Will Security Issues be IoT's Achilles Heel?

Author:Curran, Kevin

The buzz around IoT has been palpable for several years and the potential of the technology is undeniable. A variety of devices are now being connected to the internet from fridges to GPS trackers on elephants, all of which are offering numerous benefits but after close to a decade of hype, why are we yet to see the full potential of IoT? In a nutshell: security concerns.

IoT has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives. Our homes will soon be filled with devices connected to the internet, keeping us informed of what is in our fridge, heating or cooling rooms or even making a pot of coffee. In industry, factories are being transformed by IoT with machines able to detect issues in real-time, identify weaknesses or bottlenecks and communicate with other machines. IoT is even tackling some of world's biggest conservation issues. A partnership between ZSL, UCL and Microsoft Research is using connected devices such as GPS trackers and drones to track endangered species in Africa to better understand their migration patterns and protect them from poachers.

But in our rush to bring the technology to the mainstream, a vital step has been missed that could lead to IoT being brought to its knees. IoT has been developed at such speed, security standards have failed to be developed at similar pace. Recent cyberattacks, such as NotPetya and WannaCry, have crippled entire organisations and highlighted the dangers and potential scale of a major breach.

As more devices come online, particularly in critical infrastructure, they become more attractive to hackers who can hold systems to ransom knowing organisations will be forced to pay to regain control of their systems rather than risk having vital operations offline.

The security of individual devices is the first major concern as a single vulnerable device could lead to an entire network being compromised. Compromised devices have been the root cause of recent botnet attacks, opening up entire organisations to hackers. It is vital that IT managers, and even business leaders, ensure that their systems are protected at the device level as any piece of hardware connected to the internet, even an air-conditioning unit or smart bulb, is a potential entry point for a hacker.

The rapid growth of the IoT market has seen an explosion in the number of IoT solutions, with the focus on the hardware to enable these solutions. As a result, there has been a lack of consistency and standards across the...

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