Keeping An Eye On IoT

Our devices may be able to track our every move, but behind the scenes, experts are working hard to ensure that cyber criminals do not gain access to this information.

AsianScientist (Oct. 1, 2021) – It was an episode of Black Mirror five years ago that highlighted the problem of privacy. Featuring blackmail, webcam hacking and shifty technological surveillance, the plot hit a little too close to home as viewers considered just how much our lives are monitored by a myriad of devices on a second-to-second basis.

Long before that episode aired, many of us were already obscuring our laptop webcams with stickers, post-it notes and sliders designed specifically to block webcams—not to mention keeping a wide berth from our devices whenever unsuitably dressed.

But the paranoia continues. As innovation rapidly moves on, so too does our collective obsession with tech and the growing Internet of Things (IoT), a network of objects connected through the internet designed to gather information and improve our lives. Convenient as it is when Alexa tells us that we’re running out of milk, the smart devices we use are constantly collecting data about how we live and who we truly are.

There is little respite outside our homes. From healthcare to manufacturing, smart systems improve productivity and accuracy. Today, Fitbits, streetlights and even garbage bins are all capable of recording, collecting and transmitting data.

Despite the proliferation of IoT devices, their security is still up in the air. In this feature, discover how security experts are fortifying the devices that we are constantly surrounded by—while still allowing us to continue our day-to-day lives feeling safe and free from scrutiny.

A network for every need

To communicate collected data, sensors on IoT devices are interconnected through gateways that provide or block communication between different data sources, servers or databases. Their job is to process and send relevant data to the cloud. With sufficient security, IoT gateways can act as an additional layer of protection by blocking access to the devices they connect to.

In what is called a mesh network, devices are capable of communicating with one another as well as relaying information to the gateway.

In a partial mesh network, only selected points can communicate with one another, while others are solely sensors. But in a full mesh network, all sensors can relay information and are fully interconnected.

Better suited for homes, star networks consist of multiple sensor nodes each individually connected to a gateway.

Jill Arul graduated with a degree in Communication Studies from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, with a keen interest for science and a passion for storytelling.

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