Dispelling Misconceptions - What we Think we Know About IoT and Security

The internet of things - IoT for short - is taking over the world, specifically businesses. This technology is the latest in the series of technological evolutions that have taken place since the computer (and the internet) was first created. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are misconceptions not only surrounding IoT itself but also the security of the devices that come under its umbrella. But before we move on to address these misconceptions, we have to understand what the term actually means.



What Exactly is the “Internet of Things”?

The question of exactly “what” this technology is, is something that a lot of people don’t ask simply because they don’t want to know. In our day and age, we just want to consume more and more advanced and sophisticated technology without actually understanding it. And therein lies the problem.

When people don’t understand something, they tend to put the blame on it when something goes wrong. In an HBR article, writer Andrew Tannenbaum speaks of an Internet of Things hostage situation that is not difficult to imagine due to the security problems surrounding IoT devices. In the same article, he speaks of the reasons behind these problems. We shall explore them later in this article.

As for now, in order to understand Internet of Things, we must understand what it is.

Internet of Things is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. This definition is an oversimplification of something that is revolutionizing the world we live in.-      Oxford Living Dictionaries

IoT’s development is changing the way data is received, perceived and utilized. If anything, it is just a stepping stone which may ultimately be used by AI technology. But that may be years down the lane. The fact is, IoT is creating a network among devices that we use all the time - it can be through our phones, refrigerators, television screens - everything that we come in contact with every single day to learn more about us as a consumer so that it can adapt and integrate technology even further into our lives.

Basically, what IoT devices are doing is that they are making everything easier for us by using sensors, actuators, and software to connect everything in our lives from our front door to our smartphones to one central unit.

And this may sound scary because of the many, many “AI gone rogue” Hollywood blockbuster movies that have come out over the years, and because of growing hacking problems, security is a concern for anyone who uses the Internet of Things in any aspect of their life. Our job though is to help anyone with any misconceptions surrounding the usage of IoT.

IoT Devices are Secure

This may sound obvious, but it is the biggest misconception surrounding IoT devices and the reason behind it is pretty legitimate. After all, why would you care about IoT security? It couldn’t have been released into the market just like that.

However, it is important for individuals to understand one thing: the manufacturers of IoT devices aren’t selling their products with security in mind. It is you - the buyer - who must be wary of security concerns because, at the end of the day, you are the one who will be affected by any security breaches.

In fact, various individuals and companies have begun questioning the security of IoT devices because of a few cases where hackers have hacked into the network and used that as a bargaining chip. This is alarming. Luckily, big businesses and even government agencies like the FBI have taken notice of the lack of security in some IoT devices and there has been a lot of talk and implementation of more secure fronts for these devices.

In order to put this misconception to bed, it is important that you understand that IoT is a very new development in the field and therefore, a lot of manufacturers are rushing to take advantage of it but that doesn’t mean that its security is being neglected.

As for now, it is very important that you as an individual take care of your IoT devices yourself. It is not that complicated either. A lot of people think that IoT is just part of the IT department of the firm. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to ensure that your system is secure - all you need to do is be careful.


Only Those Authorized can Access IoT Devices and the Network

This misconception follows the first one and is part of network security. A lot of individuals believe that because they are spending a lot of money on the Internet of Things, their investment should be safe from unauthorized access. This isn’t true.

You do not need an IT expert to connect a device to your system. Anyone can do it. Therefore, it is important that you do not expose your network to everyone. It should not be easy for your employees, clients...anyone really to connect to your network.

Because the security of any other device plugged into your system is not checked - it could be the tool used to hack your system, and it’s really not that hard to hack into a computer or a smartphone that does not have the right security settings.  This is why we strongly recommend that every IoT device connected to your network is thoroughly checked to eliminate the chances of these devices being used to breach your network security.

All IoT Devices are Interconnected

This is yet another misconception that arises when people don’t understand a certain bit of technology. It is, therefore, very important that you understand this as it makes the case for why - in spite of the risk - you should be thinking about using IoT. It is also a good security protocol and can prevent security risks.

While all IoT devices are definitely connected to the main network, they are not connected to each other - unless the network operator wants that. They will also not work together i.e. you can choose to assign certain devices with certain tasks and protocols. By using this facility, you can ensure that the IoT devices handed out to your staff only shows data you want them to be able to access. This is also a very good way of preventing corporate espionage and also security breach.

The Internet of Things is a Waste for Small Business

Moving away from security breaches, we will now move on the usefulness of IoT for small businesses. Larger companies are at the risk of hacking and security issues because they have large corporate rivals who may be willing to pay quite a bit to know their trade secrets. This is why they have to spend more on network security than start-ups or small businesses. In fact, it has been shown that the security of small businesses has actually improved by using IoT. Not only that, but it actually helps to grow a business and make it more efficient by making the business “smarter”.

In today’s world, that is a brilliant way to stay with and ahead of the competition. IoT is helping small businesses to prosper so that makes a good case for the technology and is something small business owners should definitely look into. It may not seem so, but IoT is not very expensive for installation and you can take advantage of the organization and stability it brings to the table.

IoT devices are not secure

This statement contradicts the very first misconception introduced in this article and the reason behind it is that while a lot of people don’t even think about IoT security, many others believe that they are not secure enough to make the investment.

As mentioned earlier, there is research going on into IoT security and users themselves must also take the initiative to work on security themselves, the point is that IoT devices can be made safe.

As you can see, the security of IoT devices, in the end, lies primarily with the user. Companies can provide the user with a lot of security but it is up to you to use IoT in such a way that it does not cost you. So even though it might seem very daunting, with the right security check in place, IoT devices are quite safe and can be used to make your business better.

Conclusion

It is safe to say that IoT and security go hand in hand with proper work ethics. If you focus on the right things in your business and are generally concerned about its welfare, you will take the necessary steps required to ensure that not only does your business prosper under the Internet of Things, but that it will also remain safe.