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The Future of Connected Devices

The theme for the final week of 2020 Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “The Future of Connected Devices”. According to the organizers, “The final week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month will look at the future of connected devices. This week will look at how technological innovations, such as 5G, might impact consumers’ and business’ online experiences (e.g. faster speeds and data transmission, larger attack surface for hackers), as well as how people/infrastructure can adapt to the continuous evolution of the connected devices moving forward. No matter what the future holds, however, every user needs to be empowered to do their part. “

In 2020, the number of connected devices continued to grow at a rate higher than traditional devices like phones and computers. Mckinsey predicts that there will be 43 billion IoT devices by 2023, a 300% increase from 2018.


Connected Devices Today

There are a wide variety of devices that connect to the Internet. Everything from your refrigerator to thermometers on critical utilities connect to the Internet. The reasons that these devices are connected to the Internet are also numerous.

The benefit might be for the end-user if the application of the device relates to consumers. Having information or interactivity often requires an Internet connection. Nowadays, nearly every new car has a connection to the Internet, which can provide directions, entertainment, and other benefits. A recent advertising campaign from Buick illustrated this hyper-connectivity by showing a person referring to his Buick as an Alexa, rather than a car.

For the company that uses IoT devices in their operations, the benefits are different and vary based on the industry. For industrial companies that rely on temperature readings to control processes and maintain safety, having those devices connected to the Internet might be required to get data. In offices, sensors might be used to monitor capacity, control lighting, or any number of uses.


Security Challenges

Connected devices are notoriously insecure due to their characteristics. They cannot be updated as easily as desktops or other more user-friendly devices. The credentials used to get administrator access might still contain the default values. Firewalls and other cybersecurity software cannot be used directly on the devices in most cases.

The lack of security has had impacts on the device owners and others. People’s privacy has been violated, as voyeurs spied on people who did not properly secure their video monitoring devices. An externality of poor device security occurs as these devices get infected and join a botnet. The botnet can function to bring massive amounts of traffic in DDoS attacks or be used for other nefarious purposes.


Future Trends

The “Internet-of-” term will continue to expand to so many industries that the term will lose meaning. The Internet of Healthcare Devices (IoHD) refers to the multitude of devices in hospitals that connect to the Internet. The Internet of Military Things (IoMT) refers to IoT devices used to support military operations. Every piece of hardware or system will be seen as a portal to the Internet. Formerly inanimate objects will come alive with connection and intelligence.

The benefit of these devices will again depend on the use case. One revolutionary benefit that will grow in importance relates to making better decisions by using the data that results from usage. Analyzing this data can uncover new business opportunities or areas for optimization. This so-called “Big Data” concept has existed for many years. Analyzing this data can have a variety of use-cases. For example, sensors on a public trash can might be used to optimize the route of a sanitation worker.

Ordinary people will continue to see more benefits from connected devices if they are paying attention. New advancements are happening constantly and are sneaking into everyday life. The trend is happening in such a nuanced way that the average person might not even notice. For the user, a new thermostat that utilizes environmental sensors and weather reports is simply a nice way to save on electric bills. As with business use-cases, the situations where connected devices will come into everyday life are endless. For example, Internet-connected contact lenses could inform the wearer about the world around them.


Security Solutions

Methods to secure and maintain trust in connected devices will also evolve. The more businesses are dependent upon Internet-connected systems to deliver service or make decisions, the more they are dependent on the data that these devices record. Hackers can corrupt or manipulate data. However, the data can be validated using unique new methods that incorporate blockchain, for example.

Preventing the devices from being infected in the first place can be done in several ways. Gathering intelligence on actual attacks on IoT devices can be done using honeypots and monitoring activity. That intelligence gives the administrators the information to make the best decision to protect devices. Other methods include simple things like ensuring strong credentials and patching the software.


Streaming Session Recap

Cipher held a streaming video session discussing the topic of the future of connected devices as well.


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