The Helping Hand Called the Internet

History of IoT:

The IoT technology was created in the year 1999 by Kevin Ashton and it stands for “Internet of Things”. A visionary technologist, Ashton was giving a presentation for Procter & Gamble where he described IoT as a technology that connected several devices with the help of RFID tags for supply chain management. He specifically used the word “internet” in the title of his presentation in order to draw the audience’s attention since the internet was just becoming a big deal that time.“The internet of things (IoT) has only recently become ingrained in our everyday life.” (Khvoynitskaya). The Internet of Things, as a concept, wasn’t officially named until 1999.

Early 1980’s

One of the first examples of an Internet of Things is from the early 1980s, and was a Coca Cola machine, located at the Carnegie Melon University. Local programmers would connect by Internet to the refrigerated appliance, and check to see if there was a drink available, and if it was cold, before making the trip.

Early 1990’s

One of the most notable inventions of IoT is the Trojan room coffee pot from 1991Not long after the launch of the WWW, a group of researchers at The University of Cambridge constructed the first ever webcam to record the computer lab’s coffee machine in real time. Since the coffee machine was located in the main computer lab, ‘the Trojan room’, those working nearby often exhausted the coffee supply before workers from farther rooms could get their share.

By arranging a camera to monitor the pot and writing software to allow department members to view the footage on computer, everyone an equal chance to make their way to the Trojan room in order to fill up on caffeine. From these examples it is evident that Internet-controlled objects have been an area of interest for about as long as the Internet has existed.

Late 2000’s Era

It wasn’t until 2014, however, that the IoT became known within the mass market, with the development of the Google Nest. Google bought Nest Labs in January of 2014 for $3.2 billion and began producing a range of IoT devices including thermostats, speakers and security cameras among many others. This would mark the beginning of the smart home market. With current developments, households are now able to do the most with the IoT devices, However, this is now cause of concern with cybersecurity.

The Dangerous Side of IoT

The large scope and scale and the vast physical distribution of IoT makes it difficult to protect it from threats and attacks of cybercrimes, and the high demand of IoT products has resulted in manufacturers rushing production to gain competitive advantage, further neglecting security requirements. The result of this has left many IoT devices vulnerable to cyberwarfare, including denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). DDoS attacks intend to disrupt regular traffic of a network or server by overwhelming the target with a flood of Internet traffic. These attacks are executed through a network of devices connected to the Internet (IoT) that have been infected by malicious software, allowing the attacker/s to control the devices remotely. Once a group of devices becomes infected, they are referred to as botnets. These botnets are difficult to detect as they disguise their presence and movements as they infect the network. Since IoT devices can interact with the physical world unlike other IT devices, it’s difficult to monitor and safeguard them.

An example of a DDoS attack on IoT is the Mirai Botnet, also referred to as the Dyn Attack from 2016. With the use of an IoT botnet, this was the largest DDoS attack ever recorded. The attack on service provider Dyn, which controls a large portion of the Internet’s domain name system, caused almost half of the Internet to break down, including Twitter, Netflix and Reddit. The root cause of this attack? Inadequate security practice in IoT devices. If the IoT market was to continue to grow, manufacturers would have to implement more security to ensure customers that their data is safe. One of the most effective methods to do so, was implementing blockchain technology.

What is Blockchain

Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. (IBM) An asset can be tangible (a house, car, cash, land) or intangible (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding). Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved.

Blockchain, a decentralized database that stores information in a chronological chain, has improved the security of IoT devices by allowing devices to exchange smart contracts in a secure, distributed environment. The implementation of blockchain technology is imperative for improving issues around scalability, privacy, and reliability related to the IoT paradigm, as the blockchain allows every user access to all previous information, upholding security and reliability through the requirement of all participants reaching a consensus on the validation of each transaction.

Future Developments

The IoT is rapidly changing and modifying to suit a high speed helping hand for all households. However the more technology develops the more we will have to take care of our privacy and security. It’s reasonable to assume that the future will see more everyday objects become connected to the Internet, as today we already have access to Internet-connected kitchen appliances, speakers, security cameras and even furniture. IoT causes objects to dramatically shift in the way appear in their environments, making them exist on the same plane as humans. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in these devices will allow them to learn patterns and behaviors of their surroundings and their users. Eventually IoT objects will know so much about our individual behavior, they will outsmart humans and hold the power to do our jobs, perhaps even performing better. From simple examples such as self-serve checkouts, to revolutionary technology in medical practices, such as AI machines being able to diagnose patients. If we are to reach this stage, how much purpose will humans really serve? To Conclude, AI could serve purpose in further protecting IoT from hackers, by learning signs of unusual activity. Considering DDoS attacks are likely to become even more vicious, studying suspicious behaviors autonomously in the background could assist in preventing these attacks. To conclude, if we want to continue relying on IoT devices in the mundane areas of our lives, we must be prepared for them to exceed our intelligence, and equip them with a high level of security to keep ourselves and our devices safe.

References :

Mitew, T. (2014) ‘Do Objects Dream of an Internet of Things?’, Fibreculture Journal, 2014 (23), 1-25.

Fay, R., Trenholm, W., 2021. The Cyber Security Battlefield – Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Security Centre of International Governance Innovation (blog)

Bleecker, J. (2006) ‘Why Things Matter: A Manifesto for networked objects’  

Reyna, A., Martín, C., Chen, J., Soler, E. and Díaz, M., 2018. On blockchain and its integration with IoT. Challenges and opportunities.Future generation computer systems88, pp.173-190. [Accessed 20 October, 2021].

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