Securing the IoT Requires Multiple Lines of Defense

To reduce the risk of a hack, a company needs to look at all the ways data is collected, analyzed and shared, and how devices can be accessed, controlled and managed.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 16, 2015

Media coverage of existing and potential security breaches can make it difficult to know what is—and isn't—a viable threat to the growing number of Internet of Things systems in use in homes and businesses. Increasingly, the fear is that unauthorized parties may be talking or listening to a user's devices, and there seem to be numerous ways for them to do so.

What kind of security issues an IoT system faces can be broken down into at least three categories: intruders' ability to access data stored on a Web-based server in the cloud, the vulnerability of data being transmitted between a device and a server or other device, and the risks of the device itself being hijacked by an unauthorized party. In the third case, even if the device is hacked, there is the question of what the intruder wants to—and can—accomplish, such as capturing data from that device or remotely controlling it to do something the user never intended.

It's a heady list of concerns, and one to which a multitude of agencies and companies, as well as engineering teams, are devoting research to solve.

When it comes to a server's vulnerability, that problem is not unique to the IoT. With servers collecting data from thousands of sensors, how can users be sure that a hub hosting their information isn't vulnerable? How is data being protected? The security of stored data is a concern that extends far beyond the Internet of Things to every PC, laptop and mobile device.

Another security issue that is not unique to the IoT—but to all Internet users—is the need to secure data as it is being transferred, and to ensure that machines, sensors and other connected things cannot be controlled from the outside.

Although much media attention is being focused on creepy consumer-related IoT security risks (such as the possibility of a hacker spying on a family via a child's Barbie doll), there are potential hacks that could cause significant harm to businesses that employ IOT technologies.

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