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Smart Devices and their increasing usage

As a response to customer demands most organisations today are shifting their services to mobile platforms, the foundational environment for smart devices which aim to improve the efficiency of using technology. In essence, smart devices aim to interconnect users and operational system using networks such as the internet. Now, although this objective is highly beneficial it also poses serious challenges to users as it exposes their data to a large group of people who serve as participants in the connections (Zhang, 2010). Moreover, with the expanding market in smart devices comes malicious individuals who aim to capitalise on the vulnerabilities associated with the technologies that support these new devices. This fact is supported by recent studies which show the prevalence of attacks in smart systems since 2011 an outcome that is set to rise in the coming years (Delac, 2012).

In the past, smart devices such as smartphones were lowly prohibited by the industry because of the prevalent risk involved. These risks stemmed from their accessibility which at the time was still being researched. Some of these risks were solved where extensive solutions were developed to mitigate them however, they still face other extended risks most of which are caused by user negligence and the lack of security awareness. Furthermore, data is highly available when using smart devices and technologies which again predisposes them to risk involving data exfiltration (Walters, 2012).

From the time machines were invented man has always had the desire to develop systems that can operate without the reliance on human input. Smart devices aim to accomplish this goal by connecting, sharing and interacting with systems that require minimal input from the users (Techopedia, 2017). Moreover, due technological advancements these smart devices are made of miniaturised components which tend to make them small in size but with high computing power. Nevertheless, most modern, smart devices still depend on the users however unlike before, the users usually have minimal inputs which are usually given as simple commands. Smartphones are the best examples of smart devices as they offer extended connectivity with the utmost operational speeds. Nevertheless, recent market trends have seen the field diversified to include televisions, vehicles and other personal electronics (Privat, 2005).

When it comes to smart devices two security issues are always in contention; one, data collection/retention and two, their extended connectivity. Recently, Samsung’s smart TVs were accused of unauthorised collection of user information. Although this serves as a privacy issue, experts were worried by the extended functionalities of these gadgets that could easily leak confidential information if paired with other household items. Therefore, regardless of the measures put in place the security of the data used to control these devices will always be questioned. Furthermore, their extended connectivity aggravates the situation where users are now concerned about the people who can access their beloved devices (The Windows club, 2017).

  1. What security issues faces smart devices?
  2. What predisposes these devices to these security threats?
  3. What is the impact of the security threats faced by smart devices?

Challenges of Smart Devices

Whereas the security measures of protecting smart devices have grown over the years, the subsequent growth in their creation and maintenance possess the greatest challenge to protecting them. Moreover, they contain many vulnerabilities or threat avenues that expose them to many attacks (Sujithra & Padmavathi, 2012). Below are some of the security threats faced by smart devices.

Wireless attacks: Smart devices are subject to many wireless attacks that in most cases target their stored information. However, none is as common as eavesdropping where using protocols such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi hotspots intruders access these devices to extract confidential information such as usernames and passwords. Furthermore, intruders can exploit the hardware addresses of the devices to profile the users, a serious security violation (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011).

Break-in threats: These threats are facilitated by programming errors where the smart devices are introduced into the market having development vulnerabilities. An example is a buffer overflows where certain codes overrun their memory locations. However, these security threats are mostly used as stepping stones for other advanced attacks.

Worm/malware threats: Smart devices such as smartphones have many connectivity options which offer intruders many avenues for attacks. Surfing the internet a common functionality of these devices is one of these avenues where users can easily download malicious software. Accessing an infected device or storage facility is another way of infecting a smart device. Moreover synchronising multiple devices can lead to infection in case one contain the infected files (Polla, Martinelli & Sgandurra, 2012). In all, the operational principles create many liabilities that can be easily exploited by intruders with the necessary expertise. Furthermore, some of these attacks can be as a result of ignorance, where users fail to protect their devices using basic security measure such as antivirus.

Botnet: smart devices are slowly starting to introduce the extended connectivity expected with IoT, this connectivity possess serious threats because unlike before, the users are unable to isolate attacks or malware infections. Consider a user having multiple devices which are connected to each other. It’s expected that the user applies the latest security measure on all handheld devices i.e. smartphone, laptop and even the desktop computer. However, the television or refrigeration unit is less considered which can serve as an entry point for intruders who can compromise the entire network. In their malicious actions, they can steal information from all the other devices without the knowledge of the users (MacAfee, 2016).

Different types of Security Threats Faced by Smart Devices

Now, these security threats highlight the challenges seen with smart devices more so at a time when they are predominantly used. Some of these threats are caused by manufacturers as seen with break-in attacks while others are caused by the operational principles of the devices. Moreover, a huge percentage of these threats are caused by user liabilities where they fail to enact the necessary security measures, either because of negligence or lack of awareness.

Most smartphone users have little concern over the security of their devices, in fact, very few users will implement extra security measures on their smart devices unless faced with a security violation (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). Such liability issues expose these devices to many security violations as highlighted above. However, owing to recent events manufacturers have begun to sensitise their users on the need to implement extra security precautions when dealing with smart systems. Moreover, some organisation have already begun to implement basic security measures into smart devices before deploying them into the market. In addition to this, some solutions providers have adapted to the market to offer cross-platform security solutions which when integrated into a single device extend the security measures to the connected devices (Privat, 2005).

Therefore, the real world seems to have taken a precautionary position when dealing with smart devices a welcomed outcome for the market which has heavily invested in the technology. Moreover, the same threats have caused system developers to integrate stringent measures to safeguard against information theft, for instance, encryption strengths are doubled over the years and will continue to do so. Furthermore, extra authentication procedures e.g. biometric are continuously been incorporated into devices which have raised the security even further. In all, the security threats facing smart devices have led to a mass awakening of users who are now more vigilant in their activities (Zhang, 2012).

Conclusion

To understand the problems faced by smart devices one must evaluate the uses of these gadgets. A smartphone has so many functionalities today beyond the two-way communication seen in the past; they can be used to store extensive records, send e-mails, take pictures and surf the web among many other functionalities. Therefore, protecting these devices calls for sophisticated solutions that prevent attacks to these functionalities. However, these solutions should have minimal interruptions to the users or they risk losing their objective. Moreover, the same solutions have to contend with the extended connectivity facilitated by smart devices. In the end, many challenges and complex issues face the application of these devices which can help explain the liabilities seen with them. Nevertheless, with consistent application comes experience which in the past has helped advance different technologies. Similarly, smart devices will adapt to the environment to meet the needs of the users while maintaining optimal security.

References

Delac. (2012). Security Threats for Mobile Platforms. Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from: https://www.fer.unizg.hr/_download/repository/Goran_Delac%2C_rad_KDI.pdf

MacAfee. (2016). Mobile threats report. What’s on the horizon for 2016. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-mobile-threat-report-2016.pdf

Privat. G. (2005). Smart devices: New Telecom Applications & Evolution of Human Interfaces. France Telecom, R&D Division, Technologies Smart Devices & New Human Interfaces Laboratory. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www-sop.inria.fr/everest/events/cassis05/Transp/privat.pdf

Polla. M, Martinelli. F & Sgandurra. D. (2012). A Survey on Security for Mobile Devices. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from: https://www.iit.cnr.it/sites/default/files/A%20survey%20on%20Security%20for%20mobile%20devices.pdf

Ruggiero. P & Foote. J. (2011). Cyber Threats to Mobile Phones. US-CERT. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/cyber_threats-to_mobile_phones.pdf

Sujithra. M & Padmavathi. G. (2012). Mobile Device Security: A Survey on Mobile Device Threats, Vulnerabilities and their Defensive Mechanism. International Journal of Computer Applications, 56(14). Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://research.ijcaonline.org/volume56/number14/pxc3883163.pdf

The Windows club. (2017). Security threats in Smart Devices and Privacy Issues. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www.thewindowsclub.com/security-threats-smart-devices-privay-issues

Trend Micro. (2017). Smart Devices. Product solutions. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/smart-devices

Walters. P. (2012). The Risks of Using Portable Devices. US-CERT. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from:

https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/RisksOfPortableDevices.pdf

Zhang. L. (2012). Mobile Security Threats and Issues -- A Broad Overview of Mobile Device Security. Tian Jin University, Tian Jin, China. Retrieved 17 May, 2017, from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/73cd/127c6a692e4a19e8c0272c0200905940d4ee.pdf

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