Internet of Things - Explained

A breakdown of the Internet of Things: what it is, what security risks are involved, and what you can do to protect your data.

Many people use the Internet of Things hundreds of times a day without even realizing it. Devices that are connected to the Internet of Things have found their way into our vehicles, homes, and hospitals. Everywhere you go an Internet of Things connected device can probably be found. According to IOT Analytics, in 2018 there were 7 billion devices connected to the IoT, with that number rapidly increasing each year.  The question is how many of the people who utilize the IoT know how these devices contain many security threats.

The Internet of Things Defined

So how does the Internet of Things work? These devices gather data which is sent to that device’s corporate data center where it is then analyzed. From there the instructions of what the device needs to do are returned based on that analysis. 

There are many main categories of devices that are connected to the Internet of Things. Some of these include vehicles, wearable devices, healthcare, and within your home. The GPS built into your car tells you where you are and how to get where you need to go. Wearables track anything from your sleep schedule to your daily workouts, suggesting routines to fit into your schedule as they see fit. Healthcare has many devices that control patients physical wellbeing as well as contain their private medical information. Where these devices are probably most apparent is in our homes. The security system - locks, cameras, monitors, and more. The environmental controls - lights, fans, heating and cooling systems. 

Even further than the individual - the technology used in manufacturing companies, the traffic lights in a busy city intersection, and in the management of transportation. These are only a few examples of the big picture of the Internet of Things. Gaining access to these devices not only could wreak havoc on an individual, but completely cut thousands of people off from electricity and more. 

Just from these few examples, it’s apparent that data from our personal lives are being stored and analyzed constantly. Which brings us to question: how secure is the Internet of Things?

The Risks of IoT

The risk of a data breach is imminent in relation to the amount of data that Internet of Things connected devices collect. The management of the devices per the companies that they are provided by is extremely important to consider in this. Companies should be constantly inspecting and patching the software to ensure that hackers are not able to find holes in programming to use as an attack vector. In turn, the consumer needs to make sure to check for these updates to prevent hackers on both ends. 

What is there to lose from a data breach? One thing that could be compromised is the loss of privacy. Where you live from geolocation services. Who comes and goes and at what time from your doorbell. What the inside of your home layout is from security cameras. The list can go on and on for each extra IoT connected device your home may have. 

Another potential risk is the loss of important private information. Think of the hospitals which contain files upon files of confidential personal information. Think of the millions of homes that have voice assistants, which have a direct link to payment information since you are able to make purchases directly from the device. 

Since we allow these devices into our daily lives out of the convenience they bring us, it’s important that we do our due diligence and protect the data of ourselves and those around us.

How to Secure IoT Devices

Since these devices are connected, we need to protect them. Check out these tips to maintain a high level of security to balance convenience and practicality.

1. Enable secure passwords whenever possible.

Enabling passwords, pin numbers, or passphrases for IoT devices will add an extra layer of security between you and an attack. It may seem simple to be tempted by the small inconvenience of a password, but it is worth it when it comes to protecting private information like your credit card or bank account.

2. Only use IoT devices on trusted, secure networks.

Make sure that the IoT devices you are using are connected to a trusted and secure network within your home. Connecting to public Wi-Fi or other unsecured network options will make all your data potentially able to be viewed by hackers.

3. Manage applications that are connected to IoT devices.

A majority of Internet of Things connected devices may work in conjunction with a mobile or desktop application. Logging out of and deleting old applications for devices that are no longer in use will assure your security and prevent future attacks on that device.

4. Limit the amount of unnecessary data being shared with IoT devices.

With the applications you keep active on your devices, be sure to manage the amount of data sharing they have access to. Go into the settings on the applications and turn off any unnecessary shared data, such as location services.


Internet of Things connected devices bring a lot of convenience and innovation into the mundane tasks of life. Setting up all the lights in your home to be voice activated or starting your car from your phone when it’s -10 degrees outside are amazing things that we are able to do thanks to the Internet of Things. It’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to securing these devices by controlling how and what data is being shared. Remember the tips in this article as you grow your smart home.



Written by Erin Harger - September 2020