In our last article, we wrote about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it is being used to create a “Smart Home” by connecting IoT ready devices to the internet and controlling them with your smart phone or computer.
However, a lack of security in IoT devices, just like in desktop computers and traditional mobile devices, can potentially offer an easy way in to your network and allow hackers to access, collect and misuse your personal information. Many hackers are moving away from businesses and governments, which nowadays have highly reliable internet security, to easier targets. And they don't come easier than the IoT connected smart home with its growing array of web-connected devices, from clever fridges which notify you when you are out of milk (yes really!) to thermostats and smart lightbulbs.
The Internet Society warned last year that: "The interconnected nature of IoT devices means that every poorly secured device that is connected online potentially affects the security and resilience of the internet globally."
So how do we protect ourselves from our networks becoming compromised? The first and most important thing is to change default passwords as soon as we buy an IoT gadget. NEVER use default accounts or passwords as many of them are posted on the internet. In almost every article we write, we reiterate the necessity of a strong password for your computers, bank accounts, email accounts etc – it should be made up of letters, numbers and punctuation (“iwantaCheeseSandwich4lunch!” is a brilliant example except that now most the Fenland Citizen readers know about it!!). Well the same applies to any IoT device you decide to connect to your network.
Simple tools such as Bullguard's IoT Scanner software can also help spot weaknesses. In addition, BullGuard has also published an IoT manual that gives a checklist on what to check and how. (www.bullguard.com/blog/2016/06/internet-of-things-consumer-devices.html).
Other ways to increase IoT security is to keep product software and firmware up-to-date and to buy only from trusted brands like Philips or Nest.
It is also important to be aware that, in the rush to bring new products to market, some manufacturers of IoT devices add on privacy and security features after the fact, rather than including them in the device at the outset. One of the reasons why some IoT devices are cheaper than others is that manufacturers cut corners on security which is akin to putting cheap tyres on an expensive car.