The Internet of things (IoT) is a growing presence in our everyday lives. There are many households now that contain smart home technology, and it is hoped that soon we will also encounter more smart IoT devices outside our homes. Smart appliances such as toasters and refrigerators are among the most common smart devices making their way into our homes.

While a smart toaster may not sound like a security threat, if an attacker manages to gain access to the device, they could wreak havoc with the entire network. When it comes to the IoT, a security weakness in one device can serve as an entry point into the entire network.

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What Is the IoT?

The internet of things in its broadest sense encompasses every device that connects to the internet. However, it is increasingly being used to describe electronic devices that are capable of talking directly to one another. These are everyday items that we expect to find in our homes, such as toasters, sensors, cameras, and wearable electronics, that are all connected.

Combining these devices with automated systems on a network makes it possible to gather, analyze, and create data, which can then be spread across the network. This opens the possibility for consumer electronics to play a broader role in assisting humans with more complex tasks in their day-to-day lives. These devices can also learn from observing processes.

While the IoT offers numerous potential benefits for our everyday lives, it also brings about some new and important privacy concerns. Any device that connects to the IoT has the potential to be hacked. With devices connected to one another, it is relatively simple for a virus or piece of malware to propagate through a network.

There are also some surveillance concerns. Many IoT devices contain built-in cameras and microphones, either of which could be exploited to spy on device owners.

Security is of paramount importance for any network with many IoT devices connected to it. However, there is still a widespread lack of awareness over how important security is when you are dealing with IoT devices and networks. Fortunately, there are many ways owners of IoT devices can mitigate or prevent a hack.

Security Threats

The IoT market is rapidly becoming saturated with new devices. Because of the way IoT devices work, attackers only need to identify a single weak point to gain access to all the other individual devices on the network. It is, therefore, vital that any users of smart home devices understand the security threats IoT devices face.

One common cause of security flaws within IoT devices is because a device contains a built-in web server. Such devices are generally more vulnerable to attacks. In one known case, attackers used some social engineering skills, along with a malware redirect, to infect the network of a bank. This was possible because the bank’s security cameras had a security hole. When it comes to corporate networks, many cybersecurity specialists claim that IoT devices introduce more risks than benefits. To put it simply, they create multiple new entry points into a network. All it takes is a security flaw in one of these devices to provide attackers with access to entire networks.

The nature of the IoT means that, while some of the bigger players, such as Amazon and Google, put a lot of effort into ensuring their device security, it is the smaller companies that tend to put their networks at risk. Each network is only as secure as the least secure device on it. You should always investigate the security features of any device you are considering adding to your network.

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Preventing Security Breaches

There are a few simple steps that IoT device owners can take to ensure their networks are as secure as possible. One of the simplest things you can do is add a router-level VPN to your network. By installing a VPN on your router, you ensure that all internet traffic automatically passes through the VPN. This means that attackers won’t be able to trace any connections you make back to you. Instead, they will trace back to the VPN server you choose to use.

Another simple yet effective way of keeping your IoT devices secure is changing their default passwords. Some of your devices may not have this option, but many of them will. A new law introduced recently in California requires any password-protected electronics to be sold with a secure password by default, rather than leaving the responsibility to set it up to the user.

The internet of things devices, including pacemakers and even automobiles, have shown to be very insecure. Fortunately, there are some simple steps anyone can take to better secure their networks.

This is a guest post by Scott O’Haire.