Inter-connectivity and security

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the way we manage our day to day activities by networking. To put this into perspective, a comparison between the telephone booth age and the smartphone era should suffice. With sensors, Arduino chips and a network connection, a power source we can create the even the simplest devices. Even the programming of such devices is available on online platforms in a template like manner making this amazingly easy to use for persons with basic IT knowledge. And it is just amazing what we can create with such simplicity. “Rebel Geeks- Meet your Maker” by the Al Jazeera network gives interesting examples.

The interconnectivity of systems is also one of its biggest shortfalls. An example is that of Smart grids that measure and track energy consumption and availability. When energy is low, non-essentials can be powered down and extra power drawn from energy reserves. This means that so as to function as they should there must be an element of interconnectivity between different household items, power source be it solar panels etc. This exposes the whole system to a particular risk. If one ‘node’ is attacked successfully by malware, it can easily spread and bring down the entire networked infrastructure.

In the investigative piece “Hacking Germany-Computers, cyber attacks and the future” by DW news channel, a hotel’s security system was compromised by finding a vulnerability in the bulb controls which were less secure as compared to the motion sensors and CCTV cameras. Since they are all ‘components’ running on a single system, breaking into one (the less secure light bulb controls) was leveraged to gain system-wide access.

It is important therefore to remember the following:

  1. Development of systems should also incorporate security as an equally important component.
  2. There must be a measure of risk vs reward; does the IoT system bring in more of an advantage or do the associated risks negate any positives.
  3. No system is ever completely secure. As bugs and vulnerabilities are uncovered more often than not, be sure to look out for patches, system updates regularly.
  4. Play your part in keeping your data safe. Embrace good password policies, use public Wi-Fi cautiously, and use trusted VPNs on untrusted connections among others.