Shut the Door on Hackers with the Managed Internet of Things

Currently, one of the biggest security concerns for IT professionals is the Internet of Things (IoT). While definitions of this term differ, the IoT essentially refers to the many “dumb” devices connected to the internet today, such as thermostats, cameras, cars, and even pacemakers.

The problem is that many of these devices are not built to be particularly secure. Flaws in their security are constantly being found and exploited by hackers. Sometimes those hackers use the IoT devices to commit attacks against outside targets, but other times they manipulate the devices or use them to infiltrate the network to which the device is connected.

For example, the cybersecurity firm Darktrace reported that they discovered a casino’s network was hacked and their database of high-rollers was stolen. How did the thieves get access to the network?

Through the fish tank.

No, Nemo wasn’t handing out passwords. Instead, the hackers were able to get into the network via the internet-connected fish tank sensors that monitored and controlled temperature, salinity, and even feeding the fish.

The hackers were able to evade the casino’s regular security because they attacked a new and unconventional device that wasn’t properly protected. As a result, 10 GB of valuable corporate data was transferred from the casino to a device in Finland before the hack was detected.

And if you’re surprised that a fish tank could be so dangerous, consider the FBI’s warning about children’s toys.

In 2017, the FBI issued a warning that interactive, internet-connected toys, which often contain sensors that record conversations or pictures as well as GPS location data, could be vulnerable due to a lack of security safeguards. The FBI warned that this data could be used to commit identity fraud or child exploitation.

In the case of these toys and many other IoT devices, one key issue is that security is overlooked in the rush to get new products on the market. The holes in security aren’t found until later — after the products are already in consumers’ homes and businesses.

For instance, in a perfect example of irony, major security flaws have been found in some IP security cameras, which are digital surveillance cameras that connect to the internet. Cybersecurity experts describe these flaws as easily exploitable and dangerous.

Because these insecure cameras are so attractive to hackers, it’s not unusual for them to get attacked daily. Using programmed bots, hackers are able to scan the entire internet for vulnerable targets, meaning that no insecure device is too unimportant to be detected.

Driving home this point, the CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, says that once you connect a poorly secured IoT device, you should expect it to be hacked within a week.

In addition to using these devices as doorways into your network, malicious hackers can take control of the device itself. For instance, two security experts demonstrated that they could take control of a smart thermostat by sending “ransomware” to it that would lock up the thermostat until the owner paid off the hackers.

Another hacker exploited a security flaw in an older Heatmiser thermostat and raised the temperature inside of the home to 95º F. That model of thermostat has been discontinued due to the security flaw, but how many homes had the device been installed in before that flaw was discovered?

Essentially, the problem is that these IoT devices aren’t just a toy or a thermostat or a fish tank. They’re a toy, thermostat or fish tank with a computer attached to them. And just like any computer connected to your network, they’ve got to be secured. Otherwise, they are vulnerable and they make your entire network vulnerable too.

As you can see, Internet of Things devices can pose some serious risks to your home or business. But they can also be extremely useful, even unavoidably necessary in today’s world. So what can you do if you need connected devices like cameras or temperature and humidity sensors?

That’s where our Managed Internet of Things devices and services come in. We can build IoT devices that fit your company’s specific needs and provide the security you need, too.

SOLUTION to SECURITY

For instance, our Display.Works device can turn a basic “dumb” television monitor into a secure digital sign, which can be used to communicate with customers or employees without fear of it getting hacked. Or it can be used to securely display the feeds from your security cameras.

We can also build custom devices with sensors, such as those used to detect temperature or humidity, so that you can remotely monitor and regulate your warehouse—or your fish tank—without fear that someone will use those devices to rob you.

Data from these managed IoT devices will travel over the secure network that our system creates. Plus, we monitor these devices to detect vulnerabilities or attacks, and update them whenever needed, so that you don’t have to worry about keeping the security up-to-date yourself.

The Internet of Things holds an enormous amount of both promise and peril. Our managed IoT systems can help to maximize that promise while minimizing the risks of connected devices.