The not-so-hidden risks of IoT

04.07.2018 718

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly approaching. It is estimated that in a few years, we will start to see the first huge wave of IoT devices, projects and innovations. All of this has huge potential not only for creating profitable businesses, but also for truly transformative products and services on a vast scale. Still, all of this goodness does not come without its fair share of risks and pitfalls. Some are obvious, others are simply neglected.

Before we check them out, let’s mention a few words about the Internet of Things and why it matters. IoT is the general term for all Internet-connected devices, which are not used directly by humans in everyday situations. Technically, your smartphone is also part of IoT, but since it’s something you interact with directly, it does not count towards IoT devices. The smart thermostat in your home, on the other hand, is an IoT device. Even if you do use it all the time and not only via the mobile app, but directly. The same goes for the smart oven, the security cameras, rain sensors, light sensors, etc.

Basically, all Internet-connected devices, which serve a specific function, are pat of IoT. Eventually, IoT sensors and devices could, and will be everywhere, performing all kinds of operations. From monitoring and counting traffic, and serving real-time corrections, to analyzing the way specific particles move in the air within an area. Long story short, IoT devices and sensors, along with the cloud and AI, will make a lot of currently near-impossible or time-consuming activities and analysis available in real time.

Sounds great, but it’s not all that ideal.

As IoT is still in its infancy, there are a lot of things to think about. The first major challenge is not to get overexcited about it. It’s easy to fall into the energy of making new technologies and services faster than anyone else. This might lead to negligence and the biggest issue of IoT at the moment is the lack of proper cybersecurity measures.

The IT industry risks making a big mistake by rushing the technology to the market without it being fully ready on the security front. At the risk of sounding a bit too negative, there are quite a few dangers, which may emerge if you neglect the security of potentially billions of small devices and sensors. Especially considering that they are going to “live” on the web in a few years time. Here are several of those risks:

Resource hacking

Imagine it – billions of connected devices working constantly. Granted, most will have tiny system resources, but when you scale it up, you can have quite the potent network. Hackers are already attacking CCTV cameras and even smart TVs to use their CPUs for botnets, cryptocurrency mining, etc. Imagine all of this scaled up into the hundreds of millions of devices. Even things like cracking encrypted data would suddenly seem feasible.

Surveillance

This is an obvious one. Hack the cameras, smart devices, speakers, etc. and, suddenly, you have a surveillance network from which you can’t hide much, if at all. Even things like how well cooked you like your potatoes will be possible to find out with the right hacking tools.

Real world damage

Something that is rarely talked about, but it’s very possible, is the damage that might be done globally. Imagine a network of IoT devices running the traffic lights in a big city. Now, DDoS that network and freeze it during rush hour. Or worse, gain access to it and “play around” with the settings and make the street lights of an entire intersection turn
green. Those are real dangers. Another option is to manipulate the data of sensors and throw entire datasets off, creating confusion.

Additional risk: vulnerability management. Simply having to be quick to patch and deploy vulnerabilities on such a mass scale will be a challenge.

There are also a few risks beyond security. And they have to do with the way we are going to use IoT in the first place.

Data complexity

IoT is going to generate unprecedented volumes of data in a very short amount of time. Storing, organizing and analyzing all of this in the right way is going to be difficult. And if you read the data wrong, you can cause yourself a lot of headaches.

Lack of standards

Currently, there’s a lot of freedom in IoT. That’s great, but too much freedom is not a good idea. The reason is, many new devices and services don’t really work well together with each other, especially from different manufacturers. Then, there’s also the issue of protocols. Most companies are currently racing to get their standard over so the rest will have to use it. This actually slows innovation down.

Awareness and the lack of it

Finally, we should have just plain and simple awareness. Most people don’t even realize how much technology is going to be around them at all times. And also how much of the things they see and use is going to be automated. People generally respond conservatively to such changes, so society has to be prepared carefully for this transformation.

Then, there’s also the change in awareness in business. IoT will change the way many companies work and has a lot of potential to boost their efficiency. In order to do so, though, companies have to be very in-tune with the latest developments (and risks) in IoT.