Consumer Guide To The Internet Of Things

Consumer Guide To The Internet Of Things

The rise of the Internet of Things has taken many by surprise, and despite this high level of concern, modern consumers are far less prepared to protect themselves from hackers and malicious users.

IoT stands for Internet of Things – the current ‘buzz’ term for connected or ‘smart’ devices. It relates to any gadget, appliance or device that is connected to the internet and can communicate with other devices without human intervention.

Here are some examples:

A fitness tracker that sends data on your daily activity to online servers, which could then be viewed on your smartphone. A security camera that sends a feed to an online server so that you can view it on a smartphone, tablet, or another computer when away from home. Smart thermostat that learn and adapt to your lifestyle, adjusting temperatures in the home for comfort or energy efficiency. Smart TV that can stream music, videos or photos from online services or other computers in the home. It can also interact with other smart devices, for example, displaying content from baby monitors and security cameras. Smart lighting that can be set to switch on or off at certain periods, or that can be controlled remotely from a smartphone

If you’re using any of these connected devices, you’re already involved with the ‘Internet of Things.’

But, one of the biggest issues surrounding the Internet of Things is security.

In a broad sense the industry seems to be a little too eager to embrace the benefits of this new wave of technology and has done so before a set of established security protocols are in place.

As a result, there have been a number of high profile incidents which have shown just how vulnerable connected devices are to hackers.

Here are just a few examples:

Researchers discovered a flaw in smart TV transmissions and launched something called a ‘red-button attack,’ in which the smart TV data stream was hacked and used to take over apps shown on the TV. For example, the hackers were able to post content onto the smart TV owner’s Facebook page.

A number of security researchers have shown how smart cars can be hacked and controlled, ranging from killing the brakes to making the car swerve from left to right. Students in China hacked a Tesla Model S electric car and made the doors fly open, the wipers wiped and the horn honked automatically. Apparently they simply cracked the password for the car’s mobile app.

In 2016, BullGuard conducted a large scale survey of over 6,000 UK consumers, and discovered that while many had not heard of the term ‘Internet of Things’, they were already using connected devices.

The rise of the Internet of Things has taken many by surprise, and despite this high level of concern, modern consumers are far less prepared to protect themselves from hackers and malicious users.

What could happen to me?

Given the wide range of connected devices that are currently available, there are a great many things that hackers could do once they have gained access to them. Here are some of the ways they could do so, and an example of what could go wrong:

Access to  a unsecure smartphone: If a smartphone is lost or stolen and doesn’t have a key lock or login security of some kind, it would allow someone to potentially access any smart devices that are controlled by that smartphone, along with any associated data

Access to a wireless network: A hacker is essentially sitting in your digital front room, seeing what you are doing, which websites you are visiting, what purchases and payments you make online, which email accounts you have, the private messages you send and so on.

Access to my router: Service providers often set up routers with a default login name and password – it is then up to the user to change this to something more secure. Unfortunately many are not told they need to do this, or how to, resulting in many routers being easily accessible to hackers who have some basic information about the user’s network.

A hacker could login to the router’s setup page and covertly access data such as the wireless password, granting them access to the user’s network, or change the router login to prevent the user from accessing it themselves. They could then go on to roam around the network at will, plucking out banking details, passwords and other information, and even make purchases using the payment details of the person who the network belongs to.

How to stay secure?

The Internet of Things brings with it a wealth of connected devices that can add convenience, comfort and excitement to our lives. But as with any new technology trend, it’s important to be aware of the risks and make sure you and your devices are secure.

Set up a key lock on a Smartphone: If a phone is lost or stolen it could be accessed and used by anyone if not protected by some form of security. This could mean connected devices that are accessed via the smartphone are open to hackers.

Change a wireless password: A hacker with access to your router would also have access to your network and any connected devices. Sensitive data such as banking details, passwords, browsing history and other personal information could then be found and used for a number of illegal activities.

Change the default password on a router: If a hacker can guess your wireless password, they can access your personal WiFi network. This may allow them to view and control attached devices, exploit network vulnerabilities, open ports and gain access to your files and operating system.

For more information on this topic, you can download this PDF file Consumer Guide to Internet of Things (IoT) from BullGuard.

BullGuard has developed a new free IoT Scanner for just this purpose – it allows anyone to scan a home network for smart devices that are exposed to the internet and could be vulnerable to hackers.

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