While connected homes and Smart Cities might seem too futuristic for many today, the global mass adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is bringing this reality home right now as we speak.
Research firm Gartner has predicted that, of the 8.4 billion connected ‘things’ currently in use, 5.2 billion of these devices are used by consumers either directly in the home or in their day to day lives – 63% of the overall number of devices that make up the IoT today.
As the number of IoT devices continues to rise exponentially, the notion of holistically integrated environments has been pushed to the top of agendas.
The foundations of Smart Homes and Cities are already being seen across the world in the likes of Singapore and Beijing.
Characterised by devices that connect across homes, private buildings, and public spaces in a frictionless way, these smart environments enable the analysis of data from every facet of the city to significantly improve the living standards for everyone.
However, simply because it is possible to connect almost every device across multiple environments doesn’t mean that we necessarily should.
Device and network security
One of the most pressing questions now is how do we secure ever increasingly complex systems that underpin smart homes and cities today and in the future.
The security requirements needed by an IoT system are significantly more complex than those of a traditional network, as it involves monitoring several different networks and systems at the same time.
Not only are the standard cybersecurity measures for single network systems such as confidentiality and integrity needed, more sophisticated measures like authorisation, data protection and both forward and backward secrecy are essential for protecting smart IoT networks.
The increased focus on needing to protect businesses and homes from cyber-attack has led to the rise of smart security devices entering the global market.
However, to secure the smart homes and cities of today and the future, it is important that such devices use separate networks to those used by everyday connected devices such as laptops and smart televisions.
Smart security devices must be able to alert homeowners and business leaders to suspicious activity without being at risk of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) or ransomware attacks.
Having these devices on separate networks will make it much harder for hackers and cyber-criminals to launch attacks on smart homes and cities both now and in the future.
To illustrate this, imagine it’s 2025 and the bank calls to say £1,000 has been stolen from your online bank account. As the criminals had all your details the bank assumed it was you making the transactions.
You’re shocked – cybersecurity is something you take very seriously, and you always update your passwords and download the latest firewalls. But the bank manager asks, “what about your smart TV?”
This isn’t a trick question – your home is a connected one, where the lightbulbs, fridge, TV, boiler and even your car are connected to the internet via your home Wi-Fi and can be controlled directly by you speaking or using your phone.
While this Wi-Fi is incredibly fast, it isn’t very secure. The cybercriminals have hacked your home Wi-Fi via your smart TV and succeeded in gaining access to your bank details.
This tale highlights the real need to step back and think very carefully about connecting each and every device to the internet.
We need to pause and think. Will having a smart fridge or TV really improve our day to day life? Alternatively, will it cause disruption to other parts of our life?
Further, it demonstrates why keeping technology that holds personal and private information on separate networks is essential.
Pleasure should never come before purpose and we need to think carefully about which devices we connect to which networks.
As we enter the smart home and city future, driven by holistic connectivity, we need to do so with our eyes open.
Securing the smart cities and homes of tomorrow requires us to be pragmatic and to ensure we keep certain devices unconnected and others separate from mainstream networks.
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