What is IoT Security?

IoT security safeguards connected devices and networks that make up the Internet of Things (IoT). Its goal is to maintain user privacy and data confidentiality and ensure the security of business infrastructures.

Uniquely identified computing devices, machines, objects, animals, and people are all linked via a network, permitting data transmission.

However, introducing these devices to the web makes them susceptible to breaches unless they are properly secured.

API security, PKI authentication, DNS filtering, and network security are strategies used to protect against cybercrime and cyberterrorism connected to vulnerable IoT devices.

As recent data breaches demonstrate, IoT security must be a priority for manufacturers and developers. Poorly designed devices present particular risks for data protection and cybersecurity.

Why is IoT Security Important?

IoT Security is crucial because of how integrated IoT devices have become in our daily lives and operations. These devices generate substantial amounts of sensitive data that, if compromised, can lead to severe consequences for individuals and businesses.

The importance of IoT security lies in safeguarding this data. Predators may exploit vulnerabilities to access private information, manipulate device functionality, or even launch massive attacks. In worst cases, these incidents could disrupt interconnected critical infrastructure such as electricity grids or transport networks.

Moreover, with the increasing numbers and sophistication of cyber-attacks, data protection and digital privacy regulations are tightening. So, failure to maintain IoT security may also lead to severe legal and financial penalties.

What is an IoT Device?

An IoT device is any non-standard computing device that can connect to and share data via the internet, breaking beyond conventional network boundaries. This broad classification could include items that you might not initially think of as internet-enabled.

These devices encompass a broad range of products, from everyday household items like thermostats, LED lights, fridges, and washing machines to complex industrial machinery or even livestock embedded with biochip transponders.

They incorporate technology that allows them to communicate and interact with the external environment, enabling user control through user interfaces or AI functionality.

The ‘smartness’ of these gadgets lies in their ability to respond to changes, send information elsewhere, or alter their behavior based on what they encounter, thus developing a network of links in every part of our lives.

These IoT devices can range from intricate medical devices used for patient monitoring, advanced drones controlling agriculture, and entire traffic management systems in smart cities to fitness trackers we wear on our wrists.

Further exploiting the internet’s infinite connectivity potentials, several “connected things” now work collectively using cloud-based systems to transform regular actions into automated tasks. Consequently, the implications of this perpetual connectedness in society and lives pose all the more reasons for robust IoT security.

Simultaneously, the complexity and diversity of IoT platforms complicate building homogeneous security measures. Managed protection services can aid in creating IoT device-specific strategies while considering the connectivity environment and other potential vulnerabilities that vary between individual devices.

What Are the Issues and Challenges of IoT Security?

While IoT Security awards several advantages in terms of efficiency, automation, and improved quality of life, it does not come without its share of challenges. Navigating these challenges is part of the reality of this rapidly growing sector.

Risk of Internet Exposure

IoT devices are uniquely vulnerable to attack due to their internet connectivity. This benefit can also be risky, allowing hackers to access the device remotely through phishing attacks.

IoT security must consider all possible access points to be fully secure.

Organizations’ digital transformations have altered the automotive and healthcare industries. And has replaced some products with more cost-efficient IoT devices.

This revolution has made them overly dependent on technology — leading to more severe consequences from breaches.

The issue is these devices are more vulnerable, and many companies don’t budget for proper security. This oversight has made organizations and manufacturers more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Limited Resources

Resource constraints limit some of the abilities of IoT devices to operate with sophisticated firewalls or antivirus software. In some cases, devices struggle to maintain a connection to other devices. Bluetooth-enabled devices, in particular, have experienced numerous data breaches, particularly in the automotive industry.

Devices That Are Networked Together

When multiple devices are connected in a household, it can be convenient; however, if one device becomes compromised, the security of all connected devices can be jeopardized.

Built-in Favor of Functionality

Due to their nature, IoT devices are often produced with efficacy and usability in mind, overshadowing the need for security. Unfortunately, this sometimes means security features and updates stay on the periphery of the device’s design, making these smart devices appealing targets for potential hackers.

Which IoT Devices Have the Highest Share of Security Issues?

Connected devices, from smart home products to industrial machinery, are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Specific device categories are particularly prone to security issues due to their widespread availability and integral role in homes and businesses. Let’s discuss a few.

Smart Home Devices

Smart TVs, security cameras, wearables, virtual home assistants, and smart refrigerators are prone to security risks. Malware can be unknowingly downloaded during updates in smart TVs, and security cameras can be vulnerable gateways for intruders.

Medical Devices

Medical devices with internet capabilities – such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and patient monitoring systems, are critical for life-saving purposes, making them attractive targets for cyber attacks. Inadequate security in medical devices could be fatal.

Industrial Control Systems

Industrial Control Systems (ICS), such as SCADA systems, are essential for critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, they often lack adequate cybersecurity, leaving them vulnerable to potential cyber-attacks.

If successful, attacks could cause serious harm, such as interrupting a grid system or a nuclear power plant. This makes it imperative to prioritize IoT security and take preventive measures against threats.

Transport Systems

The rise of “smart” vehicles in the transportation sector poses a cybersecurity risk; vehicles could be remotely hijacked, risking both the safety of passengers and the public.

Connected Toys

IoT toys like dolls and action figures that feature speech recognition can send data to an external server. This makes them a high-risk target for hackers. Toy makers should prioritize security in the early stages of development to safeguard children’s and families’ data from theft.

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What Are the Top IoT Security Threats?

The escalating integration of technology and the increased use of IoT devices are balanced by escalating threats infiltrating those same devices. Here are some primary concerns:

Data Storage Without Encryption

Some IoT devices store user data without using encryption. For instance, smart home devices, like Google Nest cameras, were reported in 2019 to be exploited, re-routing snippets of data unencrypted to servers abroad — reflecting not only the device manufacturers’ neglect but also consumers’ lack of knowledge on secure usage of these devices. 

Another example was in 2018 when fitness tracking app Strava inadvertently revealed the location of secret military bases surmised from unencrypted data of fitness trackers used by soldiers.

Use of Default Passwords or Weak Passwords

IoT devices can easily be hacked if users don’t change their default passwords. Take the Mirai botnet attack, which exploited default camera passwords to launch a DDoS attack. Even if users switch their passwords, they don’t always make them strong enough, leaving them vulnerable to cybercrime.

Network Interference and Device Manipulation

Wireless jamming, used by hackers, enables interference with radio frequency. This technique was once exploited to manipulate a well-known thermostat model, resulting in inflated energy bills and unnecessary heating.

Physical Attacks

Physical intrusions allow some IoT devices to bypass digital security protocols. ATM skimming, a common technique for stealing credit card information, is an example of a physical attack on IoT systems.

Connected vehicles and smart home systems are also at risk of malicious tampering. They often unintentionally provide unauthorized access to cybercriminals.

Insecure IoT Applications

IoT apps can hold security flaws, specifically if their parent organization doesn’t include robust security in its design.

In 2016, the leading cloud-based security platform, Cloudflare, suffered an incident dubbed “Cloudbleed,” where sensitive data allegedly from their customers’ sessions was leaked out. It exposed private messages from dating apps that use its service, demonstrating weak application security and endangering user privacy.

Poor Network Security

Weak wireless networks can facilitate easy penetration and access to IoT devices. An incident back in 2017 involved a fish tank equipped with IoT capability in a Las Vegas casino.

Hackers targeted the aquarium, using it as a pathway into the casino’s network to extract 10 gigabytes of data, underscoring the importance of securing network access to all IoT devices, no matter how innocuous they seem.

IoT Security Standards and Legislation

IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 — provides guidelines to the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to ensure that required security features or standards are part of the pre-built designs in IoT devices.

Following this proposition, states like California and Oregon have made laws to shun manufacturers, pushing them to improve device security.

How to Protect IOT Systems and Devices

So, how do you protect your devices? Here are some of the best tips and strategies.

Turtle & Defense in Depth Architecture

The Turtle & Defense in Depth architecture principle urges layered security mechanisms. If an attacker breaches one layer, subsequent layers remain intact, providing continued protection.

An example of this was when LinkedIn’s breach in 2012 saw millions of passwords stolen, but due to encryption at multiple levels, users’ personal emails were left untouched.

API Security

An important aspect of the security lifecycle is API security. APIs that are not secured properly can provide a backdoor for hackers to penetrate. A high-profile instance occurred in Snapchat’s case in 2013, where the company’s API loopholes permitted hackers to expose 4.6 million users’ phone numbers and usernames.

Network Security

Stringent network security measures, including strong password policies, firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and Anti-Virus (AV) software are essential. In 2011, the Playstation Network was hacked, impacting approximately 77 million players, due to a lack of adequate network security.

DNS filtering also can help protect against security risks, as demonstrated by the 2016 breach of networking equipment firm Dyn. The attack caused significant disruption by manipulating internet traffic to impede their DNS functionality.

Keep Iot Devices Up-To-Date and Digital Certificates

The use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and digital certificates creates a trusted environment for IoT devices through identity validation. In 2017, Australia’s Red Cross Blood Service learned the necessary lesson when a human error caused the leak of a file housed in an insecure environment. If the files were encrypted using digital certificates, unauthorized users wouldn’t have been able to access or understand the aura of identities of the 550,000 donors.

Incorporate Security Into IoT Designs From the Start

Beginning from the onset of device development, manufacturers should integrate security considerations.

Sony’s 2018 breach happened due to security vulnerabilities found on their smart TVs — harboring flaws due to the lack of early inclusion of security measures during design.

Irrelevant features with significant security loopholes should be avoided, corroborating that security is non-negotiable right from the device’s genesis, not appended as an afterthought.

Securing Tomorrow’s Tech Today

Ongoing advancements in IoT necessitate proactive security measures.

Protect your digital ecosystem with Perimeter81’s DNS Filtering. Strengthen your security by implementing stringent network-specific measures, keeping devices updated, and embedding security from the start of the design process. 

Increase your safety from attacks by taking the first step today. Learn more about DNS Filtering here.

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What are the three types of IoT security?
Network, embedded, and firmware security are the three types of IoT security.
– Network security primarily protects a network from harm or unauthorized access.
– Embedded security ensures confidentiality, integrity, and availability are protected for any embedded device.
– Firmware security is applied to the programming integrated directly into hardware devices.
What are the 5 pillars of IoT security?
The five pillars of IoT security are confidentiality, integrity, availability, privacy, and consent.
What’s the difference between IoT security and cyber security?
Cyber security is the practice of protecting devices, networks, and platforms from cyber attacks or hacking. IoT stands for the ‘Internet of Things,’ meaning interconnected devices and objects that are connected to the internet.
What are the 4 primary systems of IoT?
Sensors, processors, gateways, and applications are the four primary systems of IoT.
– Sensors gather data from the environment and transform it into a usable format.
– Processors take the gathered data and turn it into relevant real-time information.
– Gateways act as the ‘passage’ for data to flow from the sensor to the processor (or processor to the internet).
– Applications allow users to interpret the processed data and make actionable decisions or orders.

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