The Internet of Things (IoT) is a melting pot for new products and services, bringing together consumer electronics through the interconnectivity of the Internet. At the same time, the combined risks associated with both will increase, and be compounded by the addition of newer devices and technologies such as 5G. Huge research efforts are being devoted by manufacturers and telecom operators to making these technologies more secure. However, consumer awareness and cyber hygiene will play an increasingly important role in contributing to the security of IoT products. This is why the Cybersecurity Tech Accord has developed, in a dialogue with Consumers International, a microsite on this subject, so consumers can take the steps they should to protect their devices from cyber-attacks and keep themselves safe online.
The Cybersecurity Tech Accord, of which Telefonica is a signatory from the beginning, is a joint effort by more than 140 companies to protect internet users and customers everywhere from evolving cyberthreats. While there are several industry alliances working to develop new cybersecurity solutions, the Tech Accord is unique in its aim to speed up action and improve cybersecurity globally by involving stakeholders across businesses, governments, and individuals. We do this by promoting cybersecurity best practices among businesses, advocating responsible cybersecurity policies to governments, and raising awareness of cyber hygiene with individuals.
One area we have increasingly focused our attention on is IoT security. As more consumer IoT products become available (your connected TV, garage, fridge etc.), there are more targets for malicious actors to attack and exploit. As reported in a 2019 F-Secure Report, IoT was the target of 2.8 billion attacks during the second half of 2019. Most of those attacks were automated: finding vulnerable entry points into these devices does not always require advanced hacking techniques. These products were designed with the objective of a smooth user experience at the forefront, sometimes at the expense of cybersecurity. Therefore, they are particularly vulnerable to cyber risks including data theft and illicit surveillance, as well as physical threats such as controlling driverless cars or opening house doors.
5G heightens this risk as future capabilities will allow many more millions of devices to interconnect. While new 5G standards are being developed with security as the highest priority, the same cannot be said for all IoT devices that will connect to these new networks. Promoting security for IoT devices is another key part of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord’s work. At Telefonica, through our IoT cybersecurity business unit, we offer customers IoT products and services with built-in cybersecurity solutions to deal with both existing and emerging threats.
As these technologies become reality, new standards and solutions will be factored into their development. This will be not just for the benefit of consumers, but all users of digital and online services. Victims of the 2016 Mirai cyberattack were not just owners of infected cams (hijacked to overwhelm networks in what’s known as a denial of service ‘botnet’ attack), but also all social media users unable to use the downed services as a result.
We all should be doing what we can to protect our devices and ourselves by applying simple cyber hygiene practices. You can secure your network by giving your router an anonymous name. You can protect devices by using strong, two-factor authentications. And you can read about these tips and many more on the new microsite from Cybersecurity Tech Accord.