Smart things – A fancy name for devices that can talk to each other and perform some minimal number of tasks, at the very least.

IoT (Internet Of Things) is an ancient concept. The first IoT device ever to surface came in the year, 1982  in the form of a Coke machine (to the best of my knowledge). We have come a far far way from that and yet, I can bet you there are still people clueless of what IoT actually means, let alone the security risks that come with IoT devices.

IoT, simply put, means a network of connected ‘things’, that can communicate with each other over some network. These things are physical objects that can be identified by some unique id, most preferably an IP address.

So things like: Computing Devices, Digital Machines, Even humans or animals can be a ‘thing’ in the IoT network

But when we talk about devices, does that include all devices with a unique IP ?

Nope, that is a common misconception! Below is a list of devices NOT considered as IoT devices.

  • Desktops
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Traditional mobile phones

But why is that so? Because IoT devices are meant to work without human intervention. They should require no human interaction. That kind of defeats the purpose of the whole ‘IoT’ concept.

These devices are meant to send/receive data and take an appropriate action on their own. Like when you walk in a room and a smart thermostat sensor adjusts the temperature accordingly.

But that does not mean these devices cannot be part of the IoT network. They can, but we don’t call these as ‘IoT devices’.

So, what kind of devices fall in this category ? Well, it’s the simple little things like: Sensors, Trackers, Speakers, Alarm, clocks, Thermostats and other such devices.

To summarize, IoT, is a network of devices or ‘things’ that can communicate with each other by passing or receiving information and perform some task based on that.

Now that we are clear on what IoT really is, lets talk about what comes next, if you own IoT devices.

As of today, 2018, Around 1.2 billion devices (falling in the smart home category) are part of the IoT network.

iot-network

The IoT market is estimated to reach $457 Billion by the year 2020.

That throws the question out the window, of whether IoT is a growing popularity or not.

With the increasing number of people falling in the IoT netwrok, more and more security concerns are also rising. Pretty recently, the Samsung SmartThings device was diagnosed with alarming security risks.

That kind of makes you wonder, are your really secure when using IoT devices? Because as brilliant and exciting as this sounds, there is a lot of room for vulnerabilities. You could be exposed to serious security threats, that you are not even aware of. Which brings me to my next heading,

How do you increase IoT security?

1: Read the Privacy statement

I am going to start with the most neglected and boring one (so to say). ALWAYS READ THE PRIVACY POLICY. I know its full of jargons, and confusing terms that put off simple minded people like you and me, but that is where the culprits could be hiding. Carefully read the privacy agreement and know what you are agreeing to.

2: Deceive your deceivers. Play with mysterious names

Instead of naming your network “your name” network, there are a lot of fun ways you could throw off attackers. Try something that no one would expect, like “The ice-cream shop”  or “post office”. You could get more creative, staying true to the point to hide your network identity.

3: Identify and treat Device vulnerabilities

Check all connected devices. Check their setting, if they have a software installed, check the software’s settings as well. Even if one device is doing what it shouldn’t be, other connected devices are in harm’s way.

4: A Frequently updating firm is a good firm

Knowing how the manufacturers update their products is important. That will help the future you, when you encounter a problem or bugs and learn the manufacturer is a sleep giant when it comes to upgrades. A frequently updated product is always better and outlasts any other product with lesser updates. Choose your IoT device from good manufacturers who frequently update the firmware.

5: Update your Gadgets, They won’t do it on their own

You can’t solely rely on the company updating products. There’s some work you must do yourself. Unlike softwares that auto-update, most IoT devices don’t update automatically. So You have to check for updates yourself.

You can’t solely rely on the company updating products. There’s some work you must do yourself. Unlike softwares that auto-update, most IoT devices don’t update automatically. So You have to check for updates yourself.

6:  Are you paying what you bargained for ?
This is probably the most important factor of all. A lot of times, you buy something and being a simpleton, not check all the services and permissions that come ‘subscribed’ by default with the device. That might be giving unwanted access to a number of ‘third party’ entities. Don’t believe me?

Find out how marketers and other parties use information from a TV to their benefit, without the consumer knowing.

Carefully read through and subscribe to any services, only after fully understanding what information is accessed in that service. Feel free to unsubscribe any unwanted service. You need to be very careful in the information you broadcast and make available to other people.

7: A Blind Yes only gets you regrets

Building up the above mentioned point, If you do happen to read the services included, do not just check ‘Yes’ on all the boxes, unless you know what that service actually is. If the terminology confuses you, instead of making wild guesses, make some effort at the right time and invest in a secure future, rather than regretting it later on.
Do not blindly check ‘Yes’ on all the services.
The best way to know that is by calling the help center of the said product, and asking them directly.

Even putting the services aside, if there is anything extra that you do not need, leave it. Supposedly, you have a smart car that can access your Facebook. If you do not access your Facebook while driving, remove the permission from your car. The more ways to connect you leave open, the more security measurements you need to take. And being human, that is just leaving more room for error. A safer way to use Facebook while driving would be using your phone.

8: Strong Passwords always save the day

I know, this might seem the most obvious of them all, but trust me, consumers mess up on this one the most. An easy to remember password is not necessarily a strong password.

AND keeping the same passwords for all devices is an even bigger invitation to hackers!

Maintain best passwords practices. Use hints that only you can figure out, and keep different passwords across all devices. And if you have trouble remembering your passwords, keep them in a secure location.

9: Double the Trouble – Use 2 step verification

Another way to increase IoT security is using 2 step verification, also known as two-factor authentication. You might be already doing that with other online accounts. You see, when you login somewhere, using your password (security layer 1), and get a code somewhere as verification (security layer 2), you are using a two-factor authentication.

So, in order to make your IoT devices even more secure, applying a 2 step verification will definitely do the trick.

10: Use Firewalls. They are there for a reason

Okay, the next best thing you can do for increasing IoT security in your home or workplace is putting a firewall on the network. How does that help?

Well, for starters it prevents just anybody connecting to the network. That in itself is its own benefit. If they are not on the network, it makes it very hard to compromise your IoT devices.

There are multiple ways to firewall a network, one of them is to do it with a stand-alone appliance or software that comes with the router to help restrict incoming connections.

This is important because you see, most devices in the IoT network contain information about ports, IP addresses of other devices in the network and other such information.

Setting up a firewall, you could control what traffic goes on which ports. This will especially be helpful to restricting ‘opportunistic” network-probing attempts as well.

When it comes to firewalls, I could not agree more with Christopher Martincavage saying,“Every home with an Internet connection should have a firewall”.

11. Two is better than one

This is going that extra mile, and is a proven benefit. Using a different network for IoT networked devices and another connection for other devices such as smartphones, tablets, pc etc will be very smart.
If one network gets compromised, all the devices will not be effected. More often than not, PCs and smartphones are prime targets for hackers to extract sensitive information. They use IoT devices to piggyback. By putting these two on different networks, that is one more hoop to jump for attackers and you to feel safer.

12: Secure IoT devices with devices

This is for people who can’t do the extra mile. You can use dedicated devices to sniff out vulnerabilities in your IoT network. There are devices and even softwares that help in identifying network security state and what not. That way, you would be prompted of any vulnerabilities and get to easily work on making the network more secure.

These are some of the brightest ways you can make your IoT networked devices more secure. This is important because most of these devices are part of a ‘smart home’ network. The chance of someone harming your family is a chance no one would be willing to take. So adding protection and increasing the security of your IoT devices comes at the top most priority and this is how you do it.