintain internet connectivity and this process constantly repeats so that they can continue to provide the user with the desired information.
In 2021, there were more than 10 billion active IoT devices and it is projected that by 2030, the number of IoT active devices will reach almost 30 billion. These devices are an integral part of our society and now that we use them so frequently, we have come to depend on them as well.
Unfortunately, IoT devices are sensitive machines and can be breached by hackers looking to take advantage of their connectivity and access a massive amount of data. The data that they are collecting is dangerous in the wrong hands. Some devices are even constant video feeds of your house. But to which kinds of dangers are IoT devices susceptible?
Poor testing and updating
One of the biggest reasons that IoT devices are susceptible to security breaches is because most companies don’t watch over their devices’ networks and only act when a problem has already occurred. As hackers become more creative and bold, they’re finding different ways to sneak their way beyond the current security parameters and since companies don’t continuously test for and make updates to their devices’ defenses, the information may get breached later on.
A botnet attack is a sophisticated manipulation of a huge number of malware-corrupted bots that are sent to attack a certain target all at once. IoT devices are highly vulnerable to malware attacks; as a result, cybersecurity has to be ready for them and unfortunately, IoT devices don’t normally receive updates to their systems as computers do. Botnet attacks can easily take down and threaten big and small devices alike.
Expanded attack surface
As seen above, IoT devices have reached an astronomically high number of active use and there is no stopping them. Because of this and the fact that they are all interconnected, hackers have an easier time of attacking finding one small entryway that is less protected and taking advantage of it to reach other sensitive information.
Especially vulnerable devices
There are some IoT devices that can be used to gain access to more than just your sensitive information and can be even dangerously hijacked to cause physical harm in the real world.
Home invasion has always been a threat; however, houses are replete with IoT devices with some homes taking on the role of a modern day Smart House. Thanks to poor defense mechanisms and unsafe devices, hackers can easily gain access to the IP address of a user’s home and also learn the address of their home.
2. Smart vehicle access
Similar to break-ins, smart vehicles are also vulnerable to hacking, but this can be even more dangerous in that other features of a smart car can be used for safety while moving. A smart car can be hacked not only to remove crucial safety procedures, but also to block turning over the engine, restrict access to the car, and even access your location.
Although IoT devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks, there are many cybersecurity professionals that are working diligently to prevent them from breaking through the devices’ defenses. The following are just a few ways that cybersecurity professionals can protect your data:
Back end systems, IoT devices, and the network that links the two need to be fortified with security features for when cyberattacks happen and include the following:
IDS and IPS (intrusion detection/prevention software)
SIEM (Security information and event management)
Network segmentation into VLANS
IoT security analytics and updates
IoT devices generate a lot of data, which can be very beneficial for cybersecurity professionals in mitigating security risks. The information that they collect can show potential vulnerabilities and threats to the network and consequently, giving them the opportunity to course correct, think of a solution, and enact updates to the system.
IoT devices authentication
Cybersecurity solutions are becoming more and more thorough and personal and use identity authentication to prove that the correct person is accessing the information. If you have ever had to ask a security question or click a box that ensures that you’re not a robot, then you have gone through this step. In addition to multi-factor authentication, biometric systems are put in place to ensure that no hacker can get to the information.
Public key infrastructure strategy
Sometimes cybersecurity requires high complexity when it comes to protecting data and in the case of public key infrastructure strategy, key pairs are used to ensure that encryption has extra security. The process uses public and private cryptographic pairs to secure the information. PKI uses two sets of encryption, asymmetric and symmetric, that depend on the two keys.
Asymmetric encryption requires a public and a private key. If information is encrypted with the public key, then decryption must be carried out with the private one.
Symmetric encryption does not require both keys, but rather one same key.
Both asymmetric and symmetric encryption secure your data, but are used for different purposes.
The future of IoT devices and cybersecurity
As IoT devices become more and more ubiquitous and the surface area for attack extends further and further, the need for more creative solutions to defend them from cyberattacks grows alongside them and who will create them? Cybersecurity professionals.
As threats increase and escalate, companies will need more and more cybersecurity professionals to create new ways to protect their networks, devices, and data. It is estimated that by 2025, there will be approximately 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions globally. If you’re looking to become one of these cybersecurity professionals, look no further than Ironhack’s cybersecurity bootcamp and soon enough, you’ll be helping fortify IoT devices’ cybersecurity yourself.