The Risks and Rewards of IoT Tech and Smart Devices

08/09/2021

While the idea of the “Internet of Things” goes back to the 1970s, IoT technology wasn’t developed in earnest until the internet, its main enabler became mainstream. 

Over the past 15 years or so, engineers started embedding sensors into physical machines—like thermostats, washing machines, and cars— and powering them with software that enables the exchange of data, so they could be controlled remotely and could communicate when maintenance was needed.

The resulting devices have been so successful that analysts estimate there will be more than 75 billion IoT connected devices in use by 2025, a nearly threefold increase from 2019 figures.

As more interconnected devices make their way into our homes, optimize our manufacturing processes, and even help us manage crops more efficiently, let’s look more in-depth at what are the pros and cons of IoT technology.

What is the Internet of Things?

IoT devices are any piece of hardware that connects to the internet. They are often prefaced by the word “smart” so everything from smartphones, smartwatches, smart home appliances, and smart cars are all considered IoT devices. 

The industry for interconnected devices has been growing steadily, for the most part, because IoT technology allows users to automate many mundane and time-consuming tasks. 

If you don’t love housework, but still want a clean home, you can set up a robotic vacuum that can take care of cleaning your floors. And if you hate planning your grocery list, voice-enabled devices can automatically reorder essential items, and help you place online orders for delivery.

Unfortunately, being connected to the internet 24/7 comes with a unique set of risks and challenges, so be mindful of the downsides of this technology.

Smart Devices Can Be Hacked

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were over 4,000 cyberattacks every day. If large companies with excellent cybersecurity defenses—like T-Mobile and the Colonial Pipeline —can fall victim to ransomware attacks, imagine what hackers can do to the standard-issue security measures in your home.

Always remember: if it connects to the internet, it can be hacked. IoT devices are no different. And while it might seem unlikely that anybody would be interested in accessing the data from your thermostat or lightbulbs, keep in mind that malicious actors could leverage the smallest foothold into your network to gain access to all other devices that connect to your wifi. 

Portable devices can also easily fall prey to attacks, especially because they can connect to public wifi networks. As consumers go about their day, laptops, wearable devices, and smartphones are a treasure trove of bank details, health records, credit card data, emails, and all other kinds of information that you do not want to be exposed.

Learn Cybersecurity To Protect Our Digital World

The whole cybersecurity sector has been growing steadily, outpacing many others in terms of job demand, and the widespread adoption of IoT devices has further increased the demand for skilled professionals in IT security.

If securing networks from cyberattacks, monitoring systems for intrusions, and devising new tactics to counteract hackers sounds like a career you’d be interested in, there’s never been a better time to join the cybersecurity industry!

The Old Dominion University offers a Cybersecurity Bootcamp that can help you gain the practical and foundational skills you need to succeed in this skyrocketing field.

The way it works is really simple: you’ll attend live, online classes led by cybersecurity experts, two sessions on weeknights, and one on Saturdays. The whole program is a total of 400 hours of in-depth cybersecurity instruction and takes about 10 months to complete.

You will learn from industry-leading, cybersecurity professionals who bring their experience directly into the classroom while you practice new skills through practical simulations and cyber labs that mimic real-world cybersecurity scenarios. Plus, the ODU Cybersecurity Bootcamp offers a dedicated career services department that can guide you along your cybersecurity journey. 

To learn more, download the course catalog.

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IoT Devices Need the Internet to Work

As the name suggests, IoT devices depend on a reliable internet connection to function properly.

If your wifi is spotty or in case of a power outage, the vast majority of smart devices will not work and be available for remote monitoring. Obviously, you can still manually operate appliances like washing machines and thermostats, but sensors and cameras for security systems might fail altogether.

At the personal level, consequences can be somewhat easily mitigated. Unfortunately, however, many enterprises are adopting IoT technology at such a large scale that a failing internet connection could literally put them out of business for days.

IoT Uses for Businesses

Thanks to IoT technology, businesses of all sizes are able to streamline a number of processes that used to be burdensome and difficult to monitor. Manufacturers are now able to control production times, farmers can survey remote agricultural terrains, drivers can immediately diagnose mechanical issues, and managers can monitor the security of storage facilities with much greater ease than ever before.

Every sector can benefit from using interconnected devices, and the data they create can be used to uncover any parts of the business that could run more efficiently. The automation that IoT enables ends up saving enterprises a lot of time and money, so it is no surprise that analysts believe the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for IoT spending will reach 26.7% between 2022 and 2025. 

Cybersecurity Considerations for IoT

Human error is often at the heart of cybersecurity incidents and this holds true for smart devices as the vast majority of consumers don’t often take the time to understand the nuances of what permissions their personal devices should have. 

Some devices might be set up to share your information with third parties, while some others will not function properly unless you grant them unrestricted access. Enabling data sharing and other functionalities on your wearables and smartphones could create easy access points for hackers to steal your data.

Plus, most IoT devices have less storage and processing power than laptops and smartphones, making it difficult to use anti-virus, firewalls, and other widespread security applications that could help protect them.

No reason to despair, though, because there are many things you can do, on a personal level, to protect your privacy and your personal data. 

For tips on how to protect your smart devices, here’s a handy and easy-to-share infographic guide:

5 ways to protect your digital home infographic

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