Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us depend on IoT now for critical needs in our digitally connected lives. From processing a payment online to measuring our power and water consumption to accessing our mails or entertainment streaming on the go – nearly all of the services we make use of in our day to day lives are dependent on IoT in one way or another. The global Internet of Things market was worth $190 billion in 2018. According to Forbes, the IoT market may double and reach USD$520 billion by the end of 2021. By 2026, it is estimated to be valued at $1.11 trillion.
Importance of IoT Security
The overarching influence of the Internet of Things (IoT) on our daily lives makes its security critical not just for businesses, but to ensure privacy and security in almost every facet of our lives. Apart from everyday connectivity at work and, at homes, we are now dependent on IoT for many of our public utilities (water, traffic lights, power etc.). Businesses, on the hand, rely on IoT sensors to help capture and process critical data that serve as the mainline for their products and services. Just imagine the split-second feedback-dependent communication loops of delivery vehicles, autonomous vehicles, payment getaways, and even healthcare networks. A mistake here, whether unintentional or malicious, could literally put lives in danger. When the stakes are this big, companies can never take a chance in ensuring the best possible security for IoT devices and data. Managed IT Services providers can help guide businesses at a loss to find effective ways to secure their network and data.
6 Critical Security Challenges Facing the IoT Industry
- Weak password protection
One of the critical challenges of early stage IoT devices has been that in order to keep costs down and devices sizes small, most IoT devices come with minimal, if any, security. Many use hard-coded and embedded credentials that can become a critical security flaw when the device is embedded in a larger network – rendering not just the device, but the whole network vulnerable to attacks, such as, password hacking and brute-forcing. A recent example of this can be seen in the attack pattern of the Mirai malware that exploited password vulnerabilities to identify unprotected IoT gadgets to access accounts maliciously. Given this state of affairs, any business that continues to use industry-default credentials can be accused of negligence for putting both its own data and its customer and business partner data at risk.
- AI & Automation
AI and automation are critical in parsing through the unimaginable amounts of data generated by IoT to put forward intelligent insights that facilitate critical business and operational decisions. Putting AI and automation to work in the field of IoT security can allow businesses to quickly detect anomalies in patterns and problematic traffic. It could even enable predictive defense mechanisms wherein AI can help enforce data-specific rules. But any progress in AI security strategies are fraught with complexities both from technical and ethical points of view as the training models are dependent on scarce real-world data and the vast impact of wrong decisions.
- Lack of testing and updates
Currently, there are 23 billion IoT devices connected worldwide. Experts predict that the figure will top 60 billion by 2026. While technology companies are devoted to innovation and producing highly useful IoT devices at cheap rates; longevity and consequently, security is not at the forefront of their agenda. This results in a large multitude of devices lacking in critical security features and updates, especially as they age. A relevant example of exploiting these vulnerabilities can be seen in the malware Satori. Satori spreads from device to device with no human interaction through injecting a worm. It also targets known vulnerabilities in WiFi routers and can even infect smart processor architectures. This is why it has now become critical for manufacturers to implement adequate security testing before bringing IoT devices to the market and put in a framework of regular updates and security patching for their devices.
- Insecure interfaces
IoT devices don’t just capture data, but act as communication hubs and are consequently connected to everything from web, application API, cloud, to mobile interfaces. By necessity, they need to be connected to apps, services, and protocols for communication. This leaves them open to a myriad of attack vectors and IoT vulnerabilities stemming from insecure interfaces. To secure IoT devices from such vulnerabilities, manufacturers and users need to implement strong device authentication and authorization frameworks and equally strong encryption for passwords. Apart from device authentication, digital certificates can also go a long way in enabling safe transfer of data to authorized parties. The need of the moment for businesses is to develop applications using the best of available security standards and protocols and implement the most relevant combination of policies, standards, best practices, and guidelines. If you need guidance in building IoT security applications for your business, consider reaching out to your local IT Consulting Company.
- Rogue and Counterfeit IoT Devices
Many IoT networks lack the exact controls necessary to prevent users from installing rogue and counterfeit IoT devices in secured networks. These can be used for data theft, used as rogue access points and can be used for malicious entry into the network. Also, IoT poses a unique security challenge in implementing the sort of ‘castle and moat’ approach prevalent in traditional computing systems that can help to close the perimeter and manage individual devices effectively.
- Insufficient data protection
Insecure communications and data storage continues to plague IoT applications and compromised devices are consistently used to access confidential data. The problem is that sometimes the IoT devices themselves can be too insignificant to be ‘believable as a point of ingress for a mammoth attack. For instance, the 2017 report from Darktrace showed an attack on a casino that resulted in a loss of 0GB of data including the identities of the casino’s most valuable customers. The attack originated through a ‘smart’ thermostat attached to a fish tank. In such cases, a vulnerability audit by local 24/7 IT Support providers can provide highly useful in preparing defensive tactics.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to securing IoT devices and networks, securing the devices and the networks from unauthorized ingress is definitely the place to start for businesses looking to secure their valuable data.
Nora Erspamer is the Director of Digital Marketing at New Charter Technologies, a group of companies specialized in managed IT support services. She is an experienced marketer and sales strategist with a demonstrated history of working in various technology industries. Skilled in strategic campaign development, lead generation, and marketing automation software. Her blog can be found at https://newchartertech.com/blog/.