The Internet of Things has already begun to be implemented. Eventually, an almost unimaginable number of devices will become ‘smart’ and connected. We can already see this trend beginning with a wide range of devices like smart fridges, connected appliances like the Thermomix, and hub devices like Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
However, while tech users might pay close attention to protecting their laptops and smartphones, many wouldn’t think to make sure their smart toaster is safe. At this stage, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but not by much.
There is growing concern that devices all linked together could allow people to gain access to other, more important devices on the home network through things that have less security. Here’s why you should pay extra attention to the security of your devices, and some ways you can make sure your network is more secure.
Why We Stay Connected.
Increasingly smaller devices have started to be integrated into the home network, such as smart light bulbs, security devices on window sills and alarms for doors, for example. As technological innovation increases, machine to machine (M2M) communication is becoming standard, which means that more mundane objects will be made ‘smart’.
There are many ways that connection can work to make your life easier. Imagine your lights, air conditioner and coffee machine able to communicate with the GPS on your phone. As the devices detect that you’re heading home, they can switch themselves on at different points on your journey, so you arrive home to a cool, fully lit home with coffee waiting.
Smart devices are also being used to help support independence. In addition to the security alerts that are widely available, elderly people can be assisted in a number of ways to help them to stay independent while still being cared for. Monitors on the fridge and pantry can help give insight into how much the person might be eating, for example, with smart watches tracking vital stats and sending them to the smartphone of their carer.
These connected devices definitely have a great deal of value when it comes to assisting people to live with more convenience, luxury and even safety.
The Dangers of Connection
The problem comes in when devices with easily breached defences are connected to more important devices that store valuable information. It’s not just hackers, although that is a worrying possibility. Manufacturers and businesses with incentives to gather and use or sell your data could take advantage of unsecured networks.
Unsecured data can have a more direct danger as well – if your data can be accessed, it would become easier for people to monitor the comings and goings from your residence for example, which could leave it vulnerable to theft.
While each person is ultimately responsible for keeping their devices secure, with the pace of development many people are unaware of the scale of the risk, and are purchasing devices that may have substandard security measures in place.
A More Secure Future
Recently, there has been increased focus on security and data privacy. Global safety certification firm UL have come up with one way to easily understand and compare the relative safety of devices with their rating system. With five levels of security from Diamond down to Bronze, the rating will be based on an independent and comprehensive assessment of a device.
The system isn’t fool-proof, however. A Silver-rated device with a strong password and regular security updates could be functionally more secure than a Diamond device left with the default password and not updated. It’s also important to treat connected devices like a connected ecosystem, rather than thinking about individual components – so all devices would need to have a diamond rating for the network to be secure to that standard.
How to Keep Your Private Network Private
Australia is one of the world leaders when it comes to IoT security, with voluntary standards for consumer IoT devices already in place. However, that regulation is not yet compulsory and is still in the early stages. It’s important that device owners are proactive about their own security if they choose to use these connected devices.
Recently, the FBI released recommendations for smart devices to be set up on separate networks, which draws attention to the need to consider the security of connected devices in the home as a whole instead of as separate parts. Keeping these devices on a separate network is one solution.
At the very least, there are things that consumers can do to keep their devices as secure as possible, such as:
- Software updates.
Keeping up with software updates ensures that the devices are protected with the maximum level of security.
- Strong passwords.
Changing the default passwords, making the new ones as strong and long as possible, and not storing password information anywhere on a connected device helps keep devices secure.
- Buy safe.
Especially while some security standards are optional, it’s important to buy from businesses who have made security an integral part of the design process, and not just tacked some security measures on at the very end of development.
Smart devices are helpful, enjoyable and undoubtedly the way of the future. There is no doubt that we are heading towards smart homes that incorporate lots of connected devices, so it’s important that security is an individual and corporate responsibility from the very beginning.
Device owners can help protect themselves by buying devices that have high levels of security, by having strong passwords, and regularly updating the software. Keeping smart devices on a separate network is a safe way to keep vulnerable devices from opening up security issues that could leave more important devices open to attack.
It takes extra time and effort to purchase secure devices and optimise their safety, but it’s worth it to keep your home network safe from attack. As devices connected to the Internet of Things become more common, it’s important to make safety a priority – right from the start.