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Can the Internet of Things make your office more secure?

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Nick Chowdrey, content and PR manager at In Marketing We Trust, weighs up the benefits that the IoT can bring for home and office security against the cons.

With the world’s biggest technology companies embracing artificial intelligence, it’s clear that there’s a bright future for the ‘internet of things’ on the not-too-distant horizon.

Business security is one area that will be hugely affected by this new technology. With essentially any electrical appliance accessible remotely through a smartphone, we have unprecedented control of security features in the office. However, as with any internet service, this also leaves us vulnerable to hackers.

How can I retain tech talent?

So, what will the future of business security look like in the age of the internet of things?

How technology is improving security

Cheaper solutions

Think back five years ago and a smart office that’s remote controlled, filled with cameras, and accessible via fingerprint scanner would have seemed like an impossible dream, available to only elite corporations and government departments.

The reality is that today these technologies are readily available to almost any sized business.

Remotely accessible security cameras like Nest Cam retail for £150 a piece, and all of the latest smartphones come equipped with fingerprint scanners, with banks and other payment solutions like PayPal already taking advantage for enhanced online security.

Better connected systems

A few short years ago, most commercially available security systems were extremely basic. Today, security services have improved functionality and reduced costs by connecting their alarm system to the internet.

Kamil Fetouni, digital marketing manager at alarm systems manufacturer Verisure, said: “The internet of things is already improving security in many ways. Go back a mere five or six years and most commercially available products consisted of a basic detection system and onsite alarm, with at most a link to a central response centre via telephone cables.

“Today, modern security services offer a much more connected experience. Central response centres can access the whole security system online, allowing them to better monitor and respond to threats. Users can also do this through their mobile devices, offering greater control and constant peace of mind.”

Remote control and automation

With more appliances connected to the internet, there’s an unprecedented level of information and control in our offices. Smart locks can be operated by iris or fingerprint scanner, making lock picking harder than ever, and smart appliances can ping a notification to a phone when unplugged unexpectedly.

Automation is also becoming more accessible with firms providing inexpensive automation solutions, helping businesses connect the various hardware together to form one automated unit.

Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT, commented: “Unless you work in an IKEA, your office is filled with many different brands, makes and models. The connected office of the future isn’t going to be any different. Devices that bring security and peace of mind now come in all shapes and sizes, from a limitless number of service providers.

“As a result, office security is becoming more affordable and accessible for any sized business — instead of paying thousands for a complete system that requires custom installation, people can build something that works for them, one device at a time.”

How connected security systems can be compromised

On the 21st of October 2016, a distributed denial-of-service attacked (DDos) on domain name system (DNS) provider Dyn wiped out service access in Europe and North America to some of the largest companies. Among those affected were Netflix, Spotify, Verizon and Visa — showing that no company, no matter how established, was safe.

It’s thought this attack was carried out using a botnet comprised of thousands of hijacked internet-connected appliances such as security cameras, printers, wireless speakers and baby monitors. You can read Dyn’s summary of the attack here.

This clearly poses a huge security issue with the ‘Internet of Things’, allowing hackers to potentially turn our smart, connected businesses against us.

Although this was admittedly a complex operation to carry out, requiring the cooperation of  a large number of hackers, there are in fact much simpler ways to compromise a connected products and the networks they’re associated with.

In a recent test of the Ring smart doorbell – a device that streams live video of who’s at your door to an app – the product was easily hacked by unscrewing the device and resetting the WiFi. This would allow hackers to access a home’s WiFi network – and every device connected to it – without providing a password.

In fairness to Ring, soon after learning about the flaw they released a firmware update that made this process impossible. However, it shows that IoT product manufacturers still have a long way to go before offering 100% secure services.

What can we do to stay safe?

It’s a fact that any business integrating IoT products at the moment accepts certain risks. However, they can be minimised greatly by adhering to basic digital security standards, such as only purchasing hardware from trusted providers, and ensuring routers are properly secured.

Meanwhile, the forces for good in the digital world are working on ways to beat the IoT hackers of tomorrow. The USA’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded $2m to a Carnegie Mellon University team to develop automated digital security service, Mayhem.

Personally, as with most new internet technologies, I feel the force for good will prevail.

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