By Kira Henson, Special Topics Reporter
The advent of the Internet of Things has brought ordinary objects to life by incorporating technology into their everyday functionality. New developments in smart technologies embrace the connectivity of the Internet to bring convenience and efficiency into our lives.
But this world of hyperconnected things is not without problems. The Internet of Things links and connects information, but does not necessarily protect it. One major concern, then, is the security of the Internet of Things, and specifically, the safety of consumer data.
There are around 6.4 billion IoT devices in use worldwide, set to reach 20.8 billion by 2020, according to Gartner. The security of these devices is a growing concern as experts find flaws in their ability to protect valuable information. A study conducted by HP found that 70% of commonly used IoT devices have severe weaknesses in their security. More recently, The MIT Media Lab hosted a Hackathon to discover the greatest security problems with smart home devices. Within three hours, hackers had taken control of 25% of devices. These findings expose the vulnerabilities in the security of IoT devices, a huge problem given that these machines also carry private consumer data.
Researchers have tested smart devices, like IoT baby monitors and Internet-connected cars, to measure their safety and security. In September 2015, researchers discovered vulnerabilities in Internet-connected baby monitors that allowed hackers to watch the monitor’s live stream and remotely control camera settings. Even more alarming are the weaknesses found in the Jeep Cherokee’s UConnect radio system. Cybersecurity researchers were able to exploit a flaw into the Jeep Cherokee’s radio and remotely take control of the car.
A Bright Future for IoT
These examples prove that the Internet of Things is still in its formative stages. Most devices were not developed with security in mind, and leave valued information unprotected. However, because of these incidents, attention focused on IoT security is actually helping to fix the problem. Researchers are taking notice of weaknesses in IoT security, and are conducting tests to reveal those limits. Here are the key findings:
- The Key to Device Security - The MIT sponsored Hackathon found that the most secure devices were ones created with security in mind. If designers integrated safeguards into the design of IoT devices, then they were much more difficult - even impossible - to break into.
- Dojo Proves Un-Hackable - MIT hackers could not break into the Dojo, or any of the home devices connected to it, proving that smart home devices can be effectively secured. Dojo is a security technology specifically designed to protect smart home devices. Devices can be connected to the Dojo network, which monitors activity levels and blocks anything that seems suspicious. Dojo’s success in securing smart homes demonstrates that a protected IoT is possible.
- Many companies are taking strides to fix security breaches…and prevent them from happening again. After the Jeep Cherokee event, Fiat issued a safety recall and installed a security update in their cars. Microsoft, too, has taken steps to increase security on their IoT devices. In September, the company announced that they would bring existing Windows 10 security systems onto their IoT devices. This push means that more security will be added to devices, increasing their safety.
The lack of security in the Internet of Things has been one of its biggest weaknesses. Devices ranging from IoT baby monitors to Internet-connected cars have proven susceptible to clever hacking. But all of this focus on the technology has proven beneficial for the future of the Internet of Things.
The key takeaway from these findings is that designers of IoT projects must keep security in mind when building devices. If designers integrate security into the basic structure of the IoT device, it becomes much easier to avoid security mishaps. And as companies and designers incorporate safety measures into their products, the Internet of Things will become a better and safer place for smart devices.
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