Cybersecurity Tips Newsletter
January 17, 2024

Navigating the Internet of Things

Navigating the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) includes any device that is connected to the internet and has the capability to send and receive data online. Often referred to as a ‘smart device,’ the number of appliances and gadgets that make up the IoT grows exponentially every year. The proliferation of the IoT has ushered in an unprecedented era of connectivity, seamlessly interweaving the fabric of our daily lives with modern technology. 

As we enjoy the convenience afforded by these devices, it is imperative to recognize the security implications that come with such interconnectivity.

The IoT ecosystem has vulnerabilities that demand careful attention. From smart thermostats to wearable fitness trackers, each device, if unprotected, becomes a potential entry point for malicious actors seeking unauthorized access to the user’s personal private information. Breached devices can give cybercriminals access to this sensitive data, or they can even be used as part of a botnet.

The very interconnectedness that defines the IoT also renders it susceptible to cybersecurity threats. Physical security measures at home, like ensuring doors and windows are locked, are commonplace, but now that our homes are digitally connected to the internet, are those ‘doors’ secured as well? 

Here are some simple strategies and best practices to protect smart devices:

  • Does it have to be smart? Appliance manufacturers are pushing these devices into homes. Decide if you even need a device that connects to the web. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives? In many cases, they do. However, if you do not plan on using the connective features, consider opting for the lower-cost, simpler device or appliance.
  • How is your data stored and used? Before you purchase the leading innovative smart device, consider what characteristics make it smart. Does it use collective data from many users, like a traffic app? Does it record and store your personal data, like a smart watch or fitness tracker? Research where data will be stored, how the manufacturer secures it and exactly who owns it.
  • Set limits on what personal information is shared. The user can decide personal limits when it comes to data sharing. You can set your device to share data with people around you, just your close friends and family, or no one at all. Name your device something you recognize, but not something that shares too much personal information, like your personal name or address.
  • Evaluate and understand the security settings on your IoT devices. Carefully familiarize yourself with the settings of each device, and enable applicable security features, such as encryption or a device firewall. Disable redundant components that may allow access to your network.
  • Strong passwords are important on not only your smart device, but especially on your Wi-Fi network. Change your router password immediately upon setting it up. Make sure your Wi-Fi network password is long, complex, and uses unique words and phrases.
  • Keep an inventory of your IoT devices to help track what has access to your network. Practice strong physical security for IoT devices by knowing their location, keeping them locked away when not in use, and ensuring that all ports and cables are secure and tamper resistant. 
  • Employ multifactor authentication when possible to ensure that only authorized users gain access to your devices. A cornerstone in the foundation of IoT security is robust device authentication. By fortifying the ‘digital handshake’ that occurs between devices, we implement an additional protection against unauthorized intrusions, reinforcing the security of our personal and professional domains.
  • Keep software and apps up to date. After setting up your new device, remember your security does not stop there. Failure to update devices is a leading cause of data breaches, as these updates or “patches” address dangerous vulnerabilities in the new software.

Securing the IoT is not merely a technological imperative but an obligation. Regular software updates, prompt patching of vulnerabilities, and a heightened awareness of phishing tactics are crucial in building a resilient defense against evolving cyber threats.

Additional Resources

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Here are some simple strategies and best practices to protect smart devices.