Securing the Internet of Things (IoT)

Mobile devices brought the power of computers into our pockets. Now, technology is advancing even further creating the Internet of Things (IoT) (1). The IoT trend is all about connecting common, everyday goods to the Internet. Consumers now have the capability to control items such as their vehicles; doorbells, lights, and thermostats in their homes; household appliances (from the coffee pot to their laundry machines); and even toys from their mobile devices.

However, before you reserve a seat on the IoT train, there are some concerns you should be aware of.  While this kind of connectivity can make everyday life simpler, it can come at a high price…namely cyber security. The major issue with IoT devices is the companies building them have little to no experience with cyber security (1); consequently, many devices have little or no security built into them (1). Often times there is no way to configure these devices, thus forcing you to accept basic insecure settings. Additionally, they can be difficult to update (or worse, offer no capability to update), which quickly leaves you susceptible to new security vulnerabilities. Yet, there are some precautions you can take so you can enjoy your new technological gadgets with less worry.

Follow these best practices to protect your IoT devices:

  • Update when possible. Enable automatic updates. If your device does allow automatic updates, set a reminder to search for new updates regularly. 
  • Create strong passwords. Make sure to utilize strong passwords or passphrases only you know. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, look into a password manager software tool.
  • Consider a separate Wi-Fi network. Many Wi-Fi access points allow you to create additional networks, such as a guest network. This keeps your devices on an isolated network where they couldn’t be used to harm or hack any of your other mobile devices or computers (1).
  • Connect only what you need. If you don’t need the device to be connected online, leave it off of your network.
  • Consider replacing your devices. When security patches are no longer available for known vulnerabilities, you should consider replacing the device with a newer one that allows you to update.
  • Disable information sharing. Your privacy is important. If the device allows you to configure privacy options, limit the amount of information it shares or disable sharing capabilities all together.

As technology continues to grow and change, it is important to keep in mind how you can stay cyber secure. For more information on how to protect your mobile devices and password manager tool options, visit our best practices tab on makeitsafe.missouri.edu.

References:

  1. SANS. Internet of Things (IoT). May 2016. https://securingthehuman.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issues/OUCH-201605_en.pdf

Last updated: November 29, 2016