The Internet of Things (IoT)—a network of computing devices embedded in everyday objects and connected to the Internet—can encompass everything from vending machines to light posts to entire building automation systems.
And that interconnection is growing, with the number of such devices forecast to surge from 13.5 billion units now to 38.5 billion by 2020. It’s already spreading into schools and across college and university campuses via online portals, digital textbooks, classroom devices, wearables, and other connections. Although such adoption of IoT has been slower at educational institutions than in the consumer market, experts predict that will begin changing this year.
However, one major roadblock to that growth remains the security of IoT devices. A sneak peek Verizon released ahead of its 2017 Data Breach Digest report recounts how one unnamed university was hacked via more than 5,000 connected devices on its campus.
“With a massive campus to monitor and manage, everything from light bulbs to vending machines had been connected to the network for ease of management and improved efficiencies,” the school’s incident officer at the time says in the report preview.
To regain control, the school had to shut down all network access to its IoT segments. “Short-lived as it was,” the incident commander says, “the impact from severing all of our IoT devices from the Internet during that brief period of time was noticeable across the campus.”
The preview identifies the underlying problem as “many IoT manufacturers are primarily designing their devices for functionality; proper security testing often takes a backseat.”