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The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept used to describe the network of devices connected to the Internet. This network includes commonly thought of devices -- such as laptops and phones -- that use the Internet frequently, and those that aren’t as commonly thought of -- such as aquarium thermometers, baby monitors, security cameras, fridges, toasters, and more. To many, the IoT might not mean too much aside from being a part of one’s life, but to a cybersecurity specialist, every IoT is a security concern. One of the best examples of this is the casino that got hacked through its fish tank thermostat.
Back in 2018, Darktrace CEO Nicole Eagan revealed hackers were able to get a casino’s high-roller database through the fish tank thermostat. She explained that once the hackers found the database they then “pulled that [database] back across the network, out the thermostat, and up to the cloud.” Unfortunately, as Eagan states, IoT devices expand the attack surface while lacking traditional defenses. More and more things are being connected to the Internet every day and unfortunately, cybersecurity hasn’t caught up with them.
For some, this might not seem like a big deal. For example, many parents would like the comfort a baby monitor provides. However, many monitors today will hook up to the parent’s phones, making it an IoT device. A parent has to make a choice: add the monitor and risk hackers being able to see and talk to the baby (or another security-related issue) or go dark and hope for the best. Although this is an extreme case, it is food for thought.
When choosing devices, especially ones that would be inside the house, there are important factors to consider. When deciding on what device to get, there are some tips.
The first thing to consider is how necessary it is to add the IoT device and if the device can be implemented without it belonging to the IoT network. Fridges are one example. Samang offers a variety of fridges featuring a “Touch-Screen Family Hub” and an app for your phone. Although these features might be nice, they aren’t necessary for the basic function of a fridge. If one really wanted the IoT fridge they could better protect themselves by looking into the security of the fridge. For example, if its data encrypted, they should ask if it allows passwords and multi-factor authentication, and if it follows connectivity protocols. Forbes has a decent article that discusses 14 steps to secure IoT devices. Some of these steps will be more applicable to some devices versus others, but the steps are worth considering and following if possible.
Although steps can be taken to prevent IoT devices from being compromised, the only true way to protect yourself is to have no (or as few as possible) IoT devices at all.