The internet of things (IoT) has been on the minds of many in the world of technology for some time. Pundits excitedly point to it as a global gamechanger, the dawn of a new technological era and empowering individuals all over the world. The more of our lives we can connect, the more convenience and efficiency we can enjoy, but while there’s no doubt that the IoT will bring immense benefits, so too will it bring immense security risks. Without sufficient preparation and risk analysis, it can be dangerous, both for businesses and consumers. Here are just a few potential risks of the IoT, and what we can do to prepare for them.

Vulnerability by proxy

IoT relies on integration. If you’re struggling to integrate your various systems together, then you’re not benefitting from the IoT as you should be. But this doesn’t necessarily mean safety in numbers. Indeed, even the most secure network can be brought to its knees by being integrated with a weak system — vulnerability by proxy.

The more elaborate an IoT network becomes, the more difficult it is to ensure the security of the elements involved. One weak chain comprises the entire network, this giving any unscrupulous hackers a chance to break in.

How can we prepare for this?

It’s not enough to simply rely on your own internal security to prevent this. The entire industry needs to come together to implement rigorous standards across the board. These should incorporate in-built restrictions that apply to both existing and new chains to ensure that only secure systems can be integrated.

Software update issues

Any device that’s connected to the internet requires regular updates to protect against hackers searching for weaknesses to exploit. This is a fact of life for developers, who continually create patches to prevent against possible hacks.

But for IoT devices, this poses a problem. Automatic updates rarely go as planned, and can fail for any number of reasons. Perhaps a file fails validation, or the internet connection cuts out, or an issue arises during rollout. Either way, if the patch fails, it gives hackers an in.

How can we prepare for this?

Every single IoT provider should implement rigorous safeguards that let its clients stay on top of their device upgrades.

This is particularly pertinent for ecommerce businesses, arguably the most vulnerable point that hackers would target.

Every reliable enterprise business should build automatic updates and maintenance into its infrastructure. Make sure you are getting regular preprogrammed software updates and fixes as part of your platform service.

But companies should also provide a variety of means for updating and validating devices beyond automatic processes. For example, a manual option gives control back to the device owners, particularly those in areas with poor internet access.

The onus is on the providers in this regard, as it is up to them to protect the users.

Compromised personal data

The risk of data theft is a hot topic, and not just in the IT world. Since the introduction of GDPR laws in 2018, every business has had to take a long, hard look at its data protection practices — something aggravated by the rise of the IoT.

Even the most mundane of personal data can be valuable when harvested — the Cambridge Analytica scandal of last year is an example of this. In the context of IoT, any hacker could break into a system, mine reams of personal data, and sell it on to businesses for profit.

How can we prepare for this?

Businesses should shoulder some responsibility for this as a matter of ethics. Adhering to relevant PCI compliance should be mandatory for online businesses, and they’d do well to regularly audit their data protection systems. At the same time, businesses should refuse to buy this data as a point of ethics.

However, while this is important for businesses to follow the onus also lies with IoT developers. App developers should familiarize themselves with GDPR legislation and the implications it has for their work. Indeed, such data protection should be built into IoT infrastructure to prevent such transactions from ever taking place.

Ransomware risks

As you know, ransomware relates to the digital hostage-taking of systems or devices in return for payment. This has been an IT risk for years and is nothing new to those in the industry.

But ransomware can bring entire businesses to their knees, especially those with an online presence. In an age in which launching an online business is easier than ever, this simply opens up more people to ransomware attacks, with devastating repercussions for their customers.

This threat is exacerbated by the rise of the IoT. Such networks are ripe for the picking for hackers — once they’ve hacked into one IoT system, they have access to reams of devices to hold hostage.

How can we prepare for this?

Beyond the usual safeguards against data blackmail, professionals should strive to create their IoT network in a modular style. This ensures that, should one key element be compromised, it can simply be excluded from the system and replaced with another.

DDoS attacks

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are becoming increasingly common. It’s a common tactic employed by black-hat hackers seeking to bring down websites, both for small businesses and large corporations.

By exploiting IoT networks, DDoS attacks could leave many devices completely out of action. As with all of the risks listed here, no-one is safe from this, and these attacks could

How can we prepare for this?

Naturally, SSL certificates can protect against DDoS attacks to a degree, and most good software aimed at the everyday user should come with SSL as standard. Many ecommerce platforms include SSL certificates as part of their ecommerce offering, keeping otherwise vulnerable merchants (and their customers) safe online.

But beyond this, security systems simply need to be better. Securing IoT endpoints is one strategy for this. Follow endpoint security best practices like these — it’s not foolproof, but it gives IoT providers and users greater control if (not when) DDoS attacks happen.

The IoT will revolutionize the way we live, bringing a wealth of benefits that will impact virtually every industry. But with this technology comes a great many risks that we need to prepare for. Some of them will be easy to manage, while others will require IoT providers, businesses, and IT professionals to plan and prepare for in depth.

The IoT will become commonplace in our lifetimes. As such, it’s up to those with the power, knowledge, and technology to ensure we remain safe while enjoying the benefits of the IoT.