Last updated at Fri, 03 Nov 2023 18:32:10 GMT
As someone who likes the convenience of smart home Internet of Things (IoT) technology, I am regularly on the lookout for products that meet my expectations while also considering security and privacy concerns. Smart technology should never be treated differently than how we as consumers look at other products, like purchasing an automobile for example. In the case of automobiles, we search for the vehicle that meets our visual and performance expectations, but that will also keep us and our family safe. With that said, shouldn’t we also seek smart home technologies that are secure and protect our privacy?
I can’t tell you which solution will work for your specific case, but I can give you some pointers around technology security to help you do that research and determine which solution may best meet your needs and help you stay secure while doing it. Many of these recommendations will work no matter what IoT product you’re looking to purchase; however, I do recommend taking the time to perform some of these basic product security research steps.
The first thing I recommend is to visit the vendor site and search to see what they have to say about their products' security. Also, do they have a vulnerability disclosure program (VDP)? If an organization that manufactures and sells IoT technology doesn’t have much to say about their products' security or an easy way for you or someone else to report a security issue, then I highly recommend you move on.
This would indicate that product security probably doesn’t matter to them as much as it should. I also say this to the product vendors out there: If you don’t take product security seriously enough to help educate us consumers on why your products are the best when it comes to security, then why should we buy your products?
Next, I always recommend searching the Common Vulnerability Exposure (CVE) database and the Internet for the product you’re looking to buy and/or the vendor’s name. The information you find is sometimes very telling in terms of how an organization handles security vulnerability disclosure and follow-up patching of their products.
The existence of a vulnerability in an IoT product isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we’re always going to find vulnerabilities within IoT Products. The question we’re looking to answer by doing this search is this: How does this vendor handle reported vulnerabilities? For example, do they patch them quickly, or does it take months (or years!) for them to react – or will they ultimately do nothing? If there is no vulnerability information published on a specific IoT product, it may be that no one has bothered to test the security of the product. It’s also possible that the vendor has silently patched their issues and never issued any CVEs.
It is unlikely, but not impossible, that a product will never contain a vulnerability. Over the years I’ve encountered products where I was unsuccessful in finding any issues; however, not being successful in finding vulnerabilities within a product doesn't mean they couldn’t possibly exist.
Recently, I became curious to learn how vendors that produce and/or retrofit garage door openers stack up in terms of security, so I followed the research process discussed above. I took a look at multiple vendors to see, are any of them following my recommendations? The sad part is, practically none of them even mentioned the word “security” on their websites. One clear exception was Tuya, a global IoT hardware and IoT software-as-a-service (SaaS) organization.
When I examined the Tuya website, I quickly located their security page and it was full of useful information. On this page, Tuya points out their security policies, standards, and compliance. Along with having a VDP, they also run a bug bounty program. Bug bounty programs allow researchers to work with a vendor to report security issues – and get paid to do it. Tuya’s bug bounty information is located at the Tuya Security Response Center. Vendors take note: This is how an IoT product vendor should present themselves and their security program.
In closing, consumers, if you’re looking to spend your hard-earned money, please take the time to do some basic research to see if the vendor has a proactive security program. Also, vendors, remember that consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about product security. If you want your product to rise to the status of “best solution around,” I highly recommend you start taking product security seriously as well as share details and access to your security program for your business and products. This data will help consumers make more informed decisions on which product best meets their needs and expectations.