Laser Tools Could Be Next: Insecurity In The Internet Of Things

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The U.S. government is trying desperately to pass legislation that will reduce vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things. Nonprofit groups and nongovernmental organizations are working to institute security standards that IoT developers must adhere to. Yet, try as everyone might, there remain large, glaring holds in IoT security.

Smart devices are convenient and cool. For example, smart thermostats — some of the first widely accepted IoT devices — reduce energy expenditure and ensure comfortable living temperatures. Newer smart gadgets, like smart fridges and blinds, promise to provide similar benefits. Even offices are getting smarter, as copiers and similar devices get linked to the network. Unfortunately, as more people adopt IoT devices, criminals gain greater access to valuable data. By 2020, Gartner believes there will be more than 26 billion connected devices, which means the potential for cybercrime is skyrocketing — and laser tools could be next.

The Status of IoT Vulnerabilities

IoT devices introduce risk to the networks of individuals and businesses. Not only are many of the horror stories true — smart refrigerators displaying inappropriate images, smart baby monitors allowing strangers to whisper to sleeping babes — but hackers can use IoT devices to launch massive attacks on organizations to slow operations, steal data, and more. IoT devices introduce excessive insecurities to networks for a few reasons:

  • Unlike computers and smartphones, IoT devices rarely have in-built security. This is because building security into a device slows development, reduces the device’s speed and capacity, and costs money.
  • For the sake of convenience, IoT devices tend to have default credentials hard-coded. One on hand, this lets users plug in their devices and go; on the other hand, it makes it much easier for cyber criminals to access more devices faster.
  • Outdated and unnecessary code is often left on IoT devices due to developers’ sprint to market. This means that IoT devices typically include error-ridden code filled with vulnerabilities.
  • IoT devices are directly exposed to the web, unlike other devices which can connect to segmented networks. Thus, when criminals can see and access IoT devices, they can almost immediately see and access the whole network.

Unfortunately, the interest in the IoT and the popularity of IoT devices is not helping them become more secure. If anything, IoT security gaps will grow wider as developers rush more tech to market. Plus, cybercriminals are becoming more capable of leveraging weak IoT devices for expansive attacks, such as illegal cryptocurrency mining or ransomware attacks on valuable machines. Now, as larger and more complex machinery starts to join the IoT, the insecurities of IoT devices seem especially troubling.

The Future of IoT Laser Tools

The development of laser processing tools has been relatively steady since lasers were invented in the 1950s. Initially, laser tools were rudimentary, capable of performing simple cuts and welds — and the tools were so energy intensive that only largescale industrial ventures could support their use. Over time, laser technology advanced and costs decreased; today, it is possible for small businesses and consumers to purchase laser material processing machinery at reasonable prices. The same lasers that cut 3M materials also engrave wood and weld metal with greater precision and less cost than other machining equipment.

Now that laser processing tools are roughly as commonplace as IoT devices, many developers are working to produce smart laser tools. These would allow manufacturers to automate many of the tasks associated with laser processing and synchronize the efforts of multiple laser-related devices and machines. Undoubtedly, other smart features will emerge as laser tools become established within the IoT.

How to Keep Lasers Safe

Not only is it unlikely that businesses and consumers can prevent smart tech from reaching laser tools, but it is not ideal. The IoT can dramatically improve efficiency and reduce costs in the industrial sector — as long as insecurities aren’t exploited by cybercrime.

Already, the U.S. Senate has introduced a bill that would take the first steps toward securing the IoT. The legislation mandates certain security protocols for IoT devices used in government buildings — which would effectively require the entire IoT industry to shore up its security efforts. Even if the bill fails or gets forgotten, IoT developers should feel compelled to improve the security of their creations with audits prior to device release.

Laser tools have yet to be hacked through vulnerabilities in the IoT — but that future isn’t far on the horizon. To prevent laser machines from getting hacked, we must take efforts to secure the entire IoT.

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