When Will the IoT Security Discussion Grow Up?

OK, we get it. The security of the Internet of Things is a problem. But how many headlines do we need to see declaring that IoT security is a disaster?

Brian Buntz

August 2, 2016

2 Min Read
The IoT security discussion is at an elementary-school level.
iStock / DanielVilleneuve

When it comes to security, IoT technology can cut both ways. It can, for instance, protect against terrorist attacks and shootings. One connected technology—body cameras—is leading to unprecedented oversight of law enforcement. Connected technology also enables law enforcement to detect the location of gunshots near instantaneously and to keep tabs on car accidents using automatic crash notification data. IoT technology can also be used to monitor fires and people facing medical emergencies and natural disasters. It can be used to monitor that warning lights on roads or at railroad crossings are functioning correctly. There are countless ways that IoT can improve public safety.

“Security goes both ways because there are a lot of applications of IoT products that are about increasing security and there are also concerns about what happens if that data gets out,” says Particle CEO Zach Supalla.

For instance, it may be a valid concern to worry about a personal security camera feeds being hacked. But modern security cameras have better security protocols in place. “I think part of this concern comes from an era that has already passed where IoT devices were not secure by default,” Supalla says.

Still, the security of many connected devices developed five to ten years ago seems scary by today’s standards. “There are a lot of things out there that are totally insecure, and I don’t mean poorly implemented encryption—I mean things that no one thought to encrypt in the first place,” Supalla explains.

There are also Internet sites that catalog default username and passwords for video cameras for various manufacturers. But many video cameras simply broadcast their signals publically without their owner’s knowledge, making it possible for anyone to logon to a site like www.shodan.io and view their video feed in real time. The site includes live camera feeds of everything from baby cribs to people sitting in front of their computer. On Shodan, non-password-protected camera feeds of public and private places abound.

“But those are mostly cameras that were installed in the last ten years,” Supalla says. “New devices are much more secure—more often than not.”

The Internet of Things industry is making progress in addressing security. “These days, people have kind of figured out that security matters and that we have to lock stuff down,” he explains. Most buyers also have some understanding that security is a priority. “We know a lot about security risks and how to address them. It just doesn’t feel that way because there is so much legacy equipment out there.”

About the Author(s)

Brian Buntz

Brian is a veteran journalist with more than ten years’ experience covering an array of technologies including the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, and cybersecurity. Before coming to Penton and later Informa, he served as the editor-in-chief of UBM’s Qmed where he overhauled the brand’s news coverage and helped to grow the site’s traffic volume dramatically. He had previously held managing editor roles on the company’s medical device technology publications including European Medical Device Technology (EMDT) and Medical Device & Diagnostics Industry (MD+DI), and had served as editor-in-chief of Medical Product Manufacturing News (MPMN).

At UBM, Brian also worked closely with the company’s events group on speaker selection and direction and played an important role in cementing famed futurist Ray Kurzweil as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Medical Design & Manufacturing West event in Anaheim. An article of his was also prominently on kurzweilai.net, a website dedicated to Kurzweil’s ideas.

Multilingual, Brian has an M.A. degree in German from the University of Oklahoma.

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