Technology
Jun 25.2018

Security risks of IoT: Why is it so difficult to stay private online?

IoT (Internet of Things) is one of the most high profile trends in the field of software development. This concept serves as a foundation for, among others, ‘smart’ houses, life-support systems for medical centers, and advanced security systems – which include many sensor devices for tracking abnormal activity in the secured vicinity apart from cameras, etc. Even your PC, if it is connected to the Internet, is a part of the IoT. Sounds awesome except for one issue. The thing is, once you connect to the worldwide web, you automatically get into a risk group and become a potential victim of online scammers and hackers.  What are the security risks of IoT and what should IoT-device owners expect when browsing the network carelessly?

IoT market: Statistics and facts

Digital devices are becoming ever more cost-effective, and many new implementations of various existing devices are able to connect to the Internet, in part because of this. On one hand, this provides a mass of great advanced opportunities (e.g., smart houses – nowadays a commonplace thing – used to be a sci-fi movie attribute back in the day). On the other hand, online scammers don’t sleep and see great scamming opportunities in such devices.

For preference, scammers use such search engines as Shodan and Censys (probably unfamiliar to regular users) to get access to web cameras, TVs, computers, smartphones, and other smart devices. This sad practice is alive and well: an online scam happens practically every hour.

Find out below which five device types most often fall victim to private data leaks and other IoT security risks. (Read more: Top-10 Security Tips for Embedded Linux Devices) 

Top five IoT devices most frequently attacked by hackers

Computers, laptops, smartphones, and smart wearables

The IoT devices most used in daily life are PCs, smartphones, and smart wearables. Unfortunately, today, it doesn’t take much effort for experienced hackers to connect to these items (especially if owners don’t make up a complex password and customize default configurations). In this way, millions of people fall victim to an unauthorized personal life intrusion. Moreover, many hackers use this to realize even more sinister plans than blackmail: for instance, to create a botnet.

Smart automobiles

Smart cars have increased a colossal amount in popularity over the years. We believe that in the next few years, such cars will become available for most people on the planet. Nevertheless, the fact that all such vehicles are managed by an onboard computer implies their initial susceptibility to hacker attacks. The outcomes of cybercriminals intruding into one’s onboard system could be as much as fatal.

CCTV, door locks, motion detectors, and security gadgets

Surveillance cameras, as well as all sensors featured by smart houses, are extremely popular target objects for hackers. By hacking such devices, they can shamelessly watch you in secret and change configurations which can have harmful effects (e.g., a security system can be shut down to enable a smooth intrusion into a secured location to steal financial credit documents, money, etc.)

Smart refrigerators

Among the primary objectives of smart fridges is monitoring that a certain amount of various groceries is contained in the user’s fridge at all times. As soon as butter/milk/eggs run out, the refrigerator automatically orders new groceries from a supermarket; in a few hours, you get a new package of food delivered to your home. Some cyber criminals practice on such IoT devices by hacking then and ordering random products. This might seem a relatively small inconvenience – but it is still an unpleasant experience.

Smart TV

Many models of smart television sets have built-in web cameras and microphones. Having acquired access to your TV, criminals can record everything available to the camera or microphone. The resulting material can often be used for blackmail (videos might be posted on adult-oriented web resources). One way or another, experts recommend not leaving cameras and microphones on when unused.

How to increase the level of security of your IoT devices

Set up strong passwords on IoT devices

The first thing you can do right now to decrease the security risks of IoT is to refresh passwords on all your IoT devices. First of all, this concerns the devices that provide the connection to the Internet – routers and access points – as well as IP cameras, access to which can be simply gained via Shodan. Notice that passwords must not only be different from the default ones but comprise a complex combination of variously-registered letters, digits, and special symbols. It mustn’t be a combination of your name, date of birth, or some ordinary words.

The best thing to do here is to use a password generation service to generate passwords so that a criminal is unable to make them up with the help of specialized vocabularies.

Update software versions regularly

Old firmware usually means vulnerable firmware. Regular updating of software on your IoT devices can help protect them from unauthorized network access. Nevertheless, don’t rush and download a new software version right after it is released. Wait for at least a few weeks until other users approve its security level based on real experience (you can find out about how secure it is either on the software provider’s official website or on themed forums) and only then try installing it yourself.

Use public WiFi carefully

Avoid connecting to WiFi in public places without employing VPN. Otherwise, you risk becoming a victim of hackers for whom it would take a few minutes to break into the public wireless network.

Customize the default settings of devices enabling Internet connection

If you value your privacy, you will definitely have to customize the settings of the router or any other device providing access to web resources. In particular, we strongly recommend disabling connection through PIN and closing opened ports if they aren’t necessary (this doesn’t go for ports numbers 80 and 443, which provide the data transfer between the HTTP and HTTPS protocols, respectively).

Further prospects of security tool development for IoT-based devices

The development of hardware and software security tools that provide privacy for data transferred through various devices provokes growth in the number of ways to hack them. Sure, if you use an efficient firewall, switch firmware often, and use strong passwords, your chances of avoiding being hacked will increase. Nevertheless, security experts see great hopes in specialized software solutions based on AI, which are barely in practical consumer use at this time.

However, we believe that in the next couple of years, prospects for implementing such protection projects will become more accessible, and the budget required for their creation and deployment will gradually decrease.

Conclusion

IoT devices are still pretty susceptible to viruses and online scammers. If you are planning to implement specialized software in your IoT equipment and care about data security, it’s best to seek help from the professionals. We are always ready to take responsibility for creating and deploying top-class secure software. We have great expertise in this and can confidently guarantee the minimization of security risks of IoT devices involved in your project. We will be pleased to assist!

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