Secure your Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and how do we secure it? The IoT is the network of devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other physical items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and the connectivity that enables these objects to exchange data. With these types of technology innovations, we are connecting more and more devices to the Internet. Unfortunately, more device connections equates to more potential for cyber theft and invasion of privacy.  

So why are IoT defenses so weak? With new technology innovations, there’s little to no protection on these devices simply because they haven’t been created yet. Unlike mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers, which have benefited from years of research and development, new IoT devices such as smart kitchens and smart cars have new operating systems requiring expensive research and security. By building security into a device, it can slow down development, performance speed and data capacity, which is a loss for companies vying for status as first movers. Conversely, by not investing in security, the devices become backdoors for cyber criminals.

How to protect your IoT devices. Evaluate whether the devices you bring into your network really need to be smart. Do you really need a smart toaster or refrigerator? If not, it’s probably better to treat IoT technologies as security risks instead of fully trusting them with all of your personal data and access to your network.  

However, if you must have one or more IoT devices, segment your network so the IoT devices are not on the same segment that contains your sensitive information. Also, make sure you update your devices and settings when prompted. Most importantly, always change default passwords to strong passcodes.

IoT on campus. For an on-campus solution, OIT is in partnership with the NC State Libraries to create MakerspaceIOT, a more open network for experimenting with IoT devices. Off campus, you should be able to set them up on your own Wi-Fi networks. Refer to the Internet of Things website for more information.

The IoT will never be secured fully; however, we can protect ourselves if we build in a few precautions.