Home C-Letter E-Letter January 2017

E-Letter January 2017

by Anthony Weaver

Internet of Things (IOT): The Dangers

The Internet of things (IoT) can be defined as the rapidly growing network of connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. Examples include: thermostats, cars, lights, refrigerators, and more appliances can all be connected to the IoT.

Doubtless the benefits of IOT are seemingly endless, for instance in health. The integration of IoT into the health care systems could prove invaluable to the individual and a society.  A chip could be implemented into each individual, allowing hospitals to monitor the vital signs of the patient.  By tracking their vital signs, it could help indicate whether or not serious assessment is necessary. Or, security, IOT can also assist people with their personal safety.  ADT, which is a home security system, allows individuals to monitor their security systems at home through their phones, with the ability to control it

However, what are the dangers, hopefully not insuperable? Cyberattacks have mainly impacted our “virtual lives”, many individuals, governments and companies have lost their privacy, identities, data, money, dignity as a result of online fraud and hacking.  We can imagine terrible scenarios in which, say, whole energy or transport systems are taken down having a devastating impact on peoples’ physical lives but these are, fortunately, still only remote threats given the level of cyber protection in place. However, if smart devices, are to become common how do private individuals protect themselves against cyber-attacks, when the risk may be fatal as in a driverless car, where it may be possible to hack into not just one but maybe a whole number of vehicles simultaneously leading to death or injury.  Are we prepared to take the risk when heretofore the risk was merely “virtual”?

Gartner analyst Drue Reeves recently considered ways to mitigate such IOT security threats Among other steps needed to diminish such risks, Reeves highlighted the need for circuit breakers, or other fail-safes that should be engineered in IoT systems. He noted the potential for “catastrophic events” in environments driven by machine learning algorithms and fully automated systems that can take actions based on real-time data streams in a matter of seconds.

However, the main problem with IoT devices is that their manufacturers have been slow to implement security. Many devices, like security monitoring cameras, are produced as inexpensively as possible and are accordingly equipped with the most basic software, which often can’t be updated.

As awareness increases, some “smarter” IoT devices can be brought up to current security standards with periodic firmware updates. While it’s a start, the majority of internet-ready devices cannot be integrated into the conventional IT hardware or software protections with which companies protect themselves against internet-based attacks. The variety of new internet-ready devices brings a mass of new data traffic to the network that must be managed and secured by IT departments. But it’s complicated by the variety of network protocols used by all of these various device types.

IoT introduces additional complexity for security. Companies are advised to monitor the data traffic to and from IoT devices in their network. Perimeter-based solutions are not adequate in today’s IT environment because users and apps can no longer be contained inside a company’s network, behind a clearly defined protective wall.

Companies should evaluate new security concepts that have already proven reliable as workplace tools of mobile employees and branch locations. For example, a protective shield from the cloud can scan all incoming and outgoing data traffic for malicious code, regardless of the device used. With cloud solutions, companies gain control of all internet-based traffic and can actively manage which communications are permitted or should be blocked. This can include preventing the printer from automatically ordering toner and restricting all other devices to a minimum amount of communication on the web.

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