IoT lays out the welcome mat for hackers to hack our smart connected homes

Yossi Atias, general manager IoT Security at BullGuard

Imagine waking up one morning to do the school run and realising that your whizzy, WiFi-enabled home has been hacked, and you can’t use your connected devices until you pay up a serious amount of bitcoins.

Sound far-fetched? asks Yossi Atias, general manager IoT Security at BullGuard. It’s not.

With connected devices expected to reach 21 billion by the year 2020, smart device manufacturers are racing to launch products to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) gold rush. We can do all manner of awesome things as a result – from cranking up our energy management system as we drive home on a chilly night, to interacting with our children on an IP camera, or monitoring our homes while lounging on a beach thousands of miles away.

However, what IoT device manufacturers are not rushing to share is the threats that come with creating a smart home. In the face of economic pressures to get to market quickly, IoT device makers are failing to implement proper security into their products.

So, while the Internet of Things can indeed revolutionise our home to make it run more comfortably and smoothly, it also makes us vulnerable to much more visible, painful cyber crimes than ever before. Why? Because by hooking up millions of devices up to the internet, we’re essentially exposing them to hackers. By using numerous hacking methods, they can access and control our connected devices, from our light bulbs to fridges to baby monitors.

The number of things that we can today connect to the Internet is always increasing, and the job of protecting all these devices is a daunting task. Internet security, and moreover, cybersecurity – has rapidly become an entirely new ballgame.

Nevertheless, no matter how daunting, this is a challenge we cannot afford to ignore and simply hope it goes away. We are already witnessing cyber-attacks becoming both more brazen and more common, and as more of us take our homes online, this trend is only going to continue. It’s also no good thinking that if you buy from a well-known manufacturer that you’ll be OK and they’ll have security covered. Most likely, they won’t. In some cases, our privacy will be breached by the device manufacturer themselves.

Consider the Mirai botnet cyber attacks back in October 2016, which brought down some bastions of the internet such as Twitter, PayPal, Netflix, Spotify, CNN, Fox News and Pinterest. More recently, CloudPets’ Teddy Bears leaked 2.2 million voice recordings of children and parents. What this story proves is that we are living in a connected world where even connected Teddy Bears pose a threat.

Yes, smart devices are smart. But, they might also be dumb. They can’t always fend off cyber attacks, they won’t alert you if somebody is hacking your device from the internet, and they won’t raise a red flag if your privacy is being breached. They simply don’t always have the proper hardware and software architecture to incorporate any of the security tools that are now standard for home and business computing.

So, what can you do to protect your smart home from hackers?

Recognise that you must secure your individual devices, as well as the computers or smartphones that control them.

    • Don’t leave default passwords in place; it’s frighteningly easy for hackers to discover default passwords and develop malware designed to exploit and gain control of these devices.
    • Add another authentication layer beyond a password. For instance, experts are increasingly saying that passwords are now insufficient and calling for people to use a security code sent to a mobile phone when possible.
    • Apply all software upgrades as soon as possible. The reason that updates are issued is that manufacturers have identified vulnerabilities and are eradicating them. So, if you don’t update your software immediately, you are making your home more vulnerable to hackers who will also have spotted the vulnerabilities.
    • Protect your home to the level of security more typically used in large enterprises. Use an artificially intelligent system like Dojo that provides tailored security for each device, continuously monitoring for internal and external attacks.

While some of these tips may seem a little technical for the average user, they also deliver the most powerful smart home protection possible today. These are necessary steps corporations are taking to protect their businesses. Your home is your most prized possession, right? So why not do everything in your power to protect it?

Besides, with peace of mind, you are then free to enjoy those smart devices to the fullest — whether it’s a perfectly brewed cup of tea from your smart kettle on your return, or monitoring your home while you’re soaking up the sun on a remote beach. Hackers are the 21st-century burglars; don’t lay out the welcome mat for them.

The author of this blog is Yossi Atias, general manager IoT Security at BullGuard.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_ OR @jcIoTnow


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