What Is “The Internet of Things” and How Is It Affecting You

09/08/2021

Referred to interchangeably as Industry 4.0, IoT, or the “Internet of Things,” this technology has been growing steadily for the past fifteen years or so and has already pervaded our lives in a variety of ways. 

And like with any new technology, while it’s making our personal and work lives better, it also creates new challenges to ensure the safety and integrity of the data that flows across IoT devices.

Here’s what you need to know about IoT, including its risks and rewards.

What is the Internet of Things?

The “Internet of Things” simply refers to the physical objects—sensors, appliances, drones, smart devices—that connect to each other through the Internet. Each object or device is a “thing” in this interconnected network. 

That same technology can be applied not just in our daily lives, but also to manufacturing and other businesses. That’s when you hear talk of “Industry 4.0” to mean the ongoing automation of industrial processes thanks to modern technology like IoT.

Essentially, if it has a sensor that sends data over an internet connection, it’s an IoT device. Yes, your smartphone is an example, as is the electric scooter you rented, the robotic vacuum that cleans your floors, and any wearable device that’s tracking your health.

There are so many applications for IoT technology that can keep us safer and more informed that we often adopt new ones without thinking twice about it. Car tires can have sensors that alert a driver when they’re low on pressure. Smart fire alarms can send you an alert when they detect smoke. Smart security systems can let you know if someone’s at your door, and even send you a recording.

All of these uses for IoT technology make our lives safer and more efficient. Unfortunately, they also open the door to some digital risks that traditional hardware machines simply aren’t built for.

IoT Devices Raise Cybersecurity Concerns

Because of their digital nature and the fact that they connect to the internet, IoT devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Each new device is a new endpoint of our network, but from a hacker’s perspective, they are just one more way they can gain access to your information. That’s why it’s crucial to develop robust cybersecurity measures that can shield these devices and the sensitive data they carry from malicious actors.

In case you are not entirely aware of how dire our current threat scenario is, keep in mind that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were over 4,000 cyberattacks every day, with experts estimating the average household is hit with 104 threats each month

While hacking T-Mobile or the Colonial Pipeline might result in a bigger payday, so many cyberattacks are actually targeted at individuals. Your personal computers, tablets, and phones can give attackers access to your private information including bank accounts, health records, credit card data, confidential emails, and much more. And that’s why it’s crucial to secure every piece of interconnected tech on your network.

Protect Our Online World, Train in Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity industry has been growing steadily along with the increased adoption of technology over the past decade. 

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate the move to remote work, skyrocketing e-commerce adoption, and the proliferation of IoT devices, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals has risen to new heights.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity and defending our digital world, the UNLV Cybersecurity Bootcamp can give you the foundational skills you need to succeed in this skyrocketing field.

Here is how the program works: 

  • All classes are conducted live and online, two sessions on weeknights and one on Saturdays. 
  • The whole program is a total of 400 hours of in-depth cybersecurity instruction and takes about 10 months to finish.
  • Your instructors will be cybersecurity experts who work in the field, and they will help you practice new skills through hands-on simulations and cyber labs that mimic real-world cybersecurity scenarios. 
  • The UNLV Cybersecurity Bootcamp includes a dedicated career services department that can guide you along your cybersecurity journey. 

To learn more, download the course catalog.

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Advantages of IoT

  • More information: IoT devices produce and share a lot of data that can help you stay informed about various aspects of your life and household. It can also help you make better decisions that can save you energy, time and money. 
  • Cost savings: Interconnected home devices can automatically communicate with each other, making your environments run more efficiently and translating into significant cost-savings. With IoT technology, you can program your appliances, like your washer and drier, to work at night when energy is cheaper. You can also use your smart thermostat to adjust heating and cooling when you’re away. 
  • Automation: Because IoT devices are normally built to let you remotely control them from your smartphone, they offer a number of options that let you automate how and when you want things done. A smart lock can automatically unlock itself if you approach with a smartphone. Your robotic vacuum can turn itself on and off based on your preferences and schedule.
  • Physical safety: The IoT devices that have become most crucial are the ones that contribute to our physical safety. From home security systems that can alert us of suspicious activity to smart carbon monoxide detectors and Internet-connected fire alarms, we can now be notified of dangers whether or not we are physically at home.
  • Ease of control: Most IoT devices, at their core, are designed to make life easier for their users and free them from everyday tasks that can be burdensome and time-consuming. Controlling your washer and drier from your phone can save you a trip to the laundry room. A smart pet feeder can keep your cat or dog from going hungry if you happen to forget their mealtime.

Disadvantages of IoT

  • Privacy risks: As mentioned earlier, IoT devices produce a vast amount of data, including very private and sensitive information about your health, finances, and movements. While you have control over what data you share out, most apps and devices can be rather opaque regarding what information they share with third parties.
  • Cybersecurity concerns: Any device that connects to the Internet runs the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks. IoT devices are particularly sensitive to hacking because organizations often fail to hold them to the same cybersecurity standards across their computer networks. While roughly 84% of organizations have IoT devices on their corporate networks, more than 50% of them don’t maintain necessary security measures beyond default passwords.
  • The pace of innovation: Sometimes new IoT devices are created so rapidly that their software lacks basic cybersecurity requirements. While updates and patches could help mitigate those risks, many interconnected devices become obsolete so quickly that manufacturers end up not issuing security updates at all. 
  • Complexity: As with every new technology, no matter how intuitive and user-friendly, there’s always a learning curve when adopting a new device. Other times, the initial selection of your setting preferences might turn out to be quite a complex process, requiring expert guidance and outside help to get new devices working properly.
  • Dependence on technology: If you’ve ever lamented the fact that you are depending on technology more and more every day, IoT devices aren’t going to help that feeling. Plus, if your wifi network is less than reliable, you might have very practical concerns about how your smart home may or may not function if the network goes down.

The good news is, there are many ways you can keep your personal IoT devices secure. Here below is our best advice for living your best, automated life:

5 ways to protect your digital home infographic

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