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The IoT threat to privacy is real: What can we do?

The internet of things (IoT) envisions the all-encompassing interconnections between intelligent devices through the internet infrastructure. This disruptive technology is expected to meld the virtual and physical worlds together in ways that are currently difficult to imagine.

IoT has gained colossal traction in various industries, such as banking, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare, among several others. In fact, statistics reveal that in the year 2019, the global IoT market will cross USD 1.7 trillion with the number of connected devices estimated to reach 20.35 billion in the same year.

Though smart devices enable ubiquitous data collection and tracking, they pose serious privacy threats that limit the success of IoT. Unfortunately, in the coming years, IoT devices will only become more pervasive in our lives, thereby offering access to our personal information such as social security numbers, credit card details, and other banking data.

As IoT applications continue to grow, it is critical for manufacturers and technology experts to gauge the IoT security threats and figure out solutions to protect sensitive data.

Here are six ways in which we can protect ourselves from the various security-and-privacy-related concerns in IoT devices.

1. Ensure IoT device authentication and data protection

IoT devices aren’t human; hence, they can be tampered with, thereby increasing the risk of leaking/misusing sensitive information. Additionally, almost all industries, specifically social media, banking, retail, and manufacturing collect and analyze customer data that can be misused.

Consequently, users must authenticate new IoT devices by checking their credentials using a certificate or a key, thereby reducing the risk of misuse of data.

Several organizations have secure networks, yet allow customers and other stakeholders to gain access to the network through 802.1X. The 802.1X authentication asks the user for credentials, enabling the host to check the user attributes before allowing access.

2. Secure IoT network

With connected devices inadvertently co-operating with cybercriminals, internet security breaches are becoming increasingly common.

IoT network security is more convoluted in comparison to traditional network owing to the heterogeneous communication protocols, complex interdependencies, and diverse networking and security requirements. Consequently, the age of depending on firewalls for system security is gone as with the advancements in technology cyber attacks have become highly complex.

Firewalls do block undesired connections and limit malicious hackers, yet updating the antivirus, installing anti-malware and web-and-spam-filtering software, and implementing intrusion prevention (IPS) and detection systems can help secure the IoT network.

3. Employ data encryption

Encryption is a fascinating piece of technology that scrambles data, thereby making it unreadable by unauthorized and unintended parties. It helps secure the data exchanged between IoT devices and back-end systems by maintaining data integrity and discouraging hackers from sniffing and spoofing information.

Introducing public-key encryption or cryptographic algorithms, namely Triple DES (data encryption standard), Blowfish (cipher), Twofish, and advanced encryption standard (AES) in IoT devices and hardware profiles can line up as effective security tools, boosting the overall security of the system.

4. Use security analytics solutions

The rapid development of IoT devices has triggered the demand for intelligent systems that are loaded with sensors to capture, process, and analyze information.

Security analytics solutions use the latest technology, namely machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics to predict and detect breaches and attacks that cannot be identified using traditional security solutions like firewalls, email filtering, and antivirus software.

IoT physical security analytics systems, such as the ones introduced by CISCO, Indegy, and Kaspersky help identify never-seen-before threats to the IoT, thereby boosting the overall security and privacy of user data.

The system uses rules-supported reasoning to monitor and analyze data from the IoT-enabled electronic components in the smart gadgets, offering reports and alerts when certain anomalies are detected.

5. Introduce IoT security methods

Digital certificates have always been used to secure connected devices, such as servers, routers, and printers. The proliferation of smart devices and the increasing applications of IoT have given rise to public key infrastructure (PKI) that enables safe authentication of users, systems, and devices.

PKI is a registration authority that identifies public encryption key, thereby enabling users to securely exchange data on the network. This security method has been the backbone of internet security since its introduction through the use of digital certificates.

PKI makes it possible to store and transmit sensitive at-rest and in-transit data securely, thereby protecting the system from malicious hackers. Thus, PKI security solutions are positioned to address specific security concerns of the growing IoT community.

Furthermore, organizations can introduce IoT API (application programming interface) security methods that use REST-based APIs to protect data movement between edge devices and back-end systems by ensuring only authorized devices and developers to interact.

6. Conduct regular IoT hardware and application tests

Stringent testing of the key IoT hardware parameters, such as the range, the capacity, and the latency will ensure proper functioning of the electronic components and third-party modules, thereby ensuring the security of the IoT devices.

Moreover, in order to stay ahead of the competition, manufacturers often launch devices without testing it adequately, thereby increasing the risk of security threats. To avoid this, electronic device makers and app developers must update themselves on the latest IoT threats and plan for long-term protection against cyber-attacks. They must also conduct thorough research on the security of IoT applications and devices before launching them.

Lastly, organizations must train their employees and users about the nature of the threats and the measures to overcome them.

Like all disruptive technologies, the internet of things offers undeniable benefits to its users. From connected healthcare devices to smart cities, everything depends on IoT for communication and action. However, this transformative technology is leaving the door wide open for countless security risks at the device and the system level.

The above-mentioned points can be used by technology experts to pre-empt the common IoT threats to privacy and develop smart devices that are highly resilient to future cybersecurity threats.

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