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Security Risks - Internet of Things

  • Recently a security researcher placed a low-cost video camera on his network and monitored what happened. It was taken over and remotely controlled in 98 seconds.
  • A major cybersecurity journalist was attacked in retribution for exposing some cyber criminals. Over 100,000 compromised devices attacked him.

Massive armies of devices are recruited to attack targets. These massive botnets are no longer just computers, but also security cameras, routers, digital video recorders, printers, refrigerators, smart TVs and even smart light bulbs. When you attach these devices to the Internet, do not think of them as devices with brains. View them as computers with devices attached.

If your device is smart, if it is accessible from outside your immediate space, then it is a computer connected to the Internet and it will have vulnerabilities. There will be hundreds of thousands of miscreants from all over the world, who will attempt to compromise your computerized device for their financial or political gain.

Why are we so vulnerable

When we buy routers, printers, even some security systems, or heating systems the economics are against security. We often try and purchase the cheapest device that has good specs. The frequency of security updates is NEVER in the specs. Many people do not buy from the manufacturer who spends the money and time and brain power necessary to keep his devices patched with security updates. They'll buy the one that looks the same and sells for less. Reviewers do not mention the frequency of security updates, just the price. There is no slot in the specs for the frequency of security updates. There is usually no penalty for manufacturers who do not secure their products. There is never a penalty to the user whose device attacks others or sends out spam.

What to do?

  • Update the firmware on your router. If your router is over 2 years old and does not have a firmware update, replace it.
  • When in doubt, go simple. If you are not sure if you need Internet access, either buy a product without it or disable it. Do you really need to access your heating system from the Internet?
  • Set up a Guest Network for your attached devices. Do not let them access your regular network.
  • Before you buy, check how to apply security updates and how often they are made available.
  • Don't buy those gadgets at all.

Further reading

Date: December 2016

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