We could start this off by talking about the 2014 Home Depot point-of-sale breach that’s now costing the company millions, or we could talk about the Ashley Madison breach that led to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation and fines.
Perhaps we should go with something more recent? Like the distributed denial-of-service or DDoS attack on Dyn, one of the most renowned internet infrastructure companies? The wave of attacks on Dyn’s services took down several huge sites like Twitter, Amazon, Netflix and many others.
We’ll stop there for now, but we’ve made our point. Security is vital in today’s world, so much so that both digital security and data protection should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. It’s not just a matter of security for the business world, it’s a problem for consumers, too.
Thanks to the widespread adoption of IoT, expect to see between 50 to 200 billion connected devices by 2020. With numbers like that, digital and cyber security is a concern for anyone, in any market.
Consumers need to worry about their personal data and information, as well as what data the devices in their homes are sharing. Businesses must be aware of internal data collected about finances and employees, but they should also consider sales and personal data collected about customers. Even the government has serious concerns regarding cyber security and data protection.
Why Consumers Should Be Concerned
From smart home thermostats to connected lights and garage doors, the modern home is becoming both more “smart” and more efficient. Many of the connected products we see today allow homeowners to control and interface with them remotely from a smartphone app or similar service.
For example, a smart garage door opener lets users check the status of the door — open or closed — from a phone app. Using that same app, they can then open or close that garage door, remotely, even miles and miles away. Of course, the whole system must be connected to an internet gateway for this to be possible.
That opens up many vulnerabilities and challenges. A hacker could remotely gain access to that garage door. In many homes, that means access to the house. Perhaps even more worrisome is hackers could collect the data used and transmitted by that garage door to learn more about the homeowners.
They could survey what time the garage door is opened most often, clueing them into the times you leave for work or arrive home. They could see who has access to the garage and when they come or go. They could even use something like a smart home security camera or smart video doorbell to visually check on that home.
Keep in mind; we used the single example of a smart garage door. Hackers could also collect the data from devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, a smart lock, a smart home hub, smart security equipment and even motion or safety sensors.
These devices collect and store a great deal of personal data and information that you might not expect to see used in harmful ways, but that doesn’t change the fact that it can and will be done, especially in the wrong hands.
Why Businesses Should Be Concerned
You could argue the business world has it worse. Not only do they need to worry about the internal data of their processes and employees, but they also need to be concerned about protecting customer data and information.
The Home Depot and Ashley Madison breaches we mentioned earlier are great examples of what can happen when security is not taken seriously. Stolen data can be harmful to customers, but it can also be just as detrimental to the business which was supposed to have been protecting it. Customers place a certain trust in these companies that their information will be securely stored and protected.
Most of the time, this means protecting their wallets, but in the case of the Ashley Madison breach, a lot more was on the line than money. But more importantly, this technology — the Internet of Things — is expanding considerably to include platforms and hardware that wouldn’t normally be affected.
For instance, 90% of cars are estimated to be internet-connected by 2020. This includes a wide variety of vehicles from, public transportation to personal vehicles. You better believe that business-owned vehicles are part of that demographic, too.
This goes to show the ultimate concern and needs for decent security in the IoT world. As more devices and hardware become connected, it will be even more important to not only protect direct control of them but also the data and information these devices are collecting.
How to Secure Your Connected Devices
Another way to protect your data is to access the internet — through all your home devices — using a VPN, or virtual private network. This helps mask both your external IP address and the data coming and going from your home network.
Adopt strong passwords that use a combination of numbers, upper and lowercase letters and symbols. Never reuse passwords across accounts or services, and never use common or public information about yourself or business, like anniversaries, birth dates, names or addresses.
Finally, make auditing the security and traffic on your network a priority and regular procedure. Believe it or not, you have full control over what’s happening on your network — home and otherwise — and you can always monitor incoming and outgoing traffic with the right tools.
Of course, the best defense is a good offense, or, in this case, beefing up your knowledge of digital and cyber security. The more you know about protecting yourself, your systems and your data, the better prepared you can be. Get yourself educated, and learn as much as you possibly can about digital security and IoT.