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.

The History of IoT

Internet of things vector illustration flat design IoTThe internet isn’t that old, so far as the world wide web. In 1974, the TCIP/IP structure that we know today had it’s birth. It was not until ten years later that the first domain name system or DNS was introduced. The first website actually came online in 1991. The internet that he had proposed just a scant two years earlier came crashing into our mainstream world. It was a technological awakening that had been a long time coming.

In no time the internet took over. By 1995, multiple websites and systems came online. Entertainment by means of bulletin board systems began to be seen. All of it came from the imaginings of others that had taken place decades earlier.

The term “internet of things” or “IoT” is also not a new one. It’s frequently used and has been so for years, but in a survey it was revealed that even those who work in it every day are not at all conversant with the history of the IoT. That history or at least the ideology goes back a great deal further than most people know.

The first look at the internet of things arguably came from Nicola Tesla in 1926 when he commented in Collier’s “When wireless”* is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole………and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.” It was a comment that got him laughed at in some circles, but one which was remarkably accurate considering the state of computing at that time.

In 1998, Google incorporated and too, in 1998, inTouch a project that was developed at MIT was put into play by Scott Brave and Professor Hiroshi Ishii who announced “….We then present inTouch, which applies Synchronized Distributed Physical Objects to create a “tangible telephone” for long distance haptic communication.”

In 1998, the real IoT was touched by Mark Weiser, who developed a water fountain that was amazing and delightful to everyone who saw it. It rose and fell respectively according to the pricing trends and the volume of stock on the NYSE.

1999 saw the term Internet of Things spoken by Kevin Ashton who was the then executive director for the Auto-ID Center. “I could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure the phrase “Internet of Things” started life as the title of a presentation I made at Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 1999. Linking the new idea of RFID in P&G’s supply chain to the then-red-hot topic of the Internet was more than just a good way to get executive attention.

Business Week in 1999 was the scene of the next big announcement about the term Internet of Things. 1999 – Neil Gross, speaking to Business Week commented, “In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations. This skin is already being stitched together. It consists of millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKG’s, electroencephalographs. These will probe and monitor cities and endangered species, the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations, our bodies–even our dreams.”

IoT has continued to grow and to evolve and projections are bright for this new methodology for using the internet. The future of IoT is now –with devices coming online every day. The world is reliant upon connected cars, connected medical devices and even connected homes.

Companies today are scrambling to get their own IoT systems online and moving, and new recruits are being brought in every day to head up IoT systems in companies from small to large.

How does your company use IoT? Where are you going with it?

Why Should Companies Care about IoT Services?

Smart phone with Internet of things (IoT) word and objects icon connecting together,Internet networking concept.

Smart phone with Internet of things (IoT) - IoT ServicesAs with any new technology, businesses will need to find quantifiable benefits in the Internet of Things before the concept is embraced and implemented. It could be argued that IoT is already being adopted on a wide scale. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Qualcomm, IBM, and others already see IoT as a core part of their businesses. Even so, there are still some, especially small to medium sized businesses, that are weighing up the costs and benefits of ultra-connectivity in the world of IoT.

You don’t have to dig deep to see why IoT is important. Business Insider research division BI Intelligence has predicted that IoT will become the largest device market in the world over the next five years. Most analysts predict market value will reach in to the trillions, with possibly $7 trillion of total value by 2020. These figures are promising for businesses directly involved in the manufacture and design of IoT services and hardware, but what about the companies that will purchase these technologies to incorporate into operations?

Perhaps the single largest benefit will be in how IoT can lower costs. The manufacturing sector provides an ideal case scenario. Machine to Machine (M2M) systems will allow for machinery to become more efficient, and more autonomous. Take a production line that was previously labor intensive. Sensors relying on IoT can receive orders, initiate fabrication, sign off work orders, and even package products using IoT, and with little human interaction. Even non-automated manufacturing will benefit. Orders can be taken from anywhere in the world, transferred through the cloud, and delivered to remote manufacturing facilities. These systems can collect valuable analytics that can benefit accounting, inventory management, and even resource procurement.

While this type of IoT will directly benefit businesses in manufacturing, it will also create new opportunities for project managers, engineers, and IT professionals who will be necessary in designing, implementing, and supporting these systems.

Because IoT provides immediate data collection, businesses in all industries will benefit from improved decision making. Being able to analyze and distribute intelligence faster means that tedious data collection will be a thing of the past. Decisions can be made faster, and in some cases can be automated. What this means in essence; is better decisions based on better data.

Hong Kong International Airport, and other mega-airports around the world rely on RFID technology to track luggage and freight throughout their sites. This enables luggage to be delivered by machine to the correct gate, the correct passenger carousel, or to the correct airliner, train, or delivery vehicle. Items are tracked via computer, and managed from a central control point. This reduces hands on management and labor costs. HKIA spent $50 million to develop the initial infrastructure, but widespread adoption of this IoT based technology could save the industry $760 million per year, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Imagine how a similar system could benefit a SMB. Goods delivery could be RFID or barcode tracked on handheld scanners. This tracking information could be uploaded to a cloud solution, from where dispatchers, couriers, and clients could track the location and progress of a delivery. These are the kind of innovations that are driving IoT, and making it a necessary technology in a market where cost and efficiency is key, and where end users and consumers demand constant, easily accessible information.

The opportunities are there for businesses who adopt IoT today. The benefits exist whether they seek to improve manufacturing efficiency, streamline logistics processes, or even provide new ways for customers to interact and receive information. In the growing world of IoT, the question is not why should we care, but is rather, can you afford not to?