The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the way businesses operate. By integrating technology into our daily lives, we have opened a door to an entirely new level of innovation. Start-ups, massive conglomerates and everyone in between is doing the best they can to push their IoT devices out into the market, making competition fierce. This era of technological innovation has been dubbed “the IoT gold rush” by Emerald and others. With projections of twenty-four billion IoT devices existing by 2020, this technology is quickly taking over the globe.
However, as manufacturers rush to make their products the next big thing, they have overlooked one major detail that may end this IoT gold rush soon; the lack of security in IoT devices. In hindsight, it can be considered to be a simple mistake. New technology excites people; it would not be such a far stretch as to say that innovators wanted people to see their new idea before looking into security details. However, with half a billion IoT devices vulnerable to security threats, one wonders if corporations have done everything in their power to protect consumers. In this article, we will talk about some instances where IoT devices failed to provide sufficient security, its consequences and what has been done since to improve security in IoT devices.
Case #1: Hacking At An Austrian Hotel
This case is the first of many cases that have emerged in the last few years that have essentially outlined the security shortcomings with the use of the IoT technology. As the case goes, an Austrian hotel’s computer network was hijacked by something called ransomware. For those that don’t know, ransomware is a form of malicious software (or malware) that, once it’s taken over your computer, threatens you with harm, usually by denying you access to your data.
The attacker demands a ransom from the victim, promising — not always truthfully — to restore access to the data upon payment.– CSO from IDG
Victims are given instructions on how to make the payment- this usually costs somewhere between a few hundred to thousands of dollars, payable by cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
In the hotel’s case, it was email demanding two bitcoins- the equivalent of $1800. The hotel was at full capacity and had to pay up as its reservation system, key card system and even its database were all locked up. Customers were complaining and there was nothing that the manager could do.
After the incident, the hotel went back to using the mechanical lock and key system in fear of another attack. This story is the classic example of how the lack of security in the IoT network might actually open a whole host of opportunities for hackers and criminals alike to exploit. The hotel went back to basics after that incident; is this a foreshadowing of how our lives will be affected by IoT?
Case #2: The Mirai DDoS Attacks
Another disturbing incident occurred in late 2016 when the entire east coast of the United State lost access to the internet due to a botnet called Mirai. Even though it was essentially created to make a few quick bucks off of Minecraft, the idea quickly ran wild and after its code was uploaded online – something that hackers do to shroud their digital footprints – a hacker used it to attack an IT infrastructure company named Dyn which led to the disaster in the east coast.
The FBI got involved and even though the creator of Mirai was caught and pled guilty- the foundation of Mirai is out in the internet forever. Experts believe that criminals might even use its code as a basis for a stronger attack. In fact, there have been reports of many botnets inspired by Mirai that have affected countless people worldwide.
From these attacks, we can determine that the threat is very real but there are still many unprotected IoT device worldwide. Thankfully, in the wake of these attacks, many people have come forward asking tech companies to be cautious of security failure.
After the Mirai incident, researchers have stepped forward to make the case of security in IoT devices. In fact, Eric Zeng, Shirirang Mare and Franziska Roesner of the University of Washington carried out their own research on individuals that have smart homes to understand the security concerns and bridge the gap in information. Their finds were interesting and helped to explain and understand consumer mindset, security concerns as well as mental models for their security systems. If anything, this study helped to understand many safety concerns which had previously simply been there. This study was able to give recommendations for future updates and is just an example of how all hope is not lost for the IoT business.
It’s new; there have been security problems, but experts are doing their best to keep up with the rapid advancement in this sector and have begun to find solutions for security problems.
Case #3: The Tesla IoT Car
Luckily, all is not as bleak as it seems. As seen in the case of Tesla vehicles, not all IoT devices are doomed for failure. In this post, a group of MIT alums in Northern California have talked about Tesla automobiles – the benefits and potential threats that comes with them and what it means for the world.
Interestingly, unlike the previous case studies, we find that the overall tone behind this article is positive with a few words of caution because, well, Internet of Things is still relatively new today and therefore, it is quite difficult to predict the problems we might face in the future. Nonetheless, this case study highlights how – when security is taken into consideration – IoT can be an awesome thing.
One of Tesla’s key policies to ensuring that their security system remains up to date and free from malicious hacks is by rewarding any hacker that is able to hack into the system. This means that its team is constantly improving its network. In fact, the car has been called one of the safest vehicles ever created by the NHTSA.
Case #4: Stanley Black & Decker
Stanley Black & Decker is an S&P 500 company that has shown us how well industrial IoT can work if used correctly. As per inductiveautomation.com, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the application of the IoT to the manufacturing industry is called the IIoT (or Industrial Internet or Industry 4.0). The IIoT will revolutionize manufacturing by enabling the acquisition and accessibility of far greater amounts of data, at far greater speeds, and far more efficiently than before.
Managing a production line as complex as Stanley Black & Decker’s manufacturing factory is no joke. This is why it would make sense for the company to utilize IoT for production. Cisco presents a case study that takes us deep into the heart of production and outlines the challenges and the benefits of the use of IoT technologies. Stanley Black & Decker’s manufacturing plant opened in 2005 and operates around forty multiproduct production lines and thousands of employees, producing millions of power tools per annum. With the help of IoT, the factory has been run efficiently that promotes flexibility, showing us the benefits of IoT when done right.
This is just one of the many, many positive reviews we will find on IoT technology when it is done right. From these case studies, we are able to see just how beneficial IoT can be for businesses if the technology is cared for properly.
Both Tesla and Stanley Black & Decker have achieved success in the utilization of IoT because they spent the time in advance to look into vulnerable security threats and instead of ignoring them, they chose to address them. This care and management have led them to improve systems security which has only served to improve their products.
In this article, we have looked at both sides of IoT related case studies – two where things went downhill because of negligence or simple ignorance, and two where the right efforts paid off massively in the form of success. IoT technology is massively underestimated by people. Many people don’t understand it which is why it is easy for people to overestimate the security of such devices which leads to frightening real-world consequences.
However, the way things are going, it does not seem that IoT will forever be held back by security threats. After all, Android has joined the fight against security issues in IoT devices by launching Android Things to help create more secure IoT devices. Similarly, computer experts have called for more consideration into the security of IoT devices to prevent any malicious activities. Therefore, it is safe to say, that while there have been security problems with IoT devices, organizations and experts are doing what they can to overcome it so we can embrace this new chapter in tech history without concerns of being hacked.
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I am an ITIL Expert and extremely passionate about customer service, customer experience, best practices and process improvement. I have led support, service, help desk and IT teams as well as quality and call center teams in Canada and the UK. I know how to motivate my teams to ensure that they are putting the customer first.
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