Internet of Things (IOT) – Usage, Security and Privacy

Abstract

The world of today is so technologically connected (though emotionally disconnected!) that even a light bulb and shoe can talk to each other! The existence of high-speed internet and the advent of devices that connect to it seamlessly has increased the possibilities multifold. The advanced technologies have also brought the problem of security and privacy where there is nothing remotely private or secure in today’s inter-connected world. Though it is inevitable to be part of the revolution, it is always advisable to be safe than sorry.

What is IOT (Internet of Things)?

The Internet of things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects – “things” – that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet. It refers to a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that can collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention.

What is an IOT device?

IoT (Internet of Things) is any physical device/object that connects to the Internet. It can be a fitness tracker, a thermostat, a lock, or appliance and even a light bulb.
Imagine a bracelet or a shoe tracking your heartbeat and reporting any potential health risks to your doctor. You do not have to even imagine as these “smart”and “connected” gadgets already exist!

Why TalkAbout IOT Now?

The IoT is the most talked about and hot topic right now because individuals and companies are realizing how many ‘things’ can be inter-connected that will impact personal and commercial choices and businesses.
Increased discussions are built around this tech for the reasons like
  • Affordability of the technology
  • Increase in devices that connect wirelessly
  • Availability and affordability of high-speed internet
  • Increase in the usage of smartphones
  • Ability of operation of the connected devices through the smartphone
  • Increase in tech literacy
  • Demand for more efficient and convenient products/services.
The technology is not only a jargon used by the experts in the field but affecting everyone from a layman to a businessman and a farmer to an entrepreneur.

IOT Applications

IoT Applications
Numerous studies have shown that the usage of IoT improves operations in any business that include connected and streamlined processes, productivity, monitoring (remotely) being the top benefits. Let us lookat some of the applications across different industries.

Agriculture

For agriculture in restricted places like plants placed indoors, greenhouses, etc., IoT makes things easy through management and monitoring of climate/temperature/lighting conditions that can be controlled remotely thus increasing the production. For bigger spaces, devices that can sense, regulate,and monitor required conditions like moisture, weather, soil content, fertilizers, etc. can drastically increase the production with least efforts. It can also help in preventing wastage of unwanted resources like water which are normally used in more than necessary quantities.

Consumer Space

Individual consumers get a lot in IoT in the form of different gadgets to make their homes smart and wearables that make life comfortable. Smart home gadgets include the connected devices that regulate the temperature indoorsto make you comfortable when you reach home, security devices like the connected cams that keep you updated about the kids or the surroundings of your home in your temporary/long absence, refrigerator that orders on your behalf based on its usage and contents and so on. The use cases are just endless and most of them are already a reality. Also, smart wearables or health monitors (like fitbits, smart watches) are making the life easy by constantly monitoring the health status and transferring the data to an expert when needed.

Healthcare

As discussed above, not only in the case of individual users, wearable IoT devices let hospitals monitor their patients’ health who can stay at home, thereby reducing hospital stays and save cost but still be monitored continuously with real-time information. Also, IoT in life saving and critical equipment leads to near zero breakdowns leading to 100 percent reliability.

Supply Chain and Logistics

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology can help tracking and monitoring a product from its start till it reaches the destination. The devices can also gather information on parameters like change in product condition, time taken to travel, etc. thus identifying the hindrances for future improvement by reducing loss of time and wastage.
The buzz around the self-driving cars that is already a partial reality says a lot about the vast potential in the field through the usage of connected devices. The GPS, another example of IoT, is already vastly being utilized to help in individual and commercial transportation by being able to identify faster and efficient routes. Cars are now connected and can talk to smartphones that can even control its components like engine, air conditioner, lights, etc.

IOT enabled Financial Services

The arrival of new-age Fintech startups and digital only banks with their latest technologies and zero legacy system advantage has left no choice to all the competitors but to jump into the tech bandwagon. These startups, along with collaboration from existing players in financial/insurance sectors are offering out of the box products/services using the available latest technologies including IoT.
Listed below are a few precautions and tips that can be followed to safeguard the security and privacy while enjoying the connected world.

Update..update..update!

Update your devices and the applications it uses without fail. An updated device is a secure device at least for the known vulnerabilities. Most of the devices have auto update feature that can be enabled. All the devices, whether big or small, must be updated and should carry the latest software and security patches. Research a little aboutthe product/device to see the support being offered by the seller and the number of years of software/security updates being provided to make a conscious decision before purchase.

Device Privacy Settings

All the devices need permissions to lay hands on the data and information and are bound to ask the user confirmation before accessing them. So, carefully looking at the privacy settings of the individual devices can make your data more secure. Like for example, are you aware about the amount of information collected by Google from the day you create the account that includes information about your personal preferences, financial data, locations visited, family and friends data, and so on. And while creating the account we do not blink twice before accepting the terms and conditions without even going through it!

Passwords

IOT PASSWORD
How many of us use a strong password for the umpteen number of applications and devices we use on daily basis? And how many are reused or repeated? How may password one can actually remember?
Though it sounds as a cliché, it is necessary to give some thought before creating any password for all applications, irrespective of the usage and importance. This will go a long way in ensuring that it is not easily stolen or hacked to gain access to your account/device. Another important thing to keep in mind is to always change the default administrator password set by the manufacturer in your connected devices like Router, Modem, Camera, etc. If you are a struggler in managing all the passwords, it is worth to invest some time and learn how to use password managers that are easily available. Lastly, do not forget to change the passwords at regular intervals.

Antivirus

Devices that permit installation of antivirus software should be installed with one and kept always updated. Antivirus companies do a decent job in identifying and finding a fix for the latest vulnerabilities. So, an updated and reputed antivirus software will be an advantage that will prevent misuse. Businesses should be extra careful in selection and deployment of antivirus that serves a wide range of requirements to prevent cyber criminals gaining access to the company data. Imagine the highly confidential military data of a country being hacked and released to an enemy nation or held for ransom!

Disable, Lock, Disconnect, Turn Off

All smart devices can be locked when not in use which is a handy feature to keep the contents of the device secure. Auto lock along with a strong access credentials like password or biometric can safeguard the data to a significant extent. There are even settings that can be activated to wipe the data remotely in case the device is stolen. Another way to be safe is to turn off the device or disconnect it from the internet when not in use for longer periods (like when going on a vacation). Most of the devices have features that we never utilize or needed for our regular needs. These unused features can be disabled to reduce the potential vulnerabilities.

Encryption

End-to-end encryption is a foolproof way to protect the data and information and this capability can be utilized if not enabled by default. You can understand the usage by spending a few minutes on the device features related to encryption services. This is crucial, more so, to the business establishments.

Work from Home/Anywhere – Necessity of Security and Privacy

Work from Home/Anywhere
During these pandemic times that has become the ‘new normal’ – where working from home is a necessity, where classrooms are online, where dependency on the connected devices is no more for the elite, giving attention to security and privacy aspects of the technology is necessary.
Experts believe that security can be ‘not so secure’ in most of the IoT devices, especially that are low-cost.Hackers can use available technology to scan hundreds of thousands of devices that are weak in security, that contain the default passwords like “admin”, “guest”, “password” or specific company defaults. And the likelihood of finding an IoT device that has the default/weak password(s) or has not been set up properlyis extremely high, exposing the devices to attack by the hackers.

Conclusion

Being part of the IoT revolution intentionally or unwittingly is inevitable as we see the developments happening around. But being in a cocoon of technology ignorance is also not an option any more. As we move towards anincreasingly connected world, the demand for more secure and private devices/communications is a necessity that no one can take lightly.

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