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What to Look for in an IoT Device: Buying Security

IOT Image by Wilgengebroed on Flickr

As internet-of-things devices multiply before our eyes, the question of their security will continue to be posed. A rational consumer will consider the risks of adopting a device alongside its rewards. In addition, it will be important to consider the impact of security perception on the adoption rates of a device, and how this may alter your experience with it.

There’s No Need to Steer Clear

Many people express fear about IoT devices, and may vow to avoid them altogether. I find this silly. Like all new technologies, the adoption of a specific IoT device must be evaluated on its risk / reward basis. While there may be specific applications in which IoT devices are inappropriate, there are many others in which a “cyberincident” would be tolerated and acceptable. A wise consumer will determine whether the specific weaknesses of a new device are tolerable given the potential savings and gains from its adoption.

Evaluation is Key

In order to adequately weight the risk / reward ratio, a consumer must first discover the specific vulnerabilities and potential impact related to a new internet-of-things device. Without this information, you will be relying on the public’s perception, which may or may not be accurate regarding the risks involved.

If you’re purchasing for an organization, it’s a good idea to bring your cybersecurity experts into the discussion whenever you adopt a new technology, including IoT devices. These professionals can perform a deep study of the device in question, and begin a productive dialogue with the vendor regarding protocols, vulnerabilities, and other factors to consider. Without this expert opinion, you may miss important information that could inform your decision. It’s also much preferable to blindsiding your IT department with a new purchase- they may not be excited that you purchased a specific IoT device instead of a more secure alternative.

If you’re an individual and not technically inclined, you’ll have to rely on outside sources for your information. Do some google searches on the device you’re considering, and see what the tech community feels about it. It’s also a good idea to secure your home network as a whole. It may be acceptable to adopt an insecure IoT device, as long as you’re confident that malicious actors can’t easily enter your network.

If you’re in this boat, do some google searches for home network security or how to set up a firewall- implementing the most popular suggestions is a good idea, even if you decide not to adopt internet-of-things devices in your home.

Security Has an Impact on Adoption

Even if you decide that a not-so-perfect IoT device is worth the risks involved, there may be other factors to consider before purchasing, especially if you’re adopting it into a large organization. Cyberincidents involving a specific product will do lots of damage to the producer’s reputation, which will negatively impact future sales. Adoption of a new technology must always be kept in mind. If a device or application that you adopt is shunned by the wider market, it will be more difficult to operate in the future. If the producing company goes out of business, you may be left scrambling to find support and maintenance. When evaluating a device, it’s a good idea to consider the public perception of its security, even if you believe the device is secure.

Final Thoughts

Savvy consumers will always keep cybersecurity in mind before adopting new technologies, including internet-of-things devices. With the vast degree of security quality in these devices, it’s important to research the device and its protocols before adopting it into use. Ultimately, the risk versus reward ratio of adoption should be the deciding factor in whether or not to adopt the device.

Written on May 9, 2019.