The Promise and Problems of the Internet of Things for Small Business

The Promise and Problems of the Internet of Things for Small Business

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers exciting new technologies that provide solutions of efficiency, convenience, and cost savings to businesses of all sizes. These connected devices that utilize the internet to communicate represent another tech revolution. Whether it’s smart security cameras, lights and thermostats or equipment sensors, credit card readers, and smart labels, small businesses are incorporating IoT devices into their day-to-day business. Yet, with each new device that’s connected to the network comes new security risks that hackers can exploit.

The IoT is exploding. Experts predict the market for IoT technologies will grow to $1.7 trillion by 2020 and that the global economic impact may reach $6.2 trillion annually by 2025. While small companies would be wise to recognize that IoT technology can provide a competitive edge and upgrade their business plans accordingly, security should be top of mind. Unfortunately, the initial rush to create new IoT devices to meet demand was largely done with security as an afterthought. The situation is improving as security concerns receive more attention, but caution and due diligence by users are required.

What Risks?

The IoT devices themselves collect and share enormous amounts of data making them attractive targets for hackers. In addition, the devices are connected to networks that house valuable information. Those connections create potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals who want network access.

In a public service announcement, the FBI warns of different threat scenarios. For example, “Criminals can exploit unsecured wireless connections for automated devices, such as security systems, garage doors, thermostats, and lighting. The exploits allow criminals to obtain administrative privileges on the automated device. Once the criminals have obtained the owner’s privileges, the criminal can access the home or business network and collect personal information or remotely monitor the owner’s habits and network traffic.”

Three Precautionary Measures:

  1. Buyer Beware:  Before investing in an IoT product, make sure it has security features built in and an acceptable privacy policy.
  2. Stay Vigilant: When installing IoT devices, change the factory-default usernames and passwords (create a strong and different password for each device) and install security updates as they become available.
  3. Bolster Defenses:  Companies need to secure the gateways through which IoT devices are connecting to their networks. Consider using separate networks for internet-enabled devices. Track the devices that are connected to your network.