Technologies that keep us connected continue to play an increasingly important role in our lives. For many of us, smartphone apps and social media platforms have become a mainstay for us, both at work and at home. Outside of the office, we connect with coworkers hundreds of miles away via email, instant messaging and video conferencing applications such as Skype. And now, thanks to the growing influence of the “internet of things” (IoT), we’re even using networking technology to control the physical environment of our homes.
Tech companies are introducing IoT devices that let users control virtually every aspect of their homes online. Unlocking doors, setting the temperature, preheating an oven or tracking what’s in the fridge — these tasks and more can be easily managed from your mobile device.
Considering the convenience and control this offers, it’s no wonder that smart homes are becoming more commonplace.
But there’s a serious downside to consider: While IoT devices can make our lives easier, they can have the opposite effect once a malicious hacker gets involved. A number of cyber security experts have taken to studying products on the IoT market, and they have found plenty of reason to proceed with caution.
In May of this year, researchers from the University of Michigan and Microsoft discovered flaws in a IoT smart home platform that would allow hackers to unlock a homeowner’s doors, set off fire alarms and otherwise compromise home security using the a vulnerability in the platform’s OAuth protocol. Further, in a separate research undertaking, experts at TrapX Security demonstrated how a Nest smart thermostat device could be used as an entry point into the target’s home.
These are merely two recent examples showing significant vulnerabilities in smart home devices.
Given the risks involved with smart homes, consumers interested in this realm of technology might be best advised not to connect all devices to a single platform, as hackers might be able to find a point of entry to such a system and compromise multiple devices.
Also, as businesses find advantages from incorporating IoT devices inside their offices, it will be important to consider the placement of these items within networks and how to manage them securely without increasing risks to critical resources. Beyond monitoring and reporting, IoT likely will require organizations to make secure network development efforts and revise existing policies.
Ultimately, the new network of connected physical objects offers plenty of possibilities for individuals and companies alike — but it offers openings for the bad guys, too.