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IoT Devices Raise Consumers’ Security Concerns

The IoT era is already here. Devices that record various data metrics and then adjust either how they operate (thermostats and cars) or the behaviors of the owner (fitness trackers) are widespread, and soon IoT will spread to nearly every facet of daily life.

In the retail world, some companies are exploring how to use IoT sensors to alert the company when shelves are empty, triggering automatic inventory actions. Within the home, consumers will soon see a dizzying array of IoT appliances, toys, games, and other devices.

The rise of IoT devices may be meteoric but the management of related security concerns is lagging well behind. With a quarter of consumers planning on buying IoT devices in the coming year, the need for stronger IoT security is now pressing.

According to research data from BullGuard, a growing antivirus and mobile security brand, 58 percent of 1,000 surveyed consumers are concerned about hacking attempts against their connected devices. However, 61 percent of that same group said they do not know how to properly protect their device and data from the risks.

Serious Security Concerns

At its most basic an IoT device is simply a machine or tool that utilizes sensors to relay information to the internet. This information is then utilized by the consumer or other machines. Typical goals of this information exchange are to see gains in productivity, security, convenience, or health. Consumer connected devices range from baby monitors and surveillance cameras to light bulbs and coffee makers.

Some of these devices simply pass along non-identifying data, such as temperature but many are also linked with a consumer’s personal information. And when an internet connection exists, there’s also the possibility of cyber crooks attempting to hack the information for financial gain. The survey data from BullGuard found a majority of consumers are concerned about the risks of hacking, and more than a third report experiencing a security or privacy problem with IoT devices.

See also: Bluetooth 5 Will Be Faster, Have Longer Range & Be Better For IoT

Despite the risks and the consumer anxiety, there are no IoT industry-specific security regulations or standards. Manufacturers of smart devices are typically create their security protocols. And many require consumers to manually update their devices, which is either too inconvenient or complex for many to manage.

The risks may also come from state-sponsored agencies, not just hacking groups. James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said in a senate hearing recently, “In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, and location tracking … or to gain access to networks or user credentials.”

IoT will fundamentally change the perception of personal security, as these devices and sensors record, analyze, and store personal information in an ever-increasing number of ways. While consumers have utilized computers and tablets for some time, and understand the security implications, those devices aren’t inherently “connected” in the same way as IoT-enabled devices.

Consumers Need Security Help

Even among the group of consumers that describe their technical literacy as “intermediate or advanced” (70 percent in the BullGuard survey), these consumers are able to set up a router, but don’t frequently change the password or know how to set it up for optimal home network security.  

IoT devices are complex, and if the most tech savvy of consumers have trouble with manually ensuring device security, then the other segments of the population will be largely unprotected. There’s clearly a need for the industry to address ways to both reassure consumers and educate them on the risks that come with IoT devices and also how to improve security. 

With IoT, security of the router is essential, because the IoT devices are essentially gateways to the home network. Hackers get into the network through these devices and basically take a look around undetected.

The need for security is especially important with devices that ensure actual physical security and wellbeing. Car sensors, machinery and tools, and even door locks are becoming connected and id they are hacked it could lead to damaging real-world consequences.

Keeping these devices secure is important, and antivirus vendors are leading the way in security — ahead of even the manufacturers and ISPs. Antivirus providers are facing the challenges of IoT by developing tools to protect routers to prevent the data from connected devices falling into the wrong hands.

Paul Lipman is CEO of BullGuard, an antimalware and mobile security brand. Its product portfolio includes Internet security solutions, mobile security, 24/7 identify protection, and social-media protection for both home and small business users.