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Are we future-ready for threats to the world’s growing network of Smart Devices?

Published on 16 November 16
School of Technology lecturer, Kestina Rai reveals the dark side of connectivity.
Are we future-ready for threats to the world’s growing network of Smart Devices? - Image 1
Tech devices are getting smarter by the day. As the demand and supply of intelligent devices and applications grows, so do vulnerabilities. While large companies can afford the resources to better counter loopholes, smart devices created by smaller companies tend to encounter security breaches quite often.

In today’s world of IoT (internet of things), almost every device is connected to WiFi (Wireless Fidelity). We live in a world of smart watches, smart refrigerators, WiFi televisions, IP cameras, WiFiconnected headphones, WiFi mobile phone headsets and many more. The more devices you have, the higher the probability of a hacker being able to breach in to your network.

Therefore, in a workplace with hundreds of devices connected to the network, companies must be aware of their ‘enemy’ in order to protect their vital
WiFi increases hacking risk
Hackers need to be physically connected to a network in order to attack it. Local Area Networks are less susceptible as they can be made private to the organisation and be protected from intruders using tools like firewalls.

WiFi networks are more susceptible to attacks as many devices can connect wirelessly to it and when the presence of a WiFi network is visible to all. Hackers can target any network but it is easier to attack wireless networks.
The truth about hacking
When we talk about hacking, the only things that come to mind are identity theft, data fraud and maybe even cyber terrorism. However, hacking is not just criminal and destructive in intent, it can be positive as well. What we call ‘ethical hacking’ presents us with boundless opportunities when put
into good use .

Ethical hackers are IT specialists who are authorised to hack into a company’s systems to evaluate its security. With so much at stake across industries, even technology providers are turning to those with hacking skills to find flaws in their products and fix them before they are breached and exploited by other hackers with malicious agendas.

Businesses spend more than $25 billion annually to defend themselves against cyber-attacks. For years, ethical hackers have been conducting penetration tests for companies to help them boost their security systems. The practice is more crucial when a new system is launched. Even after the best testing efforts, penetration testing can seek out hidden vulnerabilities that have been overlooked.

‘Prevention is better than cure’ is the motto for most companies in their war against cyber threats. Government institutions have also recognised the
benefits of using ethical hackers. By taking the malicious hacker’s perspective, ethical hackers are able to detect weaknesses in cyber domains. They are hence able to take measures to block forms of cyber-attacks such as planting of malware or data theft.
Careers for IT Specialists
Ethical hacking is increasingly popular with IT personnel. It is a complex field and there are many programmes in the market on this subject, including MDIS’ undergraduate course in Computer Security awarded by Northumbria University.

The course trains students in ethical hacking with the correct configuration and use of Honeypot - a computer system that acts as a decoy to lure cyber attackers. Honeypot can detect, deflect or study attempts to gain unauthorised access to information systems in a simulated environment.

Such a qualification is a good step for anyone who wants become a future-ready information security professional.
Kestina Rai is a lecturer at the MDIS School of Technology. She holds a Masters in Engineering in Computer Science and is currently pursuing her PhD in Computer Science. She has written numerous research papers for national and international journals.

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