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October 21, 2019

Information Technology

Is the Internet of Things secure?

IoT Device

There are so many articles circulating and discussions focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), so in order to be involved you need to understand how it works, and if it’s safe. If you are venturing into business or IT after getting your WGU degree, it’s vital to understand the Internet of Things and be aware of what it can mean for your company and career.

The Internet of Things is the concept of connecting any device with an “on” or “off” switch to the Internet, and to each other through networks. This can mean cellphones, coffee makers, headphones, wearable devices, computers, machines, and more. 

Gartner says that by the year 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices. So how can we be sure that all these network connections are safe and secure? When you utilize your computer, phone, and devices in your home to connect, you’ll want to make sure everything is safe. Cybersecurity and IT experts work tirelessly to ensure that your IoT devices have the best security. 

It’s valuable to learn from issues of the past to determine how to improve IoT security in the future. These examples help demonstrate how IoT security has improved over time, and how we can learn from the negatives to improve the future.

IoT and the 2016 vote.

The 2016 election and potential hacking are widely talked about and discussed. Some 200,000 voter records were compromised in the 2016 election, with Russia as the culprit behind the hacking. This was the first large-scale IoT hack and security breach to hit the news, and the details are still being discovered and debated today. Voter machines and the software used in them are connected through IoT, and appear to have been hacked, changing votes and compromising identity data for voters. In this type of situation, it’s clear that major outcomes could have been impacted due to an IoT security breach. Security for connected devices is vital to ensure stability for communities, cities, and entire countries. 

Ransomeware problems and IoT solutions.

Other IoT attacks that continue to make headlines are ransomware threats and attacks. Ransomware is when hackers infect a device and hold data or a device hostage until the victim pays a sum of money. From subway systems and hotel rooms, to government software and company data, ransomware attacks can happen anytime and anywhere, including infrastructure, enterprises, and your even home.

What’s stopping a hacker from holding your smart thermostat hostage and racking up your utility bill until you pay them? Or getting into your smart doorbell and terrorizing your family and neighbors? As more cyber and smart devices are installed and used in our lives, there are more IoT risks looming. It’s vital that IT professionals work to have security measures to deploy, protecting IoT devices from threats.

Internet of Things Hands On Laptop

IoT ecosystems in cars are vulnerable.

Today’s cars are basically computers and networks with wheels, increasing their vulnerability to hacking and cyber criminals. As IoT technology advances, people are wanting that tech to follow them into their car. And with the rapid speed of developments, security professionals are having to work harder than ever to have IoT security for these technologies, ready to deploy at any time.

Reports have come in around the country about cars going haywire, with horns honking in the middle of the night, steering wheels turning randomly, brakes faltering, not to mention the personal information that is attached to car purchases that hackers can find and use against the owners.

It will take programming the vehicles with cloud sharing and other IoT security measures to prevent hackers causing mass collisions and data breaches. IT students today are preparing to take on careers where they will be responsible for developing and implementing safety procedures to make sure IoT has even tighter security

While it’s unlikely that your car is so vulnerable its network will get hacked and start driving on its own, kidnapping you, it is vital to understand how the Internet of Things is impacting everyday life, and for IT professionals to take part in securing IoT devices and networks. 

Self-driving cars and the IoT environment.

Self driving cars present unique vulnerability to IoT security. Almost by definition they are enabled to connect to the cloud to help them store data and operate. It’s interesting to consider what kind of threat this poses in the future when autonomous cars are more prevalent. What happens to a freight company if their autonomous trucks are remotely hijacked and the goods held for ransom? 

In an age where technology is developing rapidly, privacy and security need to be a top concern. While it’s amazing that new technology continues to be invented, with those inventions there come unique and new problems that have never been faced before. It’s vital for more people to pursue IT career paths that can help them invent the security measures that go hand-in-hand with these new inventions. Criminals are getting more sophisticated right alongside technology, so security has to be better to keep all of us safe.

Smart home - IoT

Your smart home as an IoT environment.

Imagine that your smart refrigerator suddenly starts to display porn. Or your baby monitor suddenly has a strange voice on it, talking to your child. These scenes feel like they could come straight out of a horror film, but they have happened to real people. As more IoT devices are brought into our homes, the connections and vulnerabilities increase. Can a lock on your door no longer keep criminals out of your house?

It’s always been kind of a joke that the CIA could be listening to your conversations through your TV or smart assistant, but is it real? And can hackers to the exact same thing, only use your information against you?

It may feel like the Twilight Zone when you start thinking about it, but the truth is that all these new, connected IoT devices have opened rabbit holes that we’ve never been down before. As a consumer, it’s your responsibility to understand how your devices work and how to keep the best security on them. And as an IT student, you may find your calling in working to help protect regular people from IoT attacks. 

How are businesses impacted by IoT deployments.

Businesses and enterprises around the world rely on IoT devices to make informed decisions. They gather data from consumers or from experts to make adjustments and improve their organization. But what if the devices got hacked, and businesses are getting incorrect information? As a business manager, you count on information being accurate as you make big decisions about marketing or products. If that information is wrong, you could steer your ship in the entirely wrong direction.

Business managers and IT managers should work closely together to analyze data and ensure it’s as accurate as possible before using it. If there’s any doubt about accuracy, it’s best to hold off on making decisions. As business managers rely on their IT managers to provide security to their organization, everyone will be able to be confident in their decisions and directions.

What can you do to increase IoT security?

So now that you’ve been thoroughly scared, you may be wondering what options you have. You don’t need to destroy all your technology and move into a bunker just yet. There are a few key things you can do to help increase security for your devices as a consumer.

Passphrases.

Strong passwords, often called passphrases, are a great way to make sure your devices stay safe. Simple passwords are easier to hack, when you use passphrases that are longer, you’re safer. Experts suggest you use a random string of words like “babydancelightergrass” instead of a single word with symbol replacements like “b0yfr!end.” Simple words with character replacements are easy for computers to guess, but often hard for humans to remember. A string of words is much more complicated for a computer to figure out, and will often be easier for you to remember. 

It’s also valuable to make sure none of your passwords are the same. While it’s tempting, it’s much safer to use a password keeper app on your computer to store passwords, and keep them all different. It’s also recommended that you don’t write down your passwords on paper, but keep them written behind a security system on the computer. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will make sure your accounts and devices stay safe.

Two-step verification.

Two-step verification, where after you enter your password you have to enter a code that is emailed or texted to you, may seem like a hassle. The extra step can take time and be frustrating. But most cyber criminals won’t bother trying to get in if a device has two step verification. Unless they have your phone or can hack into your phone or email, they’re pretty much out of luck guessing a random code. This elevates your IoT security in so many ways, so two-step verification is a great thing to have, especially for more sensitive devices or programs.

Get an IT degree.

If talking about IoT and security has got you fired up, wanting to protect consumers and devices, a degree in IT may be the direction for you. Learning more about IT can help you keep yourself and others safe from criminals. If you’re intrigued about helping others stay safe, catching bad guys, and developing new programs that can help everyone, get started on a new career today.

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