internet of things, connected smart home, connected devices

IoT Connection Comes at a Cost

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[Featured Image Source: Flickr | Author: CODE_n |The image was resized under this license to fit the dimensions of this blog.]

Analysts say the Internet of Things (IoT) market is rapidly growing, and after taking a moment to consider how prominent it already is in society, that conclusion shouldn’t surprise you. The Internet of Things powers everything from “smart” home thermostats that help you save energy to toothbrushes that connect to smartphones and give advice about good oral hygiene habits.

Researchers also warn that, although such technological advances show great promise, they’re hugely tempting targets for creative hackers.

Recently, major websites including Netflix and Spotify went down after hackers took over IoT devices and programmed them to cause damage. Some concerned people understandably wonder if we can trust merchants and the marketplace to minimize security risks, or if governmental bodies need to step in.

What Are Major Brands Doing?

In the United States, major brands such as Apple define network ecosystems and require other companies to follow their lead and join in. If the brands can’t meet the minimal standards, they’re not eligible to take part.

Microsoft is another notable brand doing its part to protect against future IoT hacking attempts. It announced the launch of an auditing program for IoT customers called Microsoft Azure. It offers tools to scan IoT devices and ensure they’re properly updated to safeguard against hackers. A Microsoft representative indicated device management is an often overlooked part of securing IoT devices, but that the Azure program could simplify things.

Ideally, a customer can find out how secure his or her IoT device are and then proactively make changes when necessary. Otherwise, clients that depend on the internet of things technology could scramble around to clean up messes caused by hackers who compromised devices that weren’t properly secured.

Machine Learning Helps the Internet of Things

Machine learning is a data analysis method that learns from provided information and reacts accordingly. Many IoT devices showcase their respective connected technologies with help from machine learning. A device might discover and remember a user’s preferred temperature for a cup of coffee after the owner programmed adjustments. The machine stores this information in its memory and eventually the appliance will not need further human input.

Experts are also hopeful machine learning could offer additional protection against hacking. Cloud-based antivirus solutions powered by machine learning may strengthen security for IoT devices by aggregating data from connected devices and endpoints, then sending it to a server for further analysis. If it detects strange patterns, these tools block potentially malicious content from IoT devices. Since engineers are currently refining this technology, it still generates many false alarms, but those should decrease as the machine learning algorithms become “wiser” over time.

You’ve probably heard how hackers have compromised connected cars and interfered with their brakes, security systems, and computers. That scary outcome may soon be less likely, thanks to endpoint-level technology for high-tech cars recently showcased at an IoT expo in Taipei.

Engineered by Trend Micro and Microsoft, the system carries out periodic risk assessments, monitors for threats and activates protection when vehicles are under attack. Machine learning comes into play when the vehicles’ connected systems undergo scanning from Trend Micro to check for unusual conditions that were not present during previous assessments.

The FBI admitted security threats for connected cars are an increasing risk. Some forward-thinking car companies have recognized the harm that could come from such problems and hired dedicated teams to reduce security shortcomings.

Staying Protected From Threats

The IoT comes with remarkable benefits, but smart consumers who use connected technology must remain vigilant and keep their devices as protected as possible. There are several ways to do that even if you’re relatively new to the internet of things industry and only have one compatible device.

Only buy gadgets from reputable retailers. Before starting to use them, thoroughly read the instructions to understand all relevant data use policies. Pay particular attention to details about data sent to third parties. Even if the company that manufactured your IoT device has strict procedures around how it uses information transmitted from the product about you, those stringent rules may not apply to third-party organizations that receive the data and use it for other purposes.

Finally, if you download apps for an IoT device, steer clear of grey-market app stores. Only rely on well-known distributors like the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

Consumers can’t afford to simply sit back about security concerns and let major brands do all the work. The substantial risk involved and the type of information shared via some IoT-capable devices makes in necessary for security. Aware and action-oriented consumers can collectively help prevent future hacking disasters, aided by machine learning algorithms.

Category: Tech

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke’s World of Space. When she isn’t writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing.

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