‘Tis the season of excess.  I bet most households have presents from Santa that are connected to the internet.  We are living in a connected world.  But did you know that those items very likely will end up as part of a cybercrime “army” of bots? 

Yup, it’s true. While most people are stoked to try out their new gaming system or put that new Fitbit to use, it’s worth it for the safety of your community to take a few quick measures to ensure digital security.  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Internet of Evil Things, the potential of risk is significant when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).

What does IoT really mean? It refers to devices that are embedded with electronics, software, and sensors. They can be controlled remotely from existing infrastructure and are in your SMART TV, refrigerator, and watch. So, when you go on a diet January 1st and step on your bathroom scale that automatically talks to the app on your phone, there is a good chance that your scale may be part of the next massive cyber attack.  Experts estimate by 2020 the world will have close to 50 billion IoT devices. We now live in a world of big data.

That interconnectivity that makes items so useful and desirable is precisely what poses the problem. Manufacturers are not focused on security. For the most part, they are putting the same IP stack within all these items. It’s cheaper and quicker to use an already engineered software. But that means if there is a vulnerability — the Grinch comes along with his trusty sidekick Max, they break in and compromise that stack. And since it’s in everything, the problem becomes widespread. Hundreds of millions of devices could be compromised at the same time with massive implications. Power plant shut-downs, hospitals held hostage to cyber attacks and business transactions frozen.

CyberCrime can bring life to a grinding halt. Sure it feels a bit silly to worry about the destructive power of your innocent bathroom scale, but the risk is real and it’s incumbent upon users to take notice and act.

What can you do? Here are three things that can certainly help:

1. Update Software

I agree, those update intrusions never arrive at a good time. You’re working to deadline, or trying to get important work emails off, or you just want to binge watch Bloodline on Netflix and can’t be bothered with an update. But these updates help keep you protected to fight off potential intrusions. They also allow your entire system to run smoother. An oil change, if you will.

2. Change Default Password

This one seems obvious. It’s a simple step you can take to add another layer of protection. That default password is potentially also on millions of other products.

3. Block Access from the Outside In

The ability to access and store data in the cloud is one of driving benefits of IoT devices.  Few people, however, need access to configure the devices from outside their homes or offices.  If you block the ability to connect to your device from across the internet for this purpose, it greatly reduces the potential of it being used in a cyber attack.  Every home router has a step by step process to configure it to block this access, click here for more info. So, after you do that oil change (software update), you need to call a tech (or do it yourself if you have the know-how) to configure your router to ensure you’re not left open to vulnerabilities.

The merry folks of Whoville know they depend on each other to maintain peace and harmony. While our Whoville is a smidgeon larger, our desires are the same. To allow our lives and businesses to keep moving. And with a bit of proactive tech touch-ups, the Grinch will have to scheme a little harder for next year.