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.