Your alarm clock wakes you at 7 a.m. and then tells the coffee maker to start brewing your morning cup of joe; your smart refrigerator automatically re-orders groceries when you’re running low; your high-tech home thermostat knows when you’re out and sets itself to a lower temperature to save energy; and at 7:45 that same alarm clock tells your car to start.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Has Arrived
You may not have heard of the term but it’s pretty certain you’re already using them in your everyday life. The potential impact on how we live, work, and play in the IoT era is staggering. In a fully connected world, intelligent things are expected to usher in all kinds of new smart products and services. That may be good news for those of us in the payments industry: businesses of all types and sizes will have the ability to offer customized services well beyond the initial purchase, as opposed to ending the customer relationship at the point of sale. Merchants we buy from can learn a lot about us and deliver targeted content directly through the products we purchase in order to improve and strengthen the customer experience.
In a 2017 Business Intelligence survey, global IoT executives forecasted that more than 22 billion diverse devices will be connected to the internet by 2021. While it is characterized as the next industrial revolution, it is also a potential large-scale security breach just waiting to happen. In fact, the rapid growth of hyper-connectivity and the ability to collect and exchange data is, not surprisingly, already raising concerns around privacy and security.
It is safe to say that digitally connected things possess definite security risks. Here are six examples of how you can better protect yourself in the Internet of Things era:
1. Turn Off UPnP
Connected devices typically link to the internet through a home Wi-Fi network and router. Many of these “things” come with wide open Wi-Fi connections capable of accepting any outside connections, leaving your device readily available to the internet. One way to protect yourself is to turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on your router and IoT devices and only connect them to a secured Wi-Fi router.
2. Secure Your Networks
If your router gives you the option to set up more than one secure network, make sure you separate your computing devices from your IoT devices by creating several different networks. For instance, if you watch broadcast television exclusively there’s no reason to connect the TV to your home “trusted” network. If you have game consoles connected to the internet, they do not need to be in the same network as your IoT devices or your home computers. Again, find ways to “segment” your network; this way if one area is breached, it does not impact the rest of your network.
3. Keep Software Updated
Patching is just as important on your IoT device as it is on your computer. Make it a habit to check the manufacturer’s website once a quarter or if viable allow for automatic manufacturer updates. Always remember that a security patch is a way for the manufacturer to publically announce “we fixed a vulnerability.”
4. Create Secure Passwords
Protect your Wi-Fi network by using strong, complex, and unique passwords. Bugs have been discovered in many IoT devices that let attackers trick them into exposing security information, such as giving away your Wi-Fi password. An IoT device that’s properly designed should also lock out a user from attempting to log in too many times. And never forget: One device, one password.
5. Don’t Depend On The Cloud
IoT devices that require a cloud service can be less secure and potentially give away more information than those you can control entirely from within your home. Read the packaging carefully to determine whether permanent internet access is needed for the device to function. Simply put: Favor devices that can work without the cloud.
6. Permission First
Don’t take your IoT devices to work or connect them to your employer’s network because you are just giving hackers an opportunity to impact our way of life.
Something else to keep in mind: Don’t assume no one is “looking” when you hook up your smart device for the first time. There are specialized search engines in cyberspace that are specifically programmed to find and index online devices whether you want them to be found or not.
The Internet of Things is all about unlocking data and using it to better our everyday lives at work, at home, and at play. The proliferation of connected devices and the massive increase in data have started an analytical revolution. Companies are expected to spend nearly $5 trillion in the next five years delivering 22.5 billion IoT devices by 2021, up from 6.6 billion in 2016. It makes for an open sky of opportunities for us and for the hackers.