IoT security must be tightened – or we’ll all face a world of hurt

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a potential security nightmare, as we’ve been hearing for a long time now, and a fresh set of warnings has been issued on how work needs to be done to ensure the privacy of individuals isn’t compromised by the IoT.

Organisations using the IoT must be accountable in terms of helping to protect the privacy of consumers, and as reports, a panel of experts at the recent IPExpo conference talked of the dangers of connected devices, and the risks of the likes of CCTV networks which keep watch over big cities.

Harvey Lewis, research director in the Deloitte Insights team, commented: "CCTV cameras and other sensors are watching you and recording information about you, and algorithms can recognise and track you as you move from place to place.

“Even if you're not instrumented yourself, data about you, your location and your health can be monitored even though you're not connected.”

He added: "A Japanese company has invented a technology that can measure your pulse and breathing rate using nothing but the modulation of Wi-Fi signals in a room."

Intelligent decisions

And James Hatch, Director, Cyber Services at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, made the point that ensuring IoT security in the business world and for industrial applications is one thing, but dealing with consumers is another.

Simply put, he noted: “Where the IoT and consumer worlds overlap, individuals don't have the time, incentive or expertise to make intelligent decisions.”

In other words, it’s all too easy to install an app and grant it all sorts of permissions without thinking – and when that software is dealing in actual physical data and readings, there are obviously heightened concerns about privacy. Or rather there should be, although Hatch asserts that “new generations don't have big concerns about privacy”, and this is a big part of the problem.

Couple this lackadaisical attitude towards privacy with the anticipated explosive growth in connected devices, and you’ve got a definite recipe for disaster.

We’ve recently seen another example of how poorly secured IoT gadgets can be a big threat, as the likes of various connected devices such as security cameras have been used as part of a botnet to launch the biggest DDoS attacks ever seen.

All in all, it seems there are a lot of issues to resolve around the IoT, and not much time to move before they start to become far weightier problems.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).