Southampton study identifies anti-hacking techniques for Internet of things devices.

Researchers at Southampton University have identified a number of techniques that could be used to help make internet-connected devices safer from online attacks.

Increasing numbers of devices and objects now offer some level of internet connectivity – however there are growing concerns that many of the devices that make up the so-called Internet of things (IoT) – particularly those with limited interfaces – could be particularly vulnerable to hackers.

There are growing concerns that IoT devices may be vulnerable to online attack
There are growing concerns that IoT devices may be vulnerable to online attack

As part of their study, the Southampton team compared four interaction techniques for the configuration of IoT devices, looking for methods that allowed security, but were quick and easy to use.

All four of these techniques used a smartphone touchscreen to let users enter secure passwords: two connected the smartphone and the IoT device through a USB or audio cable, via the smartphone’s headphone socket, one used a special temporary Wi-Fi network created by the smart phone, and the other used the flashing of the smartphone screen to send binary data.

The final option was the smartphone and the IoT device

The group found that the audio cable and the Wi-Fi-only interactions were the easiest to use.

Study co-author Dr Enrico Costanza, from the Agents, Interaction, Complexity Group in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, said: “We believe that our results can help designers and researchers make IoT devices, and especially their configuration, more usable and therefore secure. Moreover, we believe that not enough attention has been placed on how to make the IoT easy to use and to configure, so we hope that our results will motivate others in researching this topic.”