What is Internet of Things?
Internet of Things, as the name would suggest is an internet formed between devices instead of human beings. These devices share data with each other, creating an ecosystem within themselves which in turn makes our lives and day-to-day tasks more simple. This network can also be used to complete more complicated tasks and to execute extremely sophisticated processes. IoT allows for devices in your life to be connected and work together to make your day easier. Just like with most advanced technology though, IoT also comes with its own set of risks. Here’s everything you need to know about how IoT works and what are the uses and potential dangers of introducing IoT into your life.
What is the Internet of Things?
The idea of IoT has been around since the 1970s but at that time it would often be called the “embedded internet”. The first ever internet appliance was created in the early 1980s and it was a Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University. Programmers used the web to check the status of the Coke machine remotely to see whether or not there was a cold drink in the machine. But IoT as we know it today came to fruition only after 2010.
IoT or the Internet of Things is now a network of devices. These devices are usually embedded with sensors, software or some other technology that allows them to connect with other devices and exchange data over the internet. There is really no limit to how IoT can be used: you can incorporate it into your household, but it can also work to aid extremely sophisticated tools as well. Technologies like cloud computing platforms, low-cost sensor technology, machine learning and analytics as well as general developments in AI, have made IoT possible and accessible to millions of people.
For an everyday person, IoT means that you can now connect your kitchen appliances, baby monitors, thermostats and other home gadgets to create a system that can be managed through your phone or a computer, even when you are not at home. These complicated gadgets can be controlled with just a few clicks, which is pretty fascinating. IoT is already becoming a necessity across many households. As of right now there are around 10 million devices connected to IoT networks and this number is expected to double over the next 5 years.
Why does IoT matter?
Clearly, IoT has great potential to simplify our everyday life, it also has potential to do much more than that. It is very likely that over the next decade IoT will become an essential for most households. But this fascinating technology also comes with a lot of disadvantages so it’s important to be aware of everything that could go wrong with IoT.
How can we use IoT?
IoT has many advantages and applications. Over time it is likely to cover an even more extensive range of processes, but for now, let’s focus on the most popular ways to use IoT.
This is the application of IoT that most of us are familiar with. IoT devices are just one but important aspect of home automation. The most popular way to control automated homes and the IoT within are the apps.
Home automation and IoT have long-term benefits besides just convenience. In the long run, it could help us save energy by automatically ensuring that all the lights and electronics are turned off by communicating with home residents.
This could also help the elderly who live alone by providing assistance through personalized systems that fit the resident’s needs. These systems can prevent accidents and make daily life easier for the residents. These systems also offer other safety features, specifically the ones that can detect falls or seizures and will call for help even if the resident isn't able to.
One of the most promising applications of IoT is the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) or Smart Healthcare, allowing the healthcare industry to create a digitized healthcare system connecting medical resources and other healthcare services. IoT can be used to conduct remote health monitoring or to run emergency notification systems. It has already been used in the clinical laboratory industry and in other areas of healthcare as well as the health insurance industry. IoT could make healthcare more accessible while also saving time and labor, delivering faster results.
IoT has great potential in transportation as well. IoT can help various transportation systems to communicate and work together in harmony. The possibilities include but are not limited to smart traffic control, intra-vehicular communication, smart parking, fleet management, safety and road assistance and much more.
Iot also has a lot of industrial applications including manufacturing, agriculture, maritime and more. IoT can assist in data collection by connecting equipment, operational technology, locations, and people.
The technology behind IoT devices
The system behind IoT is able to function through Wi-Fi, ethernet or GSM cellular networks. For example, all the devices you want to integrate into your Smart home setup will have of either Wi-Fi, ethernet or GSM. Through these networks, you can connect to all desired devices. The whole system is interconnected and you can access each and every one of these devices through your phone. You can turn off the lights, change the temperature on the thermostat, lock or unlock the door and basically control the majority of your home gadgets through your phone.
But you are not the only one who has access to these devices and the overall system. The company that installed the system will also be able to connect to it remotely via remote management systems. As you can imagine, this means that there are ways to hack into the system and cause great damage. Let’s discuss some of the risks in greater detail
Why is IoT risky?
As convenient as IoT devices are, they are also extremely vulnerable to attacks. The whole system could easily get out of control, or worse someone else could get hold of your IoT login information, and get direct access to your home.
- IoT devices are perfect for malware hosts. Since the technology is still relatively new, its security is still in the developing stages in many ways. This is part of the reason why these devices can be used to host malware and are generally easy to compromise.
- It is possible to search for specific IoT devices. There is a designated search engine called Shodan that lets users look for world IoT devices. Sounds terrifying right? Anyone who has any experience with hacking, will be able to just log into your device if it's vulnerable. As we’ve discussed in the point above, most IoT devices are unprotected. This is a security nightmare, especially when we consider the fact that most people use this technology inside their homes.
- Many IoT devices have the same logins. Companies will give these devices a default username and a password which is a huge security risk. While some of them come with instructions on how to change the login information, the research shows that people usually don't change their username and password. This means that the chances that the hacker will be able to log into these IoT devices are very high.
- IoT security is still developing. As convenient as they are, these devices and ecosystems we integrate into our home life are still extremely vulnerable to attacks. It's likely that once we’ve had them around for longer, the security level will increase but until then, IoT comes with a lot of disadvantages and could compromise our security at home.
How to secure your IoT devices?
Hackers could easily break into your smart home ecosystem, turn off the power, spy on you through your monitors, unlock your doors or use some other way to terrorize you at your own home. Sadly, at the current stage of development in IoT’s security systems, these are all very real possibilities that could happen to anyone and at any time.
The picture is looking pretty grim for IoTs but at the same time it seems like they are the future. While we hope to see improvement in IoTs security systems in the near future, there are some steps you can take to make IoTs safer today.
- Get a VPN for your router. If you are dead set on having a Smart home then using a VPN can protect you against attacks on your devices. When you use a VPN for your router, you are still able to send data, but you will be protected from incoming communication and possible attempts to hack into your router. This also means that you won't be able to control these devices remotely, but for the majority of homeowners, that is a small price to pay for protection against hackers.
- Regularly update your devices. While not all devices involved in IoT will have frequent updates, when it does happen make sure to follow the instructions for the update. Updates may be annoying but they protect us against the newest forms of cyber attacks. Updates serve to fix vulnerabilities that these devices might have against attacks, so if you have the option to update your devices, as annoying as it may be, do not skip it.
- Change your username and password! This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase your security online, whether you’re dealing with IoT or something completely different. The amount of users who fail to do something as simple as changing their password is surprisingly high and hackers know that. Don’t become a statistic, change your login information.