The Internet of Things threat

The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production resulting in the first factories. The Second emerged when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line using electric power to create mass production. The Third was ushered in through the use of electronics and information technology to automate production and the Fourth Industrial Revolution follows hot on the heels with the advent of the Internet and subsequent move to digitalise and connect everything, connect everyone.

By now you will have heard of the term Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is creating a tremendous digital business future where interactions between things we wear, touch or utilize become integrated into the fabric of everyday life. The development of mobile computing technologies and wireless communications networks (including WiFi and 4G/LTE) coupled with miniaturization means that this powerful access to always-on communication is no longer tied down by cables and can be, and is being, embedded in everything.

IoT threats are everywhere

Inside the smart-home, everything from light bulbs and refrigerators to televisions and toasters are getting connected to the internet. A world of wonder already exists for the futurists where you can set the temperature of your home on your way back from work, remotely spy on your home whilst you are away, or have your fridge automatically order groceries when you're running low on milk etc. In the workplace, integrated building technology is used to centrally manage everything from multimedia systems to lighting and shades, and from security to HVAC (heating ventilation and air-conditioning) systems.

New “things” being deployed everywhere are exploding the attack surface. Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, growing to 20.8 billion by 2020. As IoT grows, security risks grow with it.

Gartner, March 2016

The explosion of IoT devices is leaving everyone exposed to cyber threats. The rate by which IoT devices are being churned has inevitably led many to be released to market with little to no security. Amongst those making the headlines have been baby monitors, smart bulbs, toy dolls and webcams, whilst recent DDoS attacks of a scale never seen before have utilised an army of Digital Video Recorders, smart TVs, broadband routers etc. Each connected devices represents a potential end-point to exploit for the hacker with attacks focused on the owner of the device or used to attack another target. The opportunity is huge for the cyber criminals. Gartner predicts that a black market worth over $5 billion will exist which sells fake sensor and video data aimed at enabling criminal activity.