By now, most of us know that the internet is BIG. We know that we can use remote access to work from home or communicate with off-site workers. We know that we can send images and videos from our computers and phones to our televisions. We know that Alexa can connect with our lighting and heating at home.
It may scare some to consider how quickly we’ve pushed into the future and how easily we’ve integrated technology that most could never imagine we’d have. But in truth, electronic devices talking with each other was a long time coming. That might sound like the plot of Terminator, but we promise, it isn’t that scary. It’s incredibly beneficial, though not without its caveats.
This connectivity is the internet of things (IoT) and it’s becoming increasingly popular across the globe. Be prepared for upcoming integration and corresponding security risks by reading the following information.
What is IoT?
IoT is the Internet of Things. Essentially, IoT is a collection of devices, all connected to the internet. These devices are also communicating with each other. Traditionally, that would mean a smart TV, a laptop, your phone, but there are more devices included in IoT than you may realize. Instead, it’s your fridge, your coffee pot, printer, and even living room curtains that are connected to IoT.
The IoT connects these devices, giving each a unique identifier to collect and share data. For average citizens, IoT encompasses your home and car. It may allow you to lock doors, change the temperature, or start the coffee machine. For business, IoT is generally used for security, vehicle tracking, and inventory. They may use it to allow employees or vendors into the building on a weekend. Or, to adjust temperatures and lighting and save electricity when no one is at the office. Even the government uses IoT for natural disasters, wildlife tracking, and building security.
The IoT also includes devices like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home. They can take notes, search the internet, send emails, and make appointments. More recent updates to these devices allow them to work with other appliances in your home. They’re essentially the tool that turns your home into a smart home.
IoT Security Problems and Challenges
So what are the downsides to this? We can’t just jump into the life of the Jetsons or the future of Marty McFly without worry. There are several security issues with IoT. The leading issue, like all things on the internet, is a breach in data security. This often results in malware downloads or the seizure of personal information.
The difficulty in protecting IoT devices is that you can't secure these devices. Even if you have network security, there is often no way of seeing the connected devices which means the network can’t protect them. Hackers exploit these vulnerabilities at any time because data must travel between two points. They may attack the apps, the gateways, data centers, or even the devices themselves. What’s worse is that some devices may have malware on them before shipping to you. Once they’re installed, they corrupt the connected network.
Other vulnerabilities include:
- Unpatched vulnerabilities - If there’s a connectivity issue, users may need to manually update the devices. This may leave them open for attack due to outdated software. Hackers will often discover weak spots in older software and attack users this way.
- Vulnerable APIs - APIs are a gateway to C&C centers (Command and Control). As such, they are routinely attacked with a variety of assaults.
- Weak Authentication - Devices that come with passwords are often easy to decipher. If the password is not changed, it may be vulnerable to unwanted remote access.
Compromise and access of a device leave users open to:
- Data theft such as credit card details and social security numbers
- Malware, viruses, phishing
- Physical harm if the device is medical such as a pacemaker.
- Car accidents in network-connected cars
- Threats to others if a device is hijacked and controlled remotely by a hacker
- The shutdown of services and popular domains such as Netflix and Twitter, as seen in the servers provided by Dyn
The problem is that there is very limited protection for IoT devices and networks. Attacking them is as simple as running scripts or tools that are widely available.
What is IoT Device Security?
With the above said, what is IoT security? Most IoT devices don’t have automatic protection, but this is quickly changing. IoT security is the act of securing these devices and their connected network.
This may include security for the individual device, or network security programs. Entities like the IoT Security Foundation stress regulations and security from the start.
Why is IoT Security Important?
By the year 2023, the number of IoT connected devices will rise to 43 billion. The internet already poses an increasing amount of threats. Hackers can spoof your email or poison your DNS cache. The dark web and the number of cyber criminals who seek refuge there are growing. Cyberbullying finds its home on school computers. Malware exploits every possible vulnerability. If you don’t keep up with the threats, they overtake everything.
Corporations and individuals use cloud storage and remotely connected devices. Individuals connect their homes to the internet and students access it for information on campus.
There are a myriad of benefits to these advancements. However, we must take IoT security seriously. We’ve mentioned the hacking of servers provided by Dyn—and the consequent shut down of services—and that items like your car and medical devices can experience IoT attacks.
Then, there is the case of the IoT botnet that attacked thousands of CCTV cameras. The malware that did that was part of a Minecraft scheme. Now, the creator claims the Mirai botnet is open to use by all hackers. So what can you do about it? Take a look below for the answer.
IoT Security Solutions
There are several things you can do to protect your devices from IoT security attacks, but these solutions must be comprehensive. It’s not enough to rely on one measure of security. Any solution must offer visibility and total network protection as well as segmentation.
Here’s what you need to build comprehensive IoT security:
- Security services to protect devices from lifecycle attacks
- Tamper mitigation with physical device chip protection
- Side-channel attack mitigation to fight against chip compromises
- Isolation measures to fight software attacks
- Risk profiles for device groups
- Internal network segmentation to enable monitoring, policy enforcement, and inspection
- Locked physical storage for devices when out of use
- Strong access passwords or biometrics; two-point authentication is
- Security programs that restrict apps and let you wipe data on stolen devices
- Segregated business and personal data with an external hard drive for sensitive materials
- Automatic updates for antivirus software
- Security software on all devices (where possible)
- Modified default passwords on every new device
- Different passwords for each device; if you can’t remember the passwords, use a three password system (a separate password for low security, medium security, and high security)
- End-to-end encryption for sensitive data transfers to prevent interceptions and shield vulnerabilities
- Disable unused features to remove possible avenues for hackers
- Disabled remote access when not in use
- Cryptographic keys
- Separate IoT devices with VLANs, routing, or alternate networks
How to implement IoT security
IoT benefits businesses in incredible ways when it is properly secure. To implement the above measures, you have to think about what needs protection. It’s important to know where you are vulnerable and the types of risks you’re open to. Then create and implement security policies for hardware and software. The policies must encompass each user, app, server, gateway, and device. You must also have a security breach plan. Planning for the worst is essential to recovering from the worst. Though there are few IoT regulations now, expect them to come. Compliance will help protect you against cyberattacks.
Many organizations lean heavily on IoT security providers and anti-malware software. This is beneficial, but you must do your due diligence. Ensure that a device’s access controls and logins are sufficient. Are there safeguards for backdoors? Does the product not only detect but recover from any attacks that make it through?
As the IoT community grows, protections will too. Regulations will emerge and more companies will rise to help protect organizations and individuals.
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