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Connected Devices - Are They Making The World A Smaller, Simpler Yet Unsecure Place?

27/10/2016 16:15

From smart phones, to connected watches, to cars and even fridges, the Internet of Things has had a disruptive impact on our everyday lives. With the ability to replenish our fridges autonomously, to monitoring our daily activity levels and controlling the central heating in our homes on the go, our lives have been influenced and simplified.

Devices monitoring our every step and heart beat are physically impacting our daily decisions and have become a key contributor to what is now a massive IoT ecosystem. According to new research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) big data analytics and the IoT are expected to add some £322 billion to the UK economy between 2015 and 2020. This is twice the size of the combined education, NHS and defence budgets for 2014-15, and 22% of the UK's net public debt (circa. £1.5 trillion in 2014-15).

We now expect everyday objects to be connected and have the ability to think autonomously. This presents a drastic change of approach for the manufacturing industry - they have had to adopt a completely new way of thinking and working, which if not done properly, could be catastrophic and potentially life threatening for consumers. Just last year, automotive giant Tesla was forced to issue a software update twice in a month after two researchers found a way to subvert its on-board system to control brakes, lights and mirrors wirelessly, forcing the vehicle to stop remotely. Luckily the researchers simulated a wireless attack within the safe environment of a field but it could have only been a matter of time until an attack of this nature was carried out on a busy public road, with catastrophic results.

Japanese car maker Subaru was another to fall foul, and was forced to recall 72,000 vehicles with the company's Eyesight Driver Assist system, following identification of a software problem that could cause the automatic braking system to fail. It turns out that there was a problem in the connection between two major components, the brake light switch and the automatic braking system, which could have lead to the potential failure of two vital elements of the vehicle.

Luckily, these examples were both caught in time, but they highlight the fact that that even something as seemingly innocuous as a light bulb now has an IP address, meaning that a once disposable commodity could potentially be cloned and used to maliciously access a network, without sufficient security measures in place, such as the Wi-Fi your kids tablets are connected to.

More recently the DOS attack that shut down Netflix and Amazon have been orchestrated by using IoT devices as attack bots to hit the DNS service providers, preventing access to many services we take for granted as available. Many of these IoT devices have little security other than a password, that rarely gets changed from the default.

The old manufacturing quality paradigm just isn't designed to find problems associated with a future of connected-devices, especially as the cyber security landscape becomes more complex. The opportunity that IoT presents for consumers and a wide variety of industries alike is too big to miss out on, but security measures must be put in place to safeguard consumers, before it's too late.

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