Internet users have so far only had to worry about computers and smartphones being protected against hackers. Whether they download a package or stick with the software provided with their computer or broadband supplier, help is just a click away. It is built in to the system.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the “Internet of Things”. Its huge growth shows no signs of abating because connected devices make our home and work lives so much simpler. Engineers can be booked to fix appliances, the heating and lights can be controlled from a small speaker and we can even find out if we’re brushing long enough to avoid cavities.
Connected, but not protected
The trouble is many of these connected gadgets are being manufactured by consumer goods companies who have usually not had to think about security. Traditionally, the television, toothbrush, hi-fi speaker and thermostat have lived off-grid, untroubled by the threat of cybercrime. Hence, they arrive ready to connect to the internet but without any of the cyber security protection one would normally expect from a computer or mobile device.
It is far from ideal and IT security experts are calling on manufacturers to improve their internal cyber protection skill sets and ensure products that are easy to hack are never launched.
In a key departure from the usual advice that consumers must protect themselves, the UK Government has launched a “Secure by Design” code of practice which, among other suggestions, insists manufacturers should not launch products with universal default passwords that are effectively an open door to hackers.
A market set to double
The question now, as attention shifts somewhat away from consumers always being expected to protect themselves, is will manufacturers pay any attention to the guidelines? According to IT analysts, Gartner, there is optimism they will. Its figures show that today’s 11 billion connected devices will almost double to 20 billion in 2020, split almost evenly between the consumer and business markets. Just as interesting though is that Gartner estimates the market for securing IoT devices will also double from $1.5bn in 2018 to more than $3bn in 2021. Manufacturers are realising that security needs to be a higher priority and that responsibility to a great extent falls to them.
Companies that were in traditional production of lightbulbs, toothbrushes, toasters, you name it, have suddenly become software companies - but they don't have the years of expertise, that say Apple or Google has.