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IoT Security: What We All Need to Know

By Jesse Lindquist

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The Internet of Things, or IoT, has started to truly come into its own in the last few years. From smart thermostats to connected cars, there’s a place for IoT in nearly every area of our lives. There are now so many connected devices that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

While IoT has made our lives better and easier in a lot of ways, it’s also not been without its challenges. IoT cybersecurity experts are racing to catch up with all of the security problems that have been caused by connected devices with major vulnerabilities.

The Scope of IoT in Today’s World

The IoT industry has been growing rapidly, with no signs of slowing down. Connected devices are most familiar to us in our homes (like smart speakers, lights, thermostats, and more), but lots of industries are also using IoT devices in their everyday operations.

So what’s the scope of IoT in our world today? Well, overall spending in the industry is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2022. And by 2025, we can expect there to be 73 billion IoT devices installed.

Businesses are driving growth in IoT like crazy—these devices are not only enabling self-driving cars and improving manufacturing, they’re also fundamentally changing the way people shop. Amazon, for instance, has begun using IoT devices that allow people to enter their Amazon Go stores and “check out” without having to go through the standard checkout process at all—they just scan an app on entering and leaving. IoT also has the potential to personalize and simplify the shopping experience, allowing shoppers to quickly locate the items they’re looking for and get alerts when things they buy frequently are out of stock.

Challenges of IoT Security

While we’ve seen many of the benefits of IoT in action, there are also some major downsides to implementing billions of internet-connected devices in our homes and businesses. IoT security is extremely challenging and the many vulnerabilities of these devices are leaving sensitive data within easy reach of hackers.

Cybersecurity is challenging, and security experts always have to be one step ahead of the hackers. But IoT layers on additional challenges and vulnerabilities that make it even harder for cybersecurity experts to secure devices and create a safe network.

One of the biggest challenges is that IoT devices use different types of technology, meaning that a different approach is needed to secure each wearable and mobile device. On top of that, IoT devices are used in all kinds of different industries with different security requirements.

The location of IoT devices is also a security challenge. Some are in remote locations, making them difficult to maintain and check. Others are in consumers’ homes, where a breach could lead to a physical break-in or other dangerous situations. Some devices even move on a regular basis, potentially creating new vulnerabilities.

Data Collection & Privacy: The “Alexa” in the Room

IoT devices work by collecting data. For devices with smart speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa, that has led to privacy concerns. Many people love the convenience of controlling their other smart home devices, playing music, and shopping using their smart speakers, but many others worry about the privacy cost.

Most people trust companies with their data, but those companies aren’t always using that data in ethical ways. People need to understand that a lot of the information they input into their smart devices could be used in many different ways—from selling to making arrests.

An Opportunity Amid Vulnerabilities

IoT security needs to be 100% reliable to keep devices safe from hackers. That’s a daunting challenge, but it does open up some opportunities. People who enjoy working with computers and devices can put their problem-solving skills on the case and find a satisfying new career. In the next few years, the IoT industry is going to need all the security help it can get.

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