How Is Security Important To IoT Devices?

by Sawaram Suthar    Mar 16, 2016


Imagine you’re sitting in a driverless car, which is running on a pre-decided track. All of a sudden, you feel that the core system of the vehicle has been hacked from an external source, and you can’t do anything about it. All you can do is sit inside and pray. The car which was meant for your convenience becomes a 2×2 prison in someone else’s control, and you can’t even do anything about it.

Horrifying, isn’t it, but not surprising in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). Those who are familiar with IoT and its implications, might be aware of the power it holds within itself. It is an entire array of devices, colluding to form an ecosystem, which runs on your provided data and that too for your comfort.? This would be the exact anxiety you’ll experience if your ‘dream-home’ or business are threatened by your very own IoT devices getting hacked.

According to a Capgemini report, only 33% of its respondents believe their devices to be immune from future threats. An industry that will virtually put the entire control of your surroundings in your hands might sound magical in the first instance. 40 Billion Devices spread across all the corners of the globe by 2020, making the lives of billions of people, easier and smoother.

What if, this control you’ve in your hands, is lost? What if, your life system gets into the hands of a cybercriminal, sitting thousands of miles away from you, but having enough control to create havoc in your operations, may be just for fun?

The IoT technology will push us to a whole new level of controlling things, as well as putting us on the verge of becoming vulnerable, with every passing moment. So one thing looks clear: IoT will strengthen us and make us vulnerable, at the same time. The question remains, how?

1.   IoT devices are integrated

So, how’s it a problem? One may wonder how the hacking of one’s ‘smart-fridge’ would be a problem. Well, this device would be connected to all other devices you possess. Possibly, this device will contain a whole lot of personal data of yours.

Even worse, it can become the gateway to sensitive information stored in other devices, and a potential threat can rise up to your personal information via your Email, Bank Accounts, Government IDs, which you’ve connected with this device and all others.

For example, one of the devices of your IoT might be used to hack into your Social Media accounts. Probably, someone may use your toaster to hack into your Facebook. Now, you might work on protecting your PC and Phone from such cyber threats, but when you’ve hundreds if not thousands of sensors attached to various devices in your own house, what all will you secure!

2.   IoT devices generate data. A lot of it

This data might be useful, not only for you, but also for businesses who see a potential customer in you. One might become a potential target of a multimillion company trying to steal personal data for customized marketing, without even having knowledge about it.

The more data these devices generate, the more lucrative they become for such ‘Data Collectors’ out there, looking to ‘Help’ you with their services.

For instance, the smart watches/wearable have caught up lately. Yet, they generate a lot of personal information every moment. If someone can get an unauthorized access to this, they might get all the data related to your health. Even worse, if you use something like a drug infusion pump, someone might get access to your medication process and manipulate it maliciously.

3.   Device ‘Kidnapping’

Apple systems were considered to be immune from any possible hacking threats, until recently. Some device owners stated that their systems were hacked and the hackers were demanding a certain amount as ransom, to get it unlocked. Imagine this happening to your Car, Toaster, Refrigerator, Lighting System or any other device you chose to integrate into your IoT ecosystem.

Say, IoT is built up of sensors and devices which locate you. Let’s say, if your home security system or your webcam or any other optical device gets hacked, a hacker gets access to your surveillance system. It would become easier for someone to keep an eye on you, in your house, without you even having the slightest of idea about it.

4.   Your competitors hack into your devices

So the IoT revolution was positively embraced by your business. And with utmost pride, you integrated an IoT system in your business.

Now, just when everything is going for growth on a smooth pace, your devices get hacked. Imagine the kind of damage this can do, if the devices’ control is in a competitors hands, and that too when a customer/client is paying a visit to your business premises.

This might expose your business to the biggest of threats, as it might become a puppet in the hands of a competitor, and by the time you realize and react, the damage has already been done.

For example, devices that run on machine-to-machine communication will be the most vulnerable ones. Imagine the forklift of your Logistics Department gets hacked and ends up destroying most of the orders received. The very devices in this forklift’s range would also become a puppet in someone else’s hand. It would be pretty much like getting your neck held by someone else’s hand; the other person can do a lot, and you aren’t left with any other option but to follow him.

5.   These devices are the store-room for sensitive-data

To start with, credit card information is just the beginning. In case, your business is integrated with an IoT system, legal information and statistical data, that are crucial and sensitive to the business, all exposed to underlying threats.

-What if your Costing strategy gets revealed in public?

-What if the information of your unique suppliers is now known to a competitor?

-What if the data recorded by your business devices for your understanding, are simultaneously available to your competitors?

No matter how many strategies you formulate, how many security checks you try putting in, how creative you become in implementation of your plan, if IoT system is accessible to your competitors or anyone not working in your best interest, two words- Game Over. For example, many devices may transit to a ‘no service’ mode in crucial moments of need. Say, if the Refrigerating system of the storage units is hacked into in the night, by the morning many perishable goods may go bad.

So, the terms like cyber-policing, security integration, Data Immunity will all of a sudden start making sense to you.

The thing which makes IoT so amazing is its ability to adapt based on the data you feed in it. Although the biggest issue IoT is yet to deal with is to secure this very data which makes it attractive for hackers and external agents to break into. IoT might prove to be the biggest revolution, many sectors will see. But IoT will also open up avenues of threat; these sectors are yet to receive.

To deal with this, either a person opts out of IoT, and forego all the opportunities it brings with itself. Since this may sound illogical, securing an IoT will become as important as integrating it.

Cyber Security has evolved with its advance requirement. But to match up the accelerating growth of IoT devices, the Security sector will have to buck up.

The security dimension isn’t entirely dependent on third party security providers, but is also hugely relative to how and when the user uses IoT and up to what extent is he/she ready to spend for securing his/her devices.

The last piece of the IoT security puzzle would be the manufacturers. Up to what extent can a device allow third party interference and up to what extent can they immune these devices.

(Sawaram Suthar is a digital marketing geek. Currently, he is a marketing consultant at Skyward Techno Inc that provides CRM and ERP. You can reach him @sawarams or via his blog