It’s hard to escape the term IoT. It’s in the news, it’s on social media, and it’s even on numerous tech websites. Moreover, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry. It also sounds more complex than it is. That’s why so many people ask: what does IoT mean or what is the Internet of things in simple words?
Internet of Things: What is IoT?
Here’s a short Internet of Things definition for you: The IoT is a network of things, or devices, that carry sensors and software in order to exchange data with other gadgets and systems across the Internet. These gadgets can be as simple as smart home devices to something as sophisticated as a jet engine. By sharing data, IoT items can serve humankind with greater efficiency and accuracy.
Internet of Things examples
- Communication devices
- Security devices
- Fitness trackers
- Connected vehicles
- Agricultural equipment
- Heart sensors
- Industrial robots
- And more
IoT can take advantage of a range of technologies and applications to gather data, process it, and communicate. Here are a few examples:
- Cloud computing
- Cellular networks
- Edge Computing
- Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs)
- Artificial Intelligence
- Machine Learning
IoT sensors document data from their surroundings. For example, your smart thermostat’s sensor may read the temperature and share that information with other devices through the cloud. A smart coffeemaker may realize the temperature is too cold and brew some piping hot chocolate for the household. Internet of Things gadgets can also sense light, pressure, humidity, proximity, motion, sound, moisture, etc.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) is the use of IoT in industrial applications. IIOT has improved productivity, efficiency, and even safety. It's used prolifically in agriculture, oil and gas, and the automotive industry.
Supporting IoT at home
Digital support for home products wasn't a grave concern before the rise of IoT. You kept your fridge, microwave, or dishwasher for as long as it was functional. You either sent it in for repairs under warranty if it broke down or replaced it. Things may get more complicated in the future for IoT in the home.
Unlike regular home items, an IoT device may need a UI redesign, critical security patch, or compatibility update due to its digital nature. As we’ve seen with smartphones and computers, manufacturers are unwilling to support gadgets for more than a handful of years.
This may lead to some discontent because people expect their appliances to last up to a decade. Moreover, they’re paying more for an IoT appliance than a regular one. As we know, any software with unpatched security issues can be open to security and privacy breaches. Perhaps to counter these problems, IoT bills and guidelines are coming whether manufacturers want them or not.
- IoT riddled with BadAlloc vulnerabilities
- NAME:WRECK, a potential IoT trainwreck
- 150,000 Verkada security cameras hacked—to make a point
- Ubiquiti breach, and other IoT security problems
- Smart toy security: How to keep your kids safe this Christmas
- IoT cybersecurity bill passed by Senate
Podcasts on IoT
IoT security and privacy
Although IoT products are being released in great numbers with connectivity in focus, security and privacy seems to be lower on the priority list. With the total install base of IoT devices expected to hit 30.9 billion units by 2025, it's essential to take it seriously. Here are some top IoT security challenges:
Weak login credentials
Many IoT devices ship with hard-coded or embedded passwords that are easy to guess or hack. Additionally, many home users often don't know how to change passwords for these gadgets even if its possible. One doesn’t have to look further than the Mirai botnet attack to understand the perils of weak IoT device security.
Mirai works by checking IoT devices on the Internet for gadgets that use weak security protocols and breaches their defenses. The devices hit by Mirai in 2016 became part of a botnet that launched widescale Denial of Service (DoS) attack on some high-profile websites:
- And hundreds more
As mentioned above, long-term manufacturer support for IoT devices is a concern. Hackers may target IoT devices with greater frequency in the future unless security is improved. Security flaws are already an issue for such devices.
For example, the Reaper botnet shook the IoT world in 2017, infecting millions of networks. Based on Mirai, Reaper is more aggressive and sophisticated than its predecessor. For example, while Mirai scans open ports and exploits poor passwords, Reaper breaches gadgets through exploits.
Another successor of Mirai called Satori uses a worm to get through network security. As you probably know, unlike a virus, a worm spreads between devices without human interaction. Satori exploited weaknesses in WiFi routers and vulnerabilities in processors to hit IoT devices in great numbers.
Secure your IoT devices
If you want to secure your IoT devices, you should learn some WiFi security basics. Set a WiFi password that’s long and complex and use the highest available security protocol. Additionally, please update your router’s firmware to the latest version. You may also consider replacing an ageing router with a new model that the manufacturer supports.
As for your IoT gadgets, change the default username and password immediately. You may find the default login credentials printed behind the device, in the instruction manual, or the manufacturer's website. Avoid purchasing products with hard-coded passwords as they’re easier to hack.
However, you don’t have to run out and replace every IoT device with inadequate security protocols. But it would help if you secured all connecting devices. For example, if your smart fridge has security vulnerabilities, please strengthen the security settings of your router, desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and any other device on the network.