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What Potential Threat could IoT bring to the Networks? Although IoT is the next big thing and will continue to grow, the risk associated can't be avoided

By Muhammad Yasir Fayyaz

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Over the past few years, Internet of Things has become a hot topic of conversation among professionals. It's a conviction that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. But the question is: "What is Internet of Things"? Furthermore, How does IoT benefit us in our daily routine life? How secure are these physical devices? And how is it going to impact us? There are a plethora of questions being discussed every day.

Let's begin with understanding few things: With the evolution of internet, more and more devices are connected to the outside world, thanks to the inexpensive and widely available internet; more devices are being built with wi-fi features and sensors, technology costs are reducing tremendously and adoption of smartphones is sky-rocketing. All these factors are pushing IoT to the next level.

The underlying concept of Internet of Things is connecting physical hardware with an ON and OFF switch to the internet. More specifically, it is an ecosystem of physically connected objects that are accessible through the internet i.e. objects that have been assigned an IP address and have the ability to collect and transfer data over a network without manual assistance. Now, imagine the list of things that can become an IoT device. For example, consumer appliances such as lights, refrigerators, curtains, washing machines, toaster etc. In addition, industrial things can be PLC's, jet engine of an airplane or street lights of a building or a cityalmost anything else you can think of. According to Gartner, there are already more connected things than people in the world. Gartner Analyst calculates that around 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use in 2017, up 31 per cent from 2016, and this will likely reach 20.4 billion by 2020, which means the size is already big and getting bigger as we are moving on.

Now, to answer the other question about how this can impact you. Nowadays, people are more connected than ever before and smart technologies have provided them with adequate opportunities to stay online and upload their personal data to the cloud. For instance, calculating the number of steps you walk in a day has never been so easy, but now smart phones are tracking and uploading your information regardless of intervention. There are many other examples like what if you book an appointment on your calendar and the calendar in turn notifies the conference room manager as well as turns on the lights according to your meeting schedule. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if you are on your way home and your car could have access to your mobile phone and before reaching, your car notifies the power switch to turn on the air conditioner. Therefore, IoT can be applied to numerous things which can help us in improving efficiency and reduce waste.

The major challenge with technologies these days is security. According to research, cybercrime will cost business over $2 trillion total in 2019. Some known IoT attacks are Mirai botnet, VPNFilter, Bricker botnet, Wifatch, and Gafgyt etc. In 2016, Mirai botnet infected numerous IoT devices such as routers and IP cameras, and then used them to flood multiple websites with DDoS attack. It took down dyn, GitHub, Netflix, Shopify, SoundCloud, Spotify, Twitter, and a number of other major websites. This happened due to the out-of-date software versions running on devices, default username/password not changed, or weak passwords configured. Moreover, VPNFilter router malware infected 500,000 devices across 54 countries according to Cisco Talos. Similarly, there are a number of IoT attacks reported so far, which are affecting systems at a mass level. Therefore, the negative aspect of IoT devices cannot be neglected as we are talking about billions of devices being connected and exchanging data.

To conclude, although IoT is the next big thing and will continue to grow, the risk associated can't be avoided. With just a bit of care during setup and constant network monitoring, one can prevent security breaches.

Muhammad Yasir Fayyaz

Sr. Network Engineer, AW Rostamani

Muhammad Yasir Fayyaz is a Senior Network Engineer (Group IT) at AW Rostamani, Dubai. He is a certified professional in system security and network, with multi-industry experience in information technology, network and security infrastructure designing, implementation and administration. Prior to this, he has served as a network security consultant and senior manager for various corporations at international level.  He is also a speaker, trainer and a writer. He has written scores of articles on various system security and IT-related issues. He has a keen interest on current and future technologies, its impact on businesses and personal lives.

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