How Cybersecurity Will Accelerate IoT’s Growth

We expect the 2020’s decade to be defined by near-ubiquitous connectivity. All types of devices in our homes, workplaces, and cities are expected to be internet-enabled to seamlessly capture and transmit data. Semiconductors costs have declined over 90% over the last decade, making such connections remarkably inexpensive. And the rollout of 5G will allow data to transfer between devices and the cloud virtually instantaneously, at speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) brings millions of devices online, it creates vast opportunities for individuals and corporations, but it also introduces new types of risks and vulnerabilities. Each of these millions of devices presents new entry points for hackers, adding challenges and complexity to effectively manage security for firms and individuals. Successful IoT deployments will require multi-layered, end-to-end security that ranges from up front baked-in security requirements to the ongoing management and protection of sensitive machine-generated data.1 There will be no one-size-fits-all solution, but the world’s leading cybersecurity firms are preparing to protect this vast expansion in a new era for the internet.

New Devices, New Threats

The Internet of Things is central to many emerging technologies and themes, including autonomous vehicles, smart cities, smart factories, and health devices. But internet-enabled devices also create new targets for hackers who want to steal or ransom valuable private data. Today, 98% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted, causing 57% of IoT devices to be highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, exposing personal and confidential data on a network.2 We can expect the number and degree of incidences to increase with the proliferation of connected devices.

Cybersecurity in IoT devices

Take smart speakers, for example – a relatively new market that grew from internet giants looking to enter our homes via virtual assistants. In 2018, a weakness in Amazon’s Alexa code enabled hackers to eavesdrop on users. Typically, Alexa is supposed to start recording only after detecting the wake word “Alexa,” and terminate recording after a receiving a command (“Turn off the lights!”). Yet hackers programmed Alexa to continue listening well after a command, effectively allowing them to record users’ conversations. Fortunately, the hackers were actually researchers without malicious intent and alerted Amazon of their findings.3 The company pushed security fixes immediately.

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