If IoT cyber security concerns aren’t addressed, consumers will reject self-driving cars and other smart devices.

Shortly after rideshare company Uber launched a pilot test of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, competitor Lyft made the bold prediction that most of its cars would be self-driving within five years. While it can be argued that Lyft’s proclamation is overly optimistic, self-driving cars are no longer science fiction; rapid advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are making it possible to turn more and more everyday gadgets and machines into smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices. However, consumers have grave concerns about the cyber security issues surrounding smart cars, smart thermostats, and other smart technology, and these concerns are not unfounded. Unless IoT manufacturers can ensure that IoT cyber security is solid, the IoT market could be severely hampered or, should a wide-scale hack occur, even grind to a halt.

Ransomware Possibly the Biggest Threat to IoT Cyber Security

The IoT market is booming. Verizon predicts that the global market for IoT devices will grow from just under $600 billion in 2014 to $1.3 trillion in 2019. Although self-driving cars are still in their infancy, other smart devices, from fitness wearables to smart thermostats to connected insulin pumps, are ubiquitous. However, once a device connects to the internet, it immediately becomes a potential target for hackers, and IoT devices are particularly susceptible to ransomware attacks.

Many consumers are concerned about hackers being able to disable a smart car’s brakes or take control of its acceleration and steering. While these scenarios are possible, a ransomware attack on a smart car, which would render the car un-drivable until the owner paid a ransom, may be even more likely. A consumer who needs their car to get to work or drive their children to school may be willing to fork over several hundred dollars to a hacker, especially since trying to fix the car’s computer may cost that much or even more. If a hacker manages to disable a commercial fleet of self-driving vehicles, the affected company may be willing to pay that much per car.

The security threats extend to the smart home: Hackers could use ransomware to disable thermostats, security systems, even routers. Healthcare IoT cyber security is also a grave concern as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other lifesaving devices are connected to the internet.

Meanwhile, 58% of consumers report being “very concerned” or “highly concerned” about IoT cyber security. Smart device security isn’t just a cyber security issue; it’s a safety issue. If consumers do not feel that smart cars, smart thermostats, and other connected devices are safe, they will refuse to buy them or patronize businesses that use them. Manufacturers cannot afford to take a lackadaisical attitude toward IoT cyber security. Devices should be subjected to a comprehensive security evaluation and testing process before they are released into the marketplace, and businesses that purchase IoT devices should refuse to buy products that haven’t been proven safe.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Peters is the CEO of Lazarus Alliance, Inc., the Proactive Cyber Security™ firm, and Continuum GRC. He has served as an independent information security consultant, executive, researcher, and author. He is an internationally recognized and awarded security expert with years of IT and business leadership experience and many previous executive leadership positions.

He has contributed significantly to curriculum development for graduate degree programs in information security, advanced technology, cyberspace law, and privacy, and to industry standard professional certifications. He has been featured in many publications and broadcast media outlets as the “Go-to Guy” for executive leadership, information security, cyberspace law, and governance.