Our computers and cell phones seem to constantly remind us of pending updates, by now we all should be aware of how important these updates are to the security of these devices. However, in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) we have a plethora of devices that contain firmware and those need to be updated as well. Here we will briefly discuss what IoT firmware is and why it is important to stay on top of those updates for home devices and even more importantly on business devices.
In simple terms, IoT refers to any physical device that is connected to a network. These can range from computers, cell phones, tablets, home gaming systems, internet routers, and even things like TV’s and other smart home appliances. These devices all have “firmware” which is software that basically tells the device how to function. Some firmware updates add functionality and additional features, while other updates will contain security patches. It is the security patches that we are most concerned with, when those release it is like telling the world that there is a current vulnerability and those who do not update are exposed to greater risk.
Devices whose firmware is not up to date and with known security flaws run the risk of being compromised. In 2017 Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks were up 91% and IoT devices were a big contributor. DDoS attacks essentially flood web servers with traffic in order to take them down or compromise them in other ways. With IoT devices running old firmware, security flaws are exploited turning those devices into potential weapons without the owner ever knowing. Our “Smart” devices as potential threats against us may sound like science fiction but it is now reality.
Making sure our home devices are setup to allow firmware updates is a good first start in our personal lives, but businesses who run critical workloads from these devices must be more strategic with how they roll out firmware updates. It is critical to keep business network devices up to date and with the number of devices larger businesses may deploy, it can be a large task to keep up on testing/deploying those firmware updates. The more IoT devices you own the bigger the task it is to keep them all up to date, but failure to do so is no longer an option.