Internet of Things (IoT)

You may have heard the phrase, “the Internet of Things,” otherwise known as IoT which has many people just as puzzled as they are intrigued. So, what does the Internet of Things mean? Basically, this is referring to any device, other than your typical computer, tablet or smart phone, that is connected to the Internet. Some of these devices include kitchen appliances, smart TVs, baby monitors, door locks, heart monitors, security cameras, and the list could go on and on. The number of IoT devices is growing at a very rapid rate which has many cyber security professionals concerned.

The main concern is the fact that these devices are being brought to the market without proper security built in. It is thought this is largely because consumers are demanding this technology regardless of the security concerns.

In October, we got a small glimpse of what these devices can do if compromised. DYN, a major DNS provider was taken down by an army of compromised IoT devices. DNS, a core part of the Internet’s backbone, stands for Domain Name Servers, and is basically the equivalent of the phone book for the Internet. DNS resolves host names such as google.com to an IP address. This is how your Internet browser knows where to go to retrieve a Web page. You can also think of DNS like the old switch board operator that would patch you through to Uncle Bob, back in the early days when you had to speak to an operator.

This particular attack on DYN took down some very large websites such as Twitter, Amazon, Spotify, CNN, and many other mainstream sites affecting millions of people. The shocking part is the attack was carried out mostly by IoT devices like printers, DVRs and appliances. You heard me right, your Internet-connected TV may have been a culprit in this attack, and you would have never known.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you stay away from Internet-connected devices but I do want to inform you of the inherent risk associated with any device that is connected to the Internet. If we fast forward five years from now, I can definitely see a vast majority of households utilizing these devices. These include smart devices such as high efficiency lighting, that can be controlled remotely, or programmed to turn your lights on or off at certain times; door locks that automatically unlock when you are in close proximity; garage doors that automatically open when you pull into the driveway and close when you leave; all of which add some really nice functionality to the home. It is the idea of home automation and efficiency that is appealing to many people, and all the devices I mentioned are available today.

One of my favorite devices is the personal cloud-based assistant, such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. You can think of these devices as a command and control center for all your home automation needs. These fun little assistants allow you to voice control compatible devices connected to your home WiFi.

Next month I will walk you through some of the functionality you can achieve when pairing a cloud-based assistant with some of the home automation devices that are available, such as smart light bulbs or smart light switches. It is my hope to outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of some of the products available today, so you can be more informed if you decide to implement these devices in your own home. Until next month, don’t be too hard on your smart TV for taking down the Internet. It’s not the device’s fault.

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