Internet of Things (IoT): When the fridge orders supplies ...
Watches, cars, TVs and even refrigerators can be connected to the internet. Those products collect data and use it to make your everyday life more comfortable. Read here how to make it more secure as well.
What is the Internet of Things?
The internet of things (IoT) refers to a network of smart devices that can communicate via the internet. A device is typically described as “smart” or “intelligent” when it is connected to the internet. The devices in question are also often referred to as “smart home devices”.
For example, you can have your refrigerator order milk automatically or switch on the oven from the office so that your dinner is ready when you get home—incredibly practical. However, one must not forget that these devices are, to all intents and purposes, small computers and, as such, can be misused just like your smartphone, laptop or tablet.
Just how smart are your devices?
Smart home devices can be divided into two categories:
Category 1: Devices connected only to your private network
Devices in this category can only be accessed by smart phone, tablet or computer from within your privat network. As soon as you leave your home (and your private network) they cannot be accessed anymore. Therefore they are relatively safe.
Category 2: Devices connected to the internet
These types of devices can be controlled remotely from a smartphone, tablet or computer and are typically connected to the internet via your private network. Occasionally, they might have a SIM card of their own to access the internet.
Surely hackers can’t access my oven?
Think again! Every badly secured device connected to the internet can be accessed. Special scanning programs can locate those devices connected to the internet. This makes it easy for criminal hackers to detect them.
Unwittingly helping cybercriminals
In 2018 there were 32.7 million attacks on IoT devices. In the first half of 2019, there were as many as 105 million—three times as many as in the whole of the previous year. Hackers can infect vulnerable smart devices with malware and then control them to build botnets or launch DDoS attacks on providers. For example, even your baby monitor can become part of an online attack and thus part of a larger criminal system.
«In the first half of 2019 there were 105 million attacks on IoT devices.»
How to make your smart home safe
Your router is like your front door: it is the way you access your network and you access the internet. The more secure your router, the more secure your connected devices. Most of the time your router is part of your internet connection package. The provider will give you a Wi-Fi router by way of loan. Therefore you often have only limited possibilities to configure your router. Contact your provider for more information.
- If possible be sure to use a new router that meets the latest security standards.
- If possible, give your router a name without any reference to the brand, the provider or to your household.
- If possible choose a complex password.
Additional safety measures (if necessary, with the help of an IT expert):
- Divide your private wireless network into different security areas (for example guest network, IoT network and data network);
- Set up security software to monitor your home network.
- Protect all your devices and the corresponding control apps on your smartphone with complex passwords (no default passwords);
- Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible;
- Update the device software regularly;
- Check to ensure that your devices communicate in encrypted form;
- Check out the website iot-test.org for information about your device.
A modem router is a device that communicates between the internet and the devices in your home that connect to the internet. As its name implies, it “routes” traffic between the devices and the internet.
A typical home has a range of internet-connected devices — personal computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, thermostats, smart TVs, and more. Your router enables them to form a network, either a LAN (Local Area Network) or a W-LAN (Wireless Local Area Network). Without a router, you could only connect one device to your internet.
But the router does more: It directs incoming and outgoing internet traffic on that network in the fastest and most efficient way. When you are looking up a website in the internet the router makes sure the information is delivered quickly and to the correct device. The more devices (smart Internet of things) you add the bigger gets the task of your router.
Your router and your devices aren’t the only components on your home network. Routers use a modem such as a cable, fiber, or DSL modem to allow communication between other devices and the internet. Today most modern routers have a modem integrated.
W-LAN / Wifi
A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a wireless distribution method for two or more devices that use high-frequency radio waves and often include an access point to the Internet.
A WLAN allows users to move around the coverage area, often a home or small office, while maintaining a network connection.
The WLAN transmits radio frequency signals at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It functions similar to a radio, but is able to send and receive. The WLAN is normally built up by a router. A big variety of devices can be connected to it such as desktop computers, workstations, laptop computers, smartphones, refrigerators or smart lights.
WLAN should not be confused with the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi trademark. Wi-Fi is not a technical term, but is described as a superset of the IEEE 802.11 standard and is sometimes used interchangeably with that standard.
Tips when buying smart devices
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself or the salesperson:
Can I change the default password?
The default passwords of devices are generally in the public domain. Therefore, you should always create your own complex password. However, many devices today connect automatically to your smartphone and are controlled by an app. Therefore, you do not need to set a password for the device, but for the app. Again, choose a complex password and, wherever possible, enable two-factor authentication.
Does the device perform automatic security updates?
Technology changes very quickly, constantly creating new vulnerabilities: therefore, security updates are essential. Allowing automatic updates on your devices helps increase security.
Has the device been security-tested?
Providers are increasingly having their devices security-tested by independent institutions. This reassures customers that they are buying safe products. Check the online rating of a product you are planning on buying. For example, a key feature is data encryption.