The rise of internet-connected devices that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT) is quietly affecting everyday life for many people in most modern societies around the globe.
The proliferation of these connected devices opens up innumerable security vulnerabilities that many people are unaware of.
Late last year, Gartner predicted that 4.9 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use this year.
With the global population at around 7.3 billion and counting, this equated to more than one connected device for every two people on the planet.
“Connected devices are all around us, such as home heating systems, refrigerators, and smart televisions,” says Jonathan Banks, Director, Operations, A/NZ, F-Secure.
“They are beginning to affect every facet of our lives and making things easier and more convenient.
“However, the rise of the IoT also presents an exponential rise in security threats to businesses and individuals, as vulnerabilities in IoT devices are increasingly exploited by malicious cyber criminals.”
According to Banks, there are three key reasons to pay close attention to the rise of the IoT and be aware of the potential threats that the connected devices present:
1. Threats are increasing
Malicious cyber attacks on IoT devices are on the rise, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), with research showing that 70 per cent of the most 10 commonly-used connected devices contain serious vulnerabilities.
The internet-connected devices that make up the IoT are vulnerable to attack because they lack the fundamental security safeguards that larger and more powerful connected devices are equipped with as a matter of course.
“Using smartphones as a point of control exacerbates IoT cyber threat risks because they are often unsecured,” Banks adds.
“Cambridge University research shows that around 87 per cent of the billions of Android smartphones globally have been exposed to at least one of 11 critical vulnerabilities.”
2. Smart cities are emerging
At the same time, so-called smart cities, in which connected devices are heavily used, are on the agenda for government and private enterprises alike.
“Clearly, incorporating connected devices into this kind of infrastructure opens up the potential for vulnerabilities that malicious attackers can use to compromise public facilities, putting people and infrastructure at risk,” Banks adds.
3. IoT data is becoming a big business
As free online applications such as Gmail and Facebook have become more popular, the idea that data can be used as a lucrative commodity has come to the fore.
Now, with individuals around the world adopting connected devices, IoT data is increasingly being collected and commoditised.
Device manufacturers, digital solutions providers, and telecommunications companies use IoT data as a revenue source, which presents yet another security concern.
As this data becomes more widely used by different companies for different purposes, the greater the potential for a data breach becomes.
“With so much IoT-derived data going around, all it takes is one weak link in the data chain for malicious criminals to obtain personal or sensitive user information, so it is vital to be diligent and careful about where your data goes and how it is treated,” Banks adds.