Can Your Coffee Maker Be Hacked? Cybersecurity Issues And The Growing Internet Of Things – Security


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Internet of Things (IoT) devices have flooded the lives of
consumers over the past few years, with the global IoT market
valued at $384.7 billion in 2021, according to a March 2022 report from Fortune Business
Insights. “Smart” technology has become a standard
feature on most consumer products, from smartwatches and lightbulbs
to dishwashers and toasters. IoT devices are also common to
see—or not see—while simply walking down the street.
There are smart trashcans that alert city sanitation workers when
they are full and even sensors on streetlights that listen for and
detect gunshots. With a growing number of devices being connected
to the internet, it is increasingly important that the public be
sufficiently educated on the risks that accompany IoT devices.

What is an IoT Device?

An IoT device is any type of physical object—not including
computers—that has the ability to connect wirelessly to a
network and transmit data. This can include anything from children’s toys, guns, or even medical devices. IoT devices are usually
marketed as a way to make life more efficient by controlling
everything from one place, such as your smartphone. It gives users
the ability to preheat the oven, turn on lights in or outside the
home, and toss the dog a treat from a pet camera before even
starting the drive home from work. But connecting so many types of
non-traditional devices to the internet opens the door to brand new
security complications since the core function of an IoT device is
not internet connectivity. That smart coffee maker on your counter
was not designed for security—it was designed to make
coffee.

How Can IoT Devices Be Dangerous?

The desire to be efficient and a willingness to connect just
about anything to the internet can cloud our ability to fully
recognize and understand the risks that accompany
hyperconnectivity. While most security features are built in during
the design process, it is important that consumers are aware of
these risks and take the appropriate steps to secure their devices
or maybe think twice before adding more gadgets to their home
networks. Setting up a new device is a critically important time
for a user to ensure the device’s security, as IoT
devices can sometimes be attacked within minutes of
connecting to the internet.

Compromising an IoT device allows a threat actor unfettered
access to any other devices connected to the same network,
including smartphones, company computers, or home security systems.
In 2015, Vtech experienced a hack that resulted in the theft
of more than 4.8 million customer records,
including over 227,000 records pertaining to children. In 2021,
Silicon Valley-based security company Verkada was targeted by a
group of hackers who gained access to more than 150,000 of Verkada’s surveillance
cameras. The hackers were able to both gain control over the
cameras and view live feeds from psychiatric hospitals, gyms, prisons, schools, and
police stations, exposing the potentially sensitive information
of thousands of individuals. In just the first six months of 2021,
IoT devices experienced more than 1.5 billion attacks. With many
employers still seeing so many people working from home as a result
of the COVID-19 pandemic, the security—or lack
thereof—of IoT devices could end up costing employers as
well. As long as the number of devices connected to the Internet
continues to rise, so will the number of potential bad actors
attempting to gain access to them.

IoT Best Practices

While the risks associated with IoT devices are unlikely to make
them any less popular, there are several ways that consumers can
help keep their devices secure:

  1. Timely updates: It is important to keep
    devices up to date with the latest software versions, as this is
    how manufacturers prevent threats.

  2. Encryption:  Most IoT devices are not
    going to encrypt the data they contain, leaving users vulnerable to
    threat actors. While encryption may not be a fool-proof fix, it
    will help keep sensitive information safer.

  3. Authentication tools:  Users should take
    advantage of multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools, such as
    multi-factor or token authentication, as an added layer of
    security.

  4. Purge old devices:  Unlike that pair of
    shoes that have been buried in your closet for months, forgotten
    IoT devices pose a threat to your network security. It is important
    to disable devices that are no longer use to minimize possible
    entry points for threat actors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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