IoT Popularity is Rising, and so are Cyber Security Concerns
Michael Alba posted on June 09, 2017 |
Responses to “How concerned is your enterprise with Internet of Things (IoT) in the workplace?” from State of Cyber Security 2017. (Image courtesy of ISACA).
Responses to “How concerned is your enterprise with Internet of Things (IoT) in the workplace?” from State of Cyber Security 2017. (Image courtesy of ISACA).

A recent consumer survey from PlumChoice and the Z-Wave Alliance has quantified the rising popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT), specifically with regard to smart home devices like connected smoke detectors, lights and appliances. So impressive was last year’s home IoT growth that the survey branded 2016 the “Year of the Smart Device.”

Good news, right? That depends on who you’re asking. While IoT companies may be thrilled with the spread of their products, cyber security experts are less enthusiastic. Another recent survey, this one posed by ISACA to security experts worldwide, has found IoT to be an increasing threat: 59 percent of respondents reported concern over IoT security risks, with thirty percent of respondents reporting themselves “very” or “extremely” concerned. 

It would seem that the IoT is facing an uncomfortable trade-off: as its popularity rises, so too do its risks. This trade-off is perfectly exemplified by last year’s massive DDOS attack, which utilized insecure smart home devices to shut down several major websites. Unfortunately, these are the same types of devices that PlumChoice reports are skyrocketing in popularity.

“Last year was a pivotal year for the smart home industry, with the number of people who own a smart device increasing by a staggering 259 percent,” said PlumChoice’s Noelani McGadden.

Smart home device adoption grew in all categories from 2015 to 2016, according to the report “2016: Year of the Smart Device.” (Image courtesy of PlumChoice).
Smart home device adoption grew in all categories from 2015 to 2016, according to the report “2016: Year of the Smart Device.” (Image courtesy of PlumChoice).

So what can be done about this IoT trade-off? For starters, IoT engineers need to ensure their products are safe. While there has been some positive progress in this area, by no means is IoT security a solved problem.

“Enterprises may want to assign accountability for cyber security hygiene tasks for devices,” advises the ISACA security report. “This might include consumer devices like smart TVs or it can include other operational technology, such as industrial control systems. Specific policies and procedures may need to be developed to support these activities.”

Of course, despite the security risks, there’s no putting the IoT cat back in the bag. “It’s clear from our data that not only has the smart home arrived, but the benefits of adding connectivity to the things in our home are finally being realized,” said Z-Wave’s Mitchell Klein. “It’s exciting to finally see consumers understanding the value of connecting multiple devices together and to see categories like smart security, thermostats and safety grow year over year.”

Alas, one man’s excitement is another man’s anxiety.

To see more survey details, click here for “2016: Year of the Smart Device” and here for the State of Cyber Security white paper. For more on rising IoT popularity, check out Infographic: A Consumer’s Eye View of the IoT.

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