What are the potential risks in IoT?

Weighing up risk

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With the increased connectivity in recent years, the potential risks in IoT are becoming more apparent. The Internet of Things (IoT) has rapidly transformed the way we interact with technology, allowing everyday devices to communicate and interact with each other. From smart homes to wearables, IoT devices have made our lives easier and more connected. However, with this increased connectivity comes potential risks and vulnerabilities. As the number of connected devices continues to grow, so do the opportunities for cyber-attacks and privacy breaches. It is important to understand and address these risks to ensure the safety and security of our personal information and the devices that we rely on.

So, what are the risks in IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been growing rapidly in recent years, with an estimated 31 billion IoT devices in use worldwide in 2020. This number is expected to grow to over 75 billion by 2025, indicating the increasing adoption and integration of IoT devices in various industries and sectors.

However, along with this growth comes potential risks in IoT and vulnerabilities in this technology. According to a 2020 report by cyber security company F-Secure, IoT devices are targeted by cyber-attacks more frequently than traditional devices. The report found that IoT devices accounted for 32.72% of all detected threats in the first half of 2020, compared to just 16.17% in the same period for 2019. Moreover, a 2021 study by cyber security company Palo Alto Networks found that 98% of IoT device traffic is unencrypted, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to interception and theft. The study also found that 57% of IoT devices are vulnerable to medium or high-severity attacks due to outdated software or weak passwords.

In terms of data protection risks in IoT, a 2021 survey by security firm Sectigo found that 54% of respondents were concerned about the amount of data that IoT devices collect and share. The survey also found that 65% of respondents were concerned about the lack of transparency around how IoT devices use their data. In addition, the lack of regulation and standards for IoT devices is a growing concern. According to a 2021 report by the US Government Accountability Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) they identified 108 IoT cyber security guidelines, but there are no mandatory standards or regulations for IoT devices.

Security and Privacy Risks in IoT:

One of the main issues with IoT devices is their susceptibility to cyber-attacks and hacking. According to a report by Symantec, in 2019, the average number of attacks per IoT device increased by 217.5%. Unlike traditional devices that are not connected to the internet, IoT devices are vulnerable to hacking due to their internet connectivity and weak security features. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in the devices, such as unsecured wireless connections, weak or default passwords, and unpatched firmware or software. Once attackers gain access to the device, they can control it remotely, steal sensitive data, or compromise the security of critical systems and infrastructure.

Moreover, IoT devices typically collect and transmit large amounts of data, often without users’ knowledge or consent. This data can include personal information, such as location, health data, and even biometric information. In the wrong hands, this information can be used for identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious activities.

Data Protection Risks in IoT:

The collection of vast amounts of data is one of the key features of IoT devices, and this data can include personal information such as names, addresses, contact information, and financial information. Additionally, IoT devices can collect sensitive data such as health data, biometric data, and other sensitive information. This data can be vulnerable to unauthorized access, misuse, and data breaches, which can result in serious consequences for individuals and organizations. 

Unauthorized access to personal data can occur due to weak security measures, such as weak passwords, unsecured networks, and unencrypted data. Malicious actors can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to personal data, which can be used for identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious activities. Data breaches can also occur due to human error, such as accidentally sharing sensitive data or failing to implement adequate security measures.

In response to these risks in IoT, governments have implemented data protection regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These regulations require companies to ensure that personal data is collected, processed, and stored in a secure and compliant manner. Companies must obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting their personal data, and they must provide individuals with access to their data and the ability to request its deletion. Companies must also implement appropriate security measures to protect personal data, such as encryption, access controls, and regular security audits.

Overall, data protection risks in IoT devices highlight the importance of implementing strong security measures and complying with data protection regulations. Companies must prioritize the security of personal data and ensure that it is collected, processed, and stored in a secure and compliant manner. Individuals must also take steps to protect their personal data, such as being mindful of the information that they share with IoT devices and regularly reviewing their privacy settings.

Interoperability and Compatibility Risks in IoT:

Interoperability and compatibility risks in IoT are significant challenges for the IoT ecosystem. Because IoT devices come from various manufacturers, they may use different communication protocols and standards. For instance, one device may use Bluetooth technology, while another may use Wi-Fi or Zigbee. This diversity in communication protocols can make it challenging for IoT devices to communicate with each other.

Incompatible devices can lead to integration issues, which may result in security breaches, system crashes, or device failure. These issues can impact the reliability and effectiveness of IoT systems, making them less efficient and increasing the cost of operation.

Reliability and Performance Risks in IoT:

Reliability and performance risks in IoT are other significant concerns when it comes to the IoT. Since IoT devices rely on network connectivity to function, any network outages or technical issues can cause a device to fail or perform poorly. This can lead to data loss, system downtime, and other negative consequences.

Additionally, the reliability and performance of IoT devices can vary significantly depending on the quality of the device and its connection to the internet. Poorly designed or cheaply made devices may be more prone to failure or may have slower response times, leading to frustration and decreased productivity for users.

Moreover, IoT devices can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which can cause them to malfunction or not perform poorly. For example, a denial-of-service (DoS) attack could overload a device with traffic and cause it to fail, leading to system downtime and potential data loss.

Therefore, it is crucial for IoT manufacturers to ensure that their devices are designed and tested to withstand various network conditions and to have backup systems in place in case of network failures or cyber-attacks. Regular maintenance and updates are also necessary to keep the devices running smoothly and securely.

Legal and Regulatory Risks in IoT:

The use of IoT devices can create legal and regulatory risks for companies. These risks arise from the fact that the deployment of IoT devices can implicate a variety of laws and regulations, including data protection, cybersecurity, product liability, and intellectual property.

Additionally, the use of IoT devices can also raise product liability concerns. If an IoT device is defective or malfunctions, it may cause harm to individuals or property, which can lead to legal claims against the manufacturer or distributor of the device. Companies must ensure that their IoT devices are safe and reliable and that they have adequate insurance coverage in the event of a product liability claim.

Companies that use IoT devices must be aware of the legal and regulatory risks associated with their deployment. They must ensure compliance with relevant regulations and ensure that their devices are safe and reliable. Failure to do so can result in significant fines, legal claims, and damage to the company’s reputation.

Ethical Risks in IoT:

The ethical risks associated with the use of IoT devices stem primarily from the collection, processing, and use of personal data. With the large amounts of data that IoT devices can collect, companies can potentially build detailed profiles of individuals, including their behaviours, preferences, and movements. This type of data collection can be seen as intrusive and raises concerns about privacy and surveillance.

Additionally, there is a risk that personal data collected through IoT devices could be used in ways that are discriminatory or harmful. For example, if data from IoT devices is used to make decisions about employment, housing, or access to services, there is a risk that these decisions could be influenced by biases or stereotypes.

Companies that use IoT devices must therefore ensure that they are collecting and using data in an ethical and responsible manner. This includes being transparent about data collection and use practices, obtaining consent from individuals, implementing appropriate security measures to protect the data, and ensuring that the data is not used in ways that are discriminatory or harmful. Failure to do so can result in damage to the company’s reputation and legal and financial consequences.


In conclusion, while the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the way we interact with technology, it has also introduced new risks and vulnerabilities. The increasing number of connected devices makes them more susceptible to cyber-attacks and data breaches. Furthermore, the lack of standardization and regulation, compatibility issues, and reliability concerns are additional challenges that need to be addressed. It is important for companies and individuals to prioritize the security and privacy of personal data, implement strong security measures, and comply with data protection regulations. Addressing these challenges will be critical to ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of IoT systems as they continue to grow and expand in the coming years.

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