If You Can Connect It, Protect It — NCSAM Week 1

Safely Navigating Internet of Things Devices

We all have multiple devices we work and play on every day. Smartphones, laptops, headphones, gaming consoles—the list goes on and on. But are these devices as secure as they need to be?

The line between our online and offline lives has become indistinguishable. This vast network of connections creates both opportunities and challenges for individuals and organizations across the globe. In this blog post on the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month’s weekly theme of “If you can connect it, protect it,” we’re going to be highlighting the ways that internet-connected devices have impacted our lives and empower all users to own their role in security by taking steps to reduce their risks.

PlexTrac is a registered 2020 Champion Organization. Organizations listed as Champions represent those dedicated to promoting a safer, more secure and more trusted Internet. To learn more about PlexTrac, click here.

To learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, click here.

Our Reliance on IoT-connected Devices

Why do we need to protect what we connect? The answer is simple, and one based on necessity more than convenience. Here’s a quick fact: the number of Internet of Things (IoT) connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 30%. There are more devices connected to the Internet than ever before, and therefore, more attack vectors for nefarious hackers than ever before.

IoT devices are a part of our everyday lives in 2020. Many of us are still working from home, with our own devices connected to our own personal Internet networks. Those who have returned to the office are still connected to computers, laptops, printers, and many other smart-devices with Internet connectivity. Even our friends and family without jobs use the Internet more than ever.

These IoT devices contain valuable information relating to both our personal and professional lives. Personal information like names, addresses, social security numbers, and bank info live within your devices. Additionally, a whole host of classified information about your company may also live on your devices. Losing this information from a successful attack would cost you or your business a lot of time and money, so it’s time to flip the script and protect yourself.

Flipping the Script on Attackers

Gartner forecasts that 25 billion connected things will be in use by 2021. That’s a lot of IoT devices, and plenty of opportunities for bad actors to strike. However, cybersecurity doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are many proactive steps that you and your organization can take to flip the script on those who are pining for your precious data.

What does flipping the script mean? Many see bad actors as untouchable mega-hackers that we simply cannot protect against. While hackers are smart and getting smarter, this line of thinking simply isn’t reality. While the honest truth is that we can’t defend against all attacks from all people, we can maximize our cybersecurity and minimize our potential for compromise by following general cybersecurity best practices, establishing acceptable use standards within your organization, and educating those around you to do their part and #BeCyberSmart.

Tips to Secure Your IoT Devices

Did you know that 63% of people find connected devices “creepy” in the way they collect data about people and their behaviors? In order to avoid “creepiness”  and protect yourself from an attack, you need to educate and empower yourself. Here are 10 tips you can take to lock down and secure all of your IoT devices

 

1. Install internet security software on your devices that are verifiably reputable. We personally suggest using firewall software by companies like Microsoft, Norton, or McAfee.

 

2. Enable multi-factor authentication on as many of your accounts as possible. Adding another hurdle for login may be a small inconvenience, but it does wonders to your security by adding another wall that hackers must climb to reach your data.

 

3. Use strong and unique passwords. This tip goes hand-and-hand with #2. While having two walls is great, your first wall must be strong. Use passwords that include both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Additionally, passwords that are easily guessable, like ones with names or the word “password” in them, are a big no no.

 

4. Change your passwords often. This tip is one that many forget to implement in their daily lives. Your password can be as complex as possible, but if you leave it unchanged for years you may be vulnerable to an attack. Change your passwords frequently to keep attackers guessing.

 

5. Be careful of the applications you install on your devices. While you may love making Tik-Toks with your friends, it might not be the best install for your work phone. Check the reputation of apps you install, and ensure all privacy settings for the apps are maximized.

 

6. Do your research on your devices before you buy or use them. Smart devices are smart because they collect your personal information. However, what’s done with that information is what’s important. Check how your data is stored and protected and who it is shared with.

 

7. Pay attention to permissions you give and agreements you make. Allowing a camera app to access your camera makes sense, but there’s plenty of situations where you’ll want to deny an application’s access to a part of your device. Also, security agreements before you agree to them … please!

 

8. Make sure your device’s firmware is always up to date. Devices often have exploitable vulnerabilities that are patched with software updates. Always complete these updates ASAP, as you’re more secured with software that’s up to date.

 

9. Never leave your devices unattended in public. While your laptop is likely safe from interception in the comfort of your home, minimize your time away from IoT devices when in public places like coffee shops.

 

10. Lastly, use a trusted VPN. While this is a topic we’ll expand on in next week’s blog, it’s important to use a VPN to secure your data, especially when working from home.

 

Stay tuned to PlexTrac this month for more tips and tricks of the trade that can help you #BeCyberSmart. It can be scary out there in the vast IoT, but you have the power to keep your’s, your family’s, and your organization’s devices safe from cyber threats.

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