The Rise and Risks of the “Internet of Things”

Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase which seems to be cropping up more and more in conversation these days, quite the hot topic - and often when it does, I find it’s accompanied by looks of confusion.

What does it really mean?

IoT can be described as the internet - for devices; it is the interconnection of internet-enabled devices. So you have a vast array of connected “things” – all with Internet capability, that can all interact and exchange data.

Such devices include headphones, baby monitors, phones, lights, kitchen devices, sprinklers, thermostats, televisions, kettles, watches, even toothbrushes are on the IoT agenda …… the list seems endless.  And with advances in technology, the list of IoT devices is only set to get bigger.

Industry reports predict that in 2017 there will be 8.4 billion IoT connected devices, and by 2020 this will have risen to 20.4 billion.

Some reports suggest the trend in smart phones and tablets has altered consumer behaviour and the way that we expect/consume information is part of the reason for the growth in the IoT.

We undoubtedly live in a rapidly changing digital world with huge consumer demand for the latest high tech, gadgets. And love it or hate it, IoT isn’t going away.

We like devices which have an impact and ease on our lifestyle – devices to track and record the number of steps we take each day for or health and fitness, to track how far we run or control the temperature in our house, when we want a cosy warm temperature as we walk through the door, televisions that suggest what we might like to watch next …..  

And of course as well as consumer benefits there is huge potential for organizations to gather more data through IoT devices to understand and analyse consumer behaviours.

If you take the retail industry as an example, the future could see consumers using smart phone and wearable devices to find out information about an item – customer reviews, product spec and social media information …. Upon entering a store, discount vouchers are presented to the consumer to encourage a purchase. And along each step of that journey, the retailer is gathering valuable information about the consumer’s behaviour.

But for all the good points and the commercial opportunities that come with IoT, we have to remember that an increase IoT devices comes hand in hand with increased opportunities for data breaches and cyber threats. And especially with consumer home devices which are linked to bank account details.

Reports predict that by 2020, more than 25% of identified attacks will involve IoT devices.   Online fraud is already the most common crime in the country with almost one in ten people falling victim.

In addition, the 2017 Horizon Scan report also states that data breaches and cyber threats are the top 2 threats to business continuity. 

Last year, a cyber-attack known as the “Mirai botnet” affected millions of IoT devices. The devices were used to overload domain name system (DNS) provider Dyn, with a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS). This knocked out major websites including Netflix, Spotify, Etsy and Twitter and experts say it was the largest of its kind in history.

And in another example, faulty software in baby monitors meant that hackers were able to look through the cameras and even listen in to conversations.

Measures and controls need to be in place which helps ensure the security of users and their confidential data.

Infact, in a recent report, Mike Barton, Head of Durham Police and national lead on crime operations, states that with “criminals poised to take advantage of flaws in online security … all new appliances, capable of being hooked up to the internet, should carry a kitemark rating showing how secure they were.”

If you would like to know more about IoT Services from BSI please visit our website, or get in touch with David Mudd, IoT Business Development Director at

Author: Grace Buckle

UK Marcomms Executive