How Secure are Home IoT Devices?

home IoT devicesThe Internet of Things (IoT) is a phenomenon that is currently experiencing huge year on year growth. One of the fastest growing areas within the industry, is in the market of home IoT devices. These are devices designed to make life easier, such as connected garage door openers, smart switches, smoke alarms, and even IP surveillance cameras. There are almost 5 billion connected devices being used today, and according to Gartner Research, that number is expected to grow by 500% in the next 5 years.All of this shows a promising industry, but unfortunately the risks are never covered as much as the growth figures. IoT devices are often designed without a necessary focus on security or user privacy, and this is something that the industry needs to address.

Security Risks for IoT in the Consumer Space

Although IoT can be found in industries as diverse as medical and even manufacturing, it is the home markets that garner the headlines and consumer mindshare. People have come to expect that their security cannot always be maintained online. But the difference with IoT is that we’re not simply talking about passwords, emails, and social media accounts. Instead, we’re talking about access to the garage door, the front door, or even knowing whether or not somebody is home.

There are plenty of examples where common IoT devices have been found to be unsecure, or at least at risk of being compromised with relatively little effort.

The Fortify Security Software Unit at HP released case studies last year where they compared ten of the most popular devices used in home IoT. They found that seven out of ten devices had significant security issues. An average revealed 25 security risks in each individual product. The most prevalent problem was that IoT data was unencrypted as it was transferred through wireless networks. Worryingly, six of the devices didn’t even download firmware from encrypted sources. This leaves a possible risk where malicious firmware could be directed to home devices, providing external access for malicious parties.

HP isn’t the only company to have taken an interest in IoT security. Veracode recently published a report that was based on a similar survey of consumer devices. While the HP survey focused on devices like thermostats and lawn sprinklers, the Veracode study included critical devices, such as the Chamberlain MyQ Garage door opener, and the Wink Relay wall control unit. Veracode’s study looked more at risk than actual vulnerabilities, but the results were still significant.

The Wink Relay, if compromised, could allow external audio surveillance inside a user’s home. Information could be used for blackmail, to aid identity theft, or even for industrial espionage in relation to the resident’s employer. The Chamberlain garage door opener, if compromised, could mean that a third party could tell whether a garage door was open or not, allowing opportunities for easy, unauthorized entry.

Even if these devices connect to a relatively secure cloud platform, there’s always a risk that a home network could be compromised, and the fact is, few consumers are even aware of the dangers.

As we move forward, it is clear that security needs to be a top priority within IoT. Which means that stakeholders need to;

Understand the security risks involved with connecting home control devices to the cloud.
Provide necessary security on their platforms.
Educate consumers about security risks, and how they can protect themselves.
Focus on building a talent pool of network security professionals to complement their core IoT development teams.

IoT represents an exciting time in the evolution of consumer, corporate, service based, and industrial technologies. It is important that key developers and manufacturers don’t lose sight of security during times of rapid innovation. With the right talent, and the right approach, the industry can build highly secure infrastructure and devices. This will ensure trust and desirability remains high, with the potential to drive adoption and overall market growth.

How IoT has the Potential to Improve Healthcare

IoT medical devicesThe Internet of Things has applications that range all the way from automated manufacturing, to controlling the temperature of residential air conditioners. One particular area where IoT is hugely beneficial, is in the medical equipment industry.With IoT devices expected to reach 25 billion by 2020, it’s almost guaranteed that a large number of these sensors will be embedded in medical equipment. What benefits are connected sensors bringing to the medical industry, and are there still concerns to be addressed?

How IoT is Improving Healthcare

According to Digi-Key Electronics, a worldwide distributor of key IoT sensors and technologies, the benefits can be found in a number of areas.

  • Dynamically collecting patient data from remote sensors can aid in preventative care by detecting early warning signs of health problems.
  • These same sensors could be used in long term care situations, and especially in post-operative care.
  • The type of signals that sensors can detect are almost endless. Blood oxygen levels, pulse, insulin levels, blood pressure, temperature, and even chemical balances are just a few examples.
  • IoT medication pumps are effective at adequately dosing medications, without the risks of overdose or missed doses that are present when medications are administered manually.
  • With properly designed sensors and monitoring tools, patient input can be kept to a minimum. This means that there is less room for error, but also little learning required by the patient. This offers convenience which is especially beneficial for the elderly and disabled.

(http://www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2014/jul/the-role-of-sensors-in-iot-medical-and-healthcare-applications)

Challenges for IoT Medical Device Manufacturers

Although there are millions of IoT medical devices in use today, there are numerous opportunities for improvement. Before these high tech devices can truly become the standard for in-patient and out-patient care, these opportunities should be met, and all concerns should be alleviated.

  • There is no worldwide standard for wireless connectivity for IoT connected medical devices. The FDA has put forth some strong recommendations, including wireless protocols to use, and what to consider when it comes to interference and data loss. However, robust global standards are necessary for widespread adoption and implementation.
  • Security is still a major concern for IoT devices. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the most popular IoT medical pumps in the United States were vulnerable to hacking, and could even be controlled from a remote source. (http://www.zdnet.com/article/hackers-can-control-medical-pumps-to-administer-fatal-doses/)

Benefits to Non-Reporting Equipment

Although patients will always be the priority in medicine, there are other ways that IoT will help to improve the healthcare system. IoT will benefit even the devices that aren’t required to collect data. Electronic sensors can be built in to critical equipment and can be used to collect usage statistics, and even track and schedule maintenance. With all of the data coming to a central location, it could increase the efficiency of hospitals and clinics, which in turn could reduce operating costs. The obvious knock on effect is that patients would receive better care, from equipment that is maintained to a higher standard. (http://www.msidata.com/internet-of-things-for-the-medical-equipment-industry)

Connected Devices Simply Make Sense

There is perhaps no other industry that could benefit as much from IoT as healthcare. Connected medical devices will free up much needed resources in clinics, reduce the stress and cost for those undergoing care, and will improve the service in hospitals and other health care facilities. Medical IoT recruiting can help to assure that development continues and that good security is in place for medical IoT.

If equipment designers and manufacturers can overcome key security and standards challenges, there is little doubt that IoT devices will be the norm within the next decade, and will be on the leading edge of innovation among the wider Internet of Things. Medical IoT recruiting will be an absolute necessity if we are to keep the IoT area of medicine moving forward.

The Internet of Things and the Right to Record

Right to RecordToday there are over 5 billion connected devices in the world that make up the Internet of Things (IoT). Research firms like IDC and Gartner predict that within five years’ time, this number will skyrocket to 25 billion. Although we often think of the ways these IoT devices can make our lives easier, make our homes smarter, improve manufacturing, and even revolutionize healthcare, there are some uses for IoT that aren’t as straightforward.

One of these, is how IoT has changed our ability to record the world around us, and immediately share what we capture. Combined with social media, this ‘right to record’ has brought into question when it is appropriate or not appropriate to record. More importantly, is it legal?

The Legalities of Recording in Public

Smartphones, tablets, and even connected eyewear are all part of IoT, and they’re all capable of recording pictures and video. The most obvious example to look at is the phenomenon of members of the public recording law enforcement officers, performing their duties.

  • There are a number of states that have an ‘all parties consent’ law, requiring that subjects be made aware of video, image, or audio capture that is taking place.
  • There is a clause, however. There should also be a reasonable expectation of privacy on behalf of the subjects. This means, with interpretation, that filming in public places, without consent, would be acceptable and legal.
  • Illinois and Massachusetts have ‘all parties consent’ laws, however they don’t allow for the provision regarding the expectation of privacy. In 2010, Tiawanda Moore was arrested for attempting to record law enforcement personnel with a cell phone. She was later acquitted of all charges (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-25/news/ct-met-eavesdropping-trial-0825-20110825_1_eavesdropping-law-police-officers-law-enforcement).
  • It is not legal to record on private property, to make commercial gain from recorded material of another person’s likeness, or to use recordings to commit libel.

The Right to Record is a Two Way Street

Tech Republic, a leading trade publication for IT professionals, recently ran an opinion piece on how IoT and smart devices can cause controversy when it comes to the right to record. (http://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-right-to-record-is-not-a-question-of-technology-but-rather-power-and-policy/).

The article not only discussed the recording of law enforcement by private citizens, but also how it can be beneficial for law enforcement officers to constantly record their daily duties. Doing so would add a layer of transparency, and would serve to protect the interests of officers and their relevant governments, as well as the general public. This recording would be in addition to the already present police vehicle dash cams, and the surveillance cameras in most urban centers.

The questions then, are not as much about recordings been made in the first place, but rather about how they are used. Two key questions are;

  • Should law enforcement agencies have the right to publish footage or images of suspects before they have been convicted of crimes?
  • Should individuals have the right to publish police activity when footage or an image doesn’t portray an event or incident within its full context?

The Internet of Things is hugely dependent on constant information, easy accessibility to information, and the almost instant distribution of that information. IoT has changed the way that people expect services to work. Almost one third of those surveyed by the American Red Cross in 2012 would expect law enforcement or emergency assistance if they posted a request for help on a public social media website. Would those who are embracing social media be happy to post controversial images or videos of law enforcement agents in the line of duty? What if they were the ones being featured on a law enforcement social media account?

As more connected devices are able to easily record and share the world around us, lines will become blurred when it comes to rights. The ‘right to record’ could be considered a civil liberty under the right to free speech, so does the government share that same right? As IoT devices become more commonplace, and the internet of everything becomes a part of daily life, these questions will be answered, laws will be tested, and new precedents will be set.

20 million more IoT devices will be installed, carried, or worn by people at all levels of society, by 2020. Users and creators of IoT technologies will need to keep a close eye on ‘the right to record’, and how it impacts the industry and public perception of these devices in the years to come.

How the Internet of Things Will Transform the World of Manufacturing Automation

Manufacturing AutomationThe smart phone on your belt is dramatically different from the flip phones of a decade ago. Technology continues to move at incredible speeds and we are truly living in a golden age. But the where we are headed is unlike where we’ve been. In the future, the internet of things will be a reality in every sector. Smart systems will be released with sensors and robotics that simplify and automate manufacturing. The system will operate through wired and wireless networks and an infrastructure will help us to accomplish more during the course of a day.

This begins with physical objects having sensors and actuators being placed in them. These individual parts will send and receive information in order to complete specific tasks. They will depend on real time data and this information will affect the big picture. In fact, each device on the assembly line will connect to a central system that will orchestrate and synchronize the entire system to ensure things run smoothly and as effectively as possible.

In order for smart manufacturing to work, there needs to be systems in place that work with the smart manufacturing vision. Sensors must be placed in technology and a host system installed. This will help with logistics, order placement, procurement and other essential functions that impact the overall system.

So who does this? While your IT department could technically handle the task, it would be time consuming and cost you hundreds of man hours to develop. A better choice is to consider a vendor who can help with the effort. These individuals will help to create a functional system which is tightly integrated and allows you to effectively manage your manufacturing operations. With new industry standards being released for manufacturing all the time, it is certain the internet of things will play a pivotal role in the future of manufacturing automation.

An example of it is already seen in the food and beverage industry. Machines currently communicate sensitive information like temperature, humidity and the condition of the containers. Companies can also track shipments with identifying codes and determine where they originated from in the company and where these items were shipped to in the world. If there is a case of contamination, they can also quickly contact locations who received items that might be tainted.

When the internet of things becomes dominate on these manufacturing lines, there will be more power. There will be a central master computer that will run the entire operation. It will have an intelligent way to analyze, address concerns and to remain independent at all times, all while continuing to meet the demands of production.

There is no denying the internet of things will play an important role in the future of production. Good will be released faster and profits will spike for a company. That makes it important to embrace today and incorporate in the current structure of your business. Doing that will help you to be part of the future and to remain a visionary in the industry.