To What Extent Can We Ensure the Safety of Devices Connected to the Internet?

As 5G networks become more commonplace, mobile users can look forward to more than just increased speed and reduced latency. The Internet of Things (IoT) is likely to achieve global ubiquity once the fifth generation of broadband cellular networks is fully deployed.

It is estimated that the total number of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices will almost triple by the end of 2020, reaching 25.4 billion IoT devices by 2030 (compared to 8.74 billion in 2023). This substantial growth will result in a range of smart gadgets being used to power our homes and cities, as we move into the era of smart urbanization.

It is important to recognize that this prediction comes with both positives and negatives. Whilst the Internet of Things (IoT) can make our lives easier and more efficient, it also presents a substantial security risk. With the vast number of devices connected to the internet, cyber criminals have more opportunities than ever to gain access. Given that cybersecurity is now the primary concern for businesses across the globe, it is essential to consider the steps that can be taken to protect such a large network of devices.

The Problem of Safety

The potential risks associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) extend beyond the sheer number of connected devices. Generally, devices within the IoT have limited memory and computing capabilities; this is because much of the data processing and storage is carried out on remote servers, meaning there is no need to maintain local copies.

The popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets is increasing due to the advantages of edge computing. This technology allows devices to collect and analyze data locally, without transmitting it to remote servers, resulting in faster response times and less bandwidth usage. However, as these IoT devices store private information, they become more vulnerable to malicious hacking.

The potential risks posed to IoT devices are considerable, and this is further compounded by the emergence of ransomware attacks. In addition, organizations should be aware of other security threats such as denial of service (DoS) attacks, passive eavesdropping, SQL injections and zero-day vulnerabilities.

The potential risks posed to individuals by the extensive range of dangers is a matter of grave concern. Manufacturers and warehouses are increasingly incorporating IoT devices into their industrial infrastructure, while the energy industry is making significant investments in the Internet of Things. Moreover, cities are increasingly relying on IoT technology for traffic management and other applications. Should any disruption occur to these networks, the implications could be wide-reaching and potentially catastrophic.

It is not unexpected that academics, technical experts, nearshore software development organizations and political figures are all advocating for greater security of the system which is predicted to become a major part of our everyday life.

Exactly what are our options at this point?

It is essential that we understand the potential threats posed by the Internet of Things (IoT) and take necessary steps to address them. Fortunately, there are initiatives taking place to enhance IoT security, such as the Cybersecurity Improvement Act proposed by Congress. Unfortunately, more needs to be done to address the issue of IoT security, which is largely the responsibility of device manufacturers.

It is clear that a comprehensive strategy is necessary to protect such a vast network. This strategy should go beyond simply raising awareness and considering potential legislative solutions. Therefore, a risk management strategy appears to be a suitable choice, as it can identify all connected devices and their associated risks, as well as providing preventative measures and response plans in the event of an incident.

It is not possible to standardize approaches to various Internet of Things networks. However, widespread implementation of risk management strategies could provide stakeholders with a guide to help standardize methods, exchange successful protocols and share solutions.

Experts have highlighted a number of potential components that could form a comprehensive knowledge base on Internet of Things (IoT) security. These include the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to conduct detailed and up-to-date evaluations of all devices connected to the network, partitioning of IoT devices to allow greater control, use of biometrics for authentication, deployment of multi-layered security solutions, utilization of cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms to improve processing efficiency, and sharing of threat intelligence across different organizations.

The core problem

It is important to highlight the insight provided by my colleague David Russo in his essay ‘We need to address the Internet of Things’, that the IoT has some inherent flaws. In particular, as David noted, many IoT companies are not committed to producing high quality products, but instead rely on users as ‘beta testers’.

The construction of Internet of Things (IoT) devices involves various components, including hardware and software design and development, cloud backend security, and routine maintenance and revisions. Unfortunately, many IoT firms are adopting a reactive approach, instead of proactively planning for the aforementioned factors and resolving issues as they arise. This leaves the IoT open to potential security vulnerabilities, which can only be remedied through a comprehensive strategy for producing these goods, and an aggressive attitude towards their maintenance.

It is evident that the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape is not immune to the risks associated with everyday life. Despite the proposed fixes and standards, it is not possible to design a completely secure infrastructure. Nevertheless, as members of the IT community, our primary objective should remain focused on developing the most cutting-edge security protocols for the IoT. To ensure we are able to justify further investment in the IoT, it is essential that we reach a satisfactory threshold of security.

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