The IoT Makes Life and Work Easier; What That Means for Cybersecurity


The Internet of Things (IoT) is playing an increasingly important role in our business and personal lives. It has evolved to include devices we never dreamed of just a few years ago. Smart refrigerators, TVs, surveillance cameras, cars, watches: the list of connected devices continues to grow exponentially. According to Statista, the number of IoT connected devices worldwide is estimated to reach 30.9 billion units by 2025. While connected devices can make our lives easier at home and in the workplace, they can also expand the attack surface for cybercriminals.

What is IoT?

The Internet, as we’ve come to know it, connects hundreds of millions of computers, smartphones, and tablets around the world, for the benefit of its many users. The next iteration of the Internet, the Internet of Things, is different. Instead of a global network that can connect every person in the world together, the IoT connects every person and everything ‘thing’ in the world together.

Instead of a global network for the benefit of people, the IoT is a network for the benefit of things.

Defining the Internet of Things

The IoT doesn’t just connect computers and smartphones and tablets but also a variety of purpose-built autonomous devices. That includes sensors, controllers, switches, lightbulbs, doorbells, and the like. It’s connecting devices together so that those devices can communicate with one another and with various software applications and controllers.

These connected devices are designed to operate autonomously. IoT devices typically require little or no human interaction, via the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies. This enables more, more automatic, and more intelligent services, without the need for human intervention.

How the IoT Works

Most IoT devices contain sensors that monitor their surroundings and collect data. They typically connect to each other and to other networks via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other wireless protocols. Many of these wireless devices are small and battery-powered.

The data collected by IoT devices are fed to specific software or services that then process, analyze, and act on that data. This software can reside on another device, on a separate controller, in a corporate data center, or in the cloud. These applications typically work in an automated or semi-automated fashion, although they can be controlled by real-live human beings.

IoT: Valuable in Daily and Work Life

At its most basic, the IoT automates many previously manual activities. It relieves human beings of the tedium of repetitive tasks and offloads simple decision making. It’s designed to make life easier for consumers and businesses alike.


Common IoT devices for business.

The IoT offers numerous benefits to consumers through its many practical uses, many of which are realized today. Practically every “smart home” device is enabled by the IoT, as are many smart devices and applications.

The IoT also benefits businesses with improved efficiency in offices, factories, and retail stores. It’s all about automating repetitive and predictable processes to improve efficiency and collecting more and more detailed data to make faster and more accurate business decisions.

The Internet of Things promises improved efficiency in offices, factories, and retail stores.

Some of the chief business uses of the Internet of Things include:

  • Smart lighting and HVAC systems
  • Smart building security
  • Smart inventory and supply chain management
  • Smart manufacturing via RFID tagging and robotic processes
  • Smart delivery routing and tracking

These uses can result in numerous benefits for savvy businesses, including improving the customer experience, speeding up existing processes, and enhancing employee productivity. IoT technology can also help management better manage day-to-day operations and make better long-term decisions.

How the IoT Impacts Cybersecurity

While the IoT brings many benefits to both consumers and businesses, it also presents new and complex cybersecurity threats. IoT devices present an appealing target to cybercriminals. There are lots of them, they’re everywhere, and they’re often connected to large networks and systems. Many IoT devices are also poorly secured compared to computers and other traditional devices, which makes them easier to hack into.

The problem is made worse when you consider that the firmware in many IoT devices cannot be easily updated. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to patch security flaws putting those devices at continuing risk.

IoT devices present an appealing target to cybercriminals.

The sheer number of these devices currently in use increases the odds of IoT-related security breaches. IOT Analytics says there are at least 12.3 billion IoT devices currently in use. That’s a lot of potential access points for malicious intrusions – which explains the startling increase in IoT-based cyberattacks. Kaspersky Labs reports more than 1.5 billion breaches of IoT devices during the first half of 2021 alone, more than double the number of attacks during the same period the previous year.

Hackers can break into an IoT device and do one of several things:

  • Steal the data stored on or collected by the device
  • Use the device to remote attack other devices and systems
  • Redirect control of the device to make it perform contrary to its intended function (imagine public utilities hijacked via IoT-connected devices)
  • Use the device’s connection to a larger system to hack into that system and breach the data stored there

How Cybercriminals Exploit IoT

Cybercriminals can easily exploit home IoT devices such as smart speakers, smart doorbells, smart switches, and the like. Security flaws in these and other smart devices make it easy for hackers to breach and take control of these devices, either affecting operation or stealing collected data.

IoT devices represent an even greater security threat to businesses. Every single IoT device connected to the company’s network represents a potential attack surface. Hackers can gain control of smart printers, smart routers, and the like to break into corporate networks and systems and access sensitive data or plant ransomware or other malware. Unless IoT devices are properly isolated and secured – and the data they transmit encrypted – the risk of an IoT-related breach is high.

Every single IoT device connected to the company’s network represents a potential attack surface.

The risk increases as more companies move to larger remote workforces. Not only does a business have to protect IoT devices directly connected to its network, it also has to guard against remote employees’ personal smart devices being used to breach the larger network.

How to Protect Your Network from Being Compromised Through IoT

How can individuals and businesses best protect against IoT-related cyberattacks? There are several things that can be done.

Protecting Your Home from IoT Risks

Guarding against IoT-related attacks and breaches in the home is challenging, as consumers don’t always have a lot of control over how their devices are secured. The best approach is to limit the amount of potential damage by engaging in the following activities:

  • Employing strong wireless security on all Wi-Fi routers and gateways
  • Employing strong passwords on all devices that require passwords – and changing those passwords on a regular basis
  • Entering as little personal information into these devices as possible
  • Regularly updating to newer versions of devices that, theoretically, have stronger built-in security


Protecting Your Business from IoT Risks

Protecting a business from IoT-related breaches and attacks involves increasing edge security. You need to reduce the number of potential attack surfaces, encrypt as much data as possible, and minimize the damage an attacker could inflict.

Here are some of the most important things a business can do to protect against possible IoT-related incidents:

  • Inventory and secure all IoT devices. You need to know which devices are connecting to your network, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Establish a baseline for acceptable behavior – and disconnect all devices that don’t need Internet access.
  • Stay up to date. Regularly update the firmware and apply any available patches to all eligible devices. If necessary, replace older devices with newer, more secure versions.
  • Educate your users. The people in your organization represent your largest security risk. Educate and train your employees to recognize phishing emails and to not open attachments from unknown users.
  • Create a separate network for IoT devices. Separate all IoT devices—whether company owned or employee owned—ensure the sensitive information on your corporate network is secure in the event of a compromised IoT device.
  • Enable strong network security. Make sure that your network can’t be accessed without appropriate authorization. Enact strong username/password security and encrypt all data and communications.
  • Use NG Firewall to protect against intrusion. One of the best defenses against IoT device threats is to gain visibility into the network traffic to identify normal and unusual behavior. NG Firewall can not only block spam, viruses, and phishing attempts, it can also block requests made by malware.

The Bottom Line

The Internet of Things is here and provides real benefits to both consumers and businesses. It also represents an increased cybersecurity risk that can be mitigated by taking proper precautions, such as regularly updating IoT devices, employing strong network security, and using the NG Firewall to monitor network behavior.