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If you haven’t noticed, everything is connected to the internet these days. It’s a challenge to go anywhere without being within an arm’s reach of something that’s connected to someone’s Wi-Fi or has a cell signal. I’m waiting for the moment I get a sandwich that’s connected to the web in some way or another.

While all of this connectivity has led to a wave of efficiency and innovation, it also presents businesses with serious security concerns that must be addressed sooner rather than later. Today, we’re going to discuss the security of the internet of things.

What Is the IoT?

Source: Internetsociety.com

The IoT is your smart refrigerator. It’s your Amazon Echo. It’s your Wi-Fi-connected light bulbs, coffee machines, pet feeders, self-driving cars, and doorbell cameras.

The internet of things is the connection of everyday physical devices which use sensors, processors, and software to perform their functions and improve their capabilities through shared data.

The internet of things extends even further than the average household smart appliance. The applications of IoT are limitless as we implement increased automation, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) into our daily professional and personal lives.

The concept has implications in all kinds of fields, including:

  • Medical
  • Military
  • Education
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Travel
  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • City planning
  • Environmental protection
  • Supply chains

The interconnectivity of the world’s systems, processes, and endeavors has the possibility to unlock new heights and achieve breakthroughs.

However, this concept is certainly not without its drawbacks, like any up-and-coming technological development.

What Security Challenges Does IoT Pose?

The issue with most new technologies is the consistent problem of cybersecurity as an afterthought.

Many of these devices and the software they run on are built with any security considerations left to the end or left out altogether, instead of baking protections into the development processes.

Even if security provisions are included, there’s also the difficulty of pushing updates to certain IoT items, like cars. Think about it, how often do you bring in your vehicle to the dealership to update the software for your infotainment and maps?

Some vehicle manufacturers are adopting the Tesla method for updates by deploying them wirelessly to their customers, but this only solves half of the problem. What happens when attackers still make it past the safeguards put in place?

Here’s an example of what happens when hackers take control of the computers that govern your vehicle:

Common Cybersecurity Challenges with IoT Systems

It’s not just vehicles either. Lots of IoT devices are faced with numerous cybersecurity issues. These are some of the common cybersecurity challenges with IoT systems:

  • Insufficient authentication: Without any forms of authenticated access, attackers potentially can breach IoT devices without verification and use them as an entry point to spread throughout your network.
  • Lack of encryption: According to a 2020 IoT threat report by Palo Alto Networks, 98% of internet of things traffic is unencrypted, leaving it exposed to the prying eyes of hackers. This exposes you to potential man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, data theft, and
  • Weak passwords: Unless you’re taking the time to configure each device, including IoT devices, to your security standards, these devices are very insecure password-wise. The default passwords that come on these devices are sometimes easily guessable, making them vulnerable to brute force attacks from botnets.

Types of Attacks Your IoT Devices Are Susceptible To

Source: Forbes.com

These vulnerabilities and others leave your IoT devices, data, privacy, and network potentially exposed to all kinds of attacks, including:

  • Denial-of-sleep: Attackers exhaust IoT devices by feeding them false input signals to drain their batteries or wear out other components.
  • Man-in-the-Middle: Lack of encryption allows attackers to intercept IoT device traffic for the purposes of snooping, pulling sensitive data, or responding with false traffic back to the origin device.
  • Device spoofing: By intruding into the network through a low-security IoT device, an attacker acts as the device to gain access to more sensitive data and devices on the secured network.
  • Malware: IoT devices are an entry point for attackers looking to deploy malware onto a network.
  • Spyware: Unsecured smart devices and their recording equipment, such as microphones and cameras, can be activated via spyware for all kinds of purposes.

The list of security concerns with IoT devices goes on and on, as with any other device connected to your network.

While the attack vectors are concerning, there are different strategies you can employ to ensure your assortment of IoT devices is just as protected as the rest of your infrastructure.

What IoT Security Steps Should You Take to Protect Your Business?

Source: Micro.ai
  1. Segment your network and close unnecessary ports
  2. Employ endpoint detection and response software
  3. Adopt secure password policies
  4. Update all IoT device software

Now that we understand some of the risks and vulnerabilities associated with IoT technology, it’s important to do all that you can to protect your business from those gaps.

While there are certain security measures that are out of your control, like built-in encryption, there are other actions you can take to ensure your network is as secure as possible.

At the very least, before employing these strategies, make sure you research each device you plan to connect to your network to make sure these devices are secure and reliable.

It’s better to start with a secure device rather than create the patchwork on your own end.

1. Segment Your Network and Close Unnecessary Ports

The purpose of network segmentation is to shrink the attack surface that hackers can take advantage of and contain them if they were to breach in through one segment.

This way it’s much harder for hackers to make their way in and laterally move from one area of your network to another.

Segmenting your IoT devices away from more important network areas and information technology (IT) assets help protect the rest of your business from attackers looking to exploit the generally weak security features of said devices.

Additionally, you’ll want to inspect all of the ports left open on these IoT devices. There are certain ports that security administrators have to leave open (and secured) for these devices to function properly.

However, that list of open ports should be kept as small as possible so as not to provide an open door for hackers to walk right into your network unopposed.

2. Employ Endpoint Detection and Response Software

Understanding your network is half the battle when protecting it. Knowing which devices are on your network, creating network architecture, and understanding their baseline behaviors is the key to detecting if something is wrong.

What is Endpoint Detection and Response Software?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) software is the ideal tool for setting the baseline of devices connected to your network and how they’re all meant to behave.

This software monitors network events and alerts security administrators when new devices connect to the network, what they are doing, and if the behavior of new or existing devices is suspicious.

This is a great solution for monitoring IoT devices as you can set the parameters by which these devices are allowed to behave.

If suspicious traffic is passing through one of these devices, then your EDR software alerts an administrator and takes action to block this activity until a remedy and report are completed. Think of this solution as the nightwatchman of your network.

3. Adopt Secure Password Policies

Passwords account for roughly 30% of cyber breaches and with numbers like those you can’t afford to let your IoT devices slide with manufacturer-assigned passwords or weak user-designated ones like “password.”

Adopting a secure password policy that mandates certain character, symbols, and number requirements help create an extra layer of security that’s often left exposed by IoT devices.

4. Update All IoT Device Software

Similar to the password issue, one in three breaches are caused by unpatched software. This simple oversight leaves all devices, including IoT devices, exposed to vulnerabilities that are openly available for an attacker to discover and exploit if they find those who haven’t taken the time to perform updates.

Sometimes, it’s overwhelming keeping up with the mountains of patches and updates that are sent from manufacturers and developers. Sometimes, it’s easier to click “remind me later” than to deal with the issue right on the spot.

The solution to this problem is to set your devices to automatically update or check for updates daily as soon as a patch is sent through. This way, you can ensure your devices are protected from the latest potential attacks.

Internet of Things Security: What To Do Next

The internet of things is here to stay. The best we can all do is learn how to adapt to the progress made to ensure the best efficiencies from our businesses while maintaining a secure cyber position.

This requires you to stay up-to-date on all of the latest cybersecurity software and strategies that are available.

No matter what you’re looking to defend on the cyber battlefield, Digital.com has the right guides, reviews, and expertise you need to make the right choices the first time. Be sure to check back for regular updates to our content and new insights into the future of cybersecurity.