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IoT devices could be ‘asbestos of the future’

Cybersecurity expert tells GlobalData “this is what our kids will hate us for”


There are currently believed to be seven billion internet of things (IoT) devices worldwide. Forecasts vary, but the consensus is the number will grow exponentially over the coming years, with some estimates as high as 40 billion connected IoT devices by 2025.

Smart city and wireless communication network, IoT(Internet of Things).

“Security in IoT devices has repeatedly been shown to be lacking: from a vulnerable child location-tracking watch to office printers at risk to Russian cyberattacks,” says Rob Scammell, technology reporter at GlobalData. “Often, this is as simple as device owners failing to change the password from a weak factory setting. In the race to get products to market ahead of competitors, security is also often an afterthought. The ever-growing number of IoT devices, in combination with this lax security, is a perfect storm for cyberattacks.”

The proliferation of “stupid” internet-connected smart devices will be the “IT asbestos of the future”, cybersecurity expert Mikko Hyppönen has warned in an interview with GlobalData’s Verdict website.

“Asbestos was such a great innovation. It looked like a miracle material, originally,” explained Hyppönen, chief research officer at Finnish cybersecurity firm F-Secure.

Cybersecurity risks that come with the explosion of smart devices worldwide

Hyppönen draws parallels between the rampant use of cancer-causing asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s to the cybersecurity risks that come with the explosion of smart devices worldwide today.

“Such a great innovation, which then decades later turned out to be the worst innovation. What’s happening right now, around us, I guess would be characterized as IT asbestos,” Hyppönen adds. “We are currently in the early stages of this revolution, but eventually anything that uses electricity will be online.”

“So this is going to happen, whether we like it or not. Everything will become a computer and right now this seems like an excellent idea, to many of the companies in this business,” Hyppönen continues. “This is not the first time technology has taken us in the wrong direction. So I think this is dangerous. It’s very dangerous for our privacy. It’s dangerous for our security.

“This is going to be the IT asbestos of the future. This is what our kids will hate us for.”

“As connectivity becomes cheaper and cheaper, eventually, it’s not going to be just smart things going online, it’s going to be stupid things. I’m actually much more worried about stupid things online than smart things,” says Hyppönen.

He gives the example of smart toasters and fridges – “things consumers don’t really need to be online”.

“For tech companies this data will be valuable – the time you toast, your favourite settings, how many people are making toast around the world, the country that makes the most toast, and so on. However, there is an asymmetry in value for the consumer and for the company and when the security risks are factored in, it becomes a pretty bad deal for consumers.”

 

Smart city and wireless communication network, IoT(Internet of Things).