Jun 17 2015

Internet of Things presents new challenges

It is, without a doubt, one of the hottest topics in IT. The Internet of Things, or how data networking is going to effectively connect everything to everyone, has been discussed for quite some time, but it was not until recently where current technology was able to catch up to the theoretical ideas that have been out there. Now, we are seeing an explosion in embedded devices-things we would not have previously expected to have connectivity do. And this can be both good and bad.

The good? That’s easy. Having more and more connected devices means more things are more accessible than ever. Whether it is an appliance, a thermostat, your security system or anything else, more and more they are being built with connectivity-wired or wireless-in mind. This can be great-imagine using an app from your phone to remotely connect to your home and turn on lights or control your heating or cooling, so that when you arrive things are just as you want them to be. That is an amazing convenience to have.

But, I have to be a doomsayer here and state the obvious. The more devices you connect to the Internet, the more devices can be compromised. This should be fairly obvious to anyone involved, but too often people are going to dismiss their embedded devices as pointless targets, so they assume there’s a low risk. Except that hackers like to hack, and they have to practice on someone. Many people own baby monitors with online capabilities, but most of them never thought to change passwords, because they never expected anyone other than themselves to access it, right? Except we know these devices have been compromised.

I am by no means saying skip the IoT revolution and live in the Stone Age. But it has to be said, and said repeatedly, that every device you connect onto the network is another potential hole that can be exploited and used against your home or business. How much damage could someone do if they hacked into a connected device? Would they be able to hop from your vulnerable device further into your network? Do you really want to find out?

As the IoT evolves, security will continue to be improved, but in the near term, should you insist on connecting such devices, do ensure that your default logins and passwords are changed immediately, as well as any other default settings. Your device manuals are all online, and they all outline how to use defaults to gain access to the device. Changing the default access is a super-simple step, but one that is often overlooked. This is your classic case of an ounce of prevention being betting than a pound of cure.