The Internet of Things (IoT) has become the new norm. Everything is interconnected—you couldn’t disconnect from it if you tried, because everything from your smartphone to your vehicle is part of it.
These technological advances have transformed (and continue to transform) our homes, our workplaces, our transportation systems, and even our relationships, altering the way we interact and communicate with others.
But with such evolution naturally also comes risks. Cybercriminals are becoming more and more savvy, using the tech against us for their own gains. IoT is still far from perfect, leaving it with vulnerabilities that can become problematic.
Cybersecurity in the age of the Internet of Things is one of the most important elements. Here are some of the risks associated with it, plus some solutions to mitigate the risks from the very beginning. Understanding these will help you to avoid some of the most common cybersecurity mistakes and stay safer.
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IoT Potential Risks
Understanding the risks can help providers and users stay safer online. Neglecting risks can leave you wide open to cyberattacks, so knowing what you’re up against is the first step to putting preventative measures in place.
Malware—malicious software—is designed to gain access to networks without authorization. Once access is attained, the malware can run rampant and cause a lot of destruction: it may steal data, siphon money, slow the system, or even cause it to crash completely.
It comes in many forms. Viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, rootkits, adware, and worms are just a few, which is why it’s so important to continually adapt security to identify and neutralize these kinds of threats.
While malware is a more passive version of an attack, hacking is a much more active way that cybercriminals target networks. Almost any IoT device can be hacked, and hackers are becoming smart by the day.
Once a hacker has obtained unauthorized control over a device, they can do what they want with it. Most hackers have the goal of stealing sensitive information, particularly information that allows them to extort money.
Another form of “hacking” is DDoS attacks. These differ from normal hacking methods, as instead of aiming to gain access to a system or network, DDoS attacks aim to overwhelm the system with traffic to the point where it crashes and can be held hostage.
Encryption doesn’t come standard on everything. IoT devices without encryption are more open to being hacked, making sensitive data easier for outsiders to access.
Encryption is standard with many devices, websites, and payment gateways, but it’s still an evolving field. One shouldn’t simply assume the information their device receives and sends is encrypted.
Sensitive information is often shared in business-related communications. Whether that’s email, messaging apps like Slack, or a quick Whatsapp to your boss, if the method of communication isn’t secure, it’s a weak spot.
Lack of Quality Standards
One of the biggest challenges in IoT is a lack of uniform quality standards. With the range of different devices, protocols, and networks, it’s a challenge to figure out how to standardize security features. This requires that security is constantly analyzing and developing new measures, but also means that there’s always a gap for hackers to sneak in.
Image by Kohji Asakawa from Pixabay
Solutions for IoT Security
The risks of IoT will always be there. As solutions arise, hackers become smarter and more creative. Solutions need to be implemented but also need to be revived regularly.
The first key to password security is to choose strong, unique passwords. Generic passwords are often given when onboarding, but employees should definitely be encouraged to change them as soon as possible.
Second to that is two-factor authentication. This does a good job of preventing people who aren’t account holders from accessing anything.
It’s also a good idea to educate the account holder not to authorize anything that they themselves haven’t initiated unless it’s been discussed with another party and they know who’s requesting access.
Any device that has the potential to hold sensitive information—which is pretty much all of them—should use encryption to prevent sensitive data from being accessed. You really can’t afford to be without this extra layer of protection—it could be the thing that deters hackers.
Communication is a normal part of every business. Aside from having a set communication method within the business or department—for example, email only, no Whatsapp conversations—the chosen communication platform should be secured.
This could include Transport Layer Security—TLS—to stop data from being intercepted, stolen, or tampered with. Implement the certificate-based authentication system to implement Transport Layer Security—TLS.
As hackers get smarter, so does security. But it doesn’t just update on its own. You need to make sure all your systems, networks, and software get regular updates in order to make sure you’re covered.
Updates include things like new patches for vulnerabilities that were discovered, tweaks to security features and protocols, and new layers for added protection against outside influences.
Audits are valuable. They take a bit of time, but performing regular security audits can help you get ahead of potential problems and spot possible problems before they actually become dangers.
Regularly auditing your security also helps you to identify patterns. If the same threat or problem keeps popping up again and again, it could be a sign that there’s a weakness that hackers have spotted and are targeting… This means you need to be proactive in fixing it before it cracks and lets them in.
It’s important to remember that in the IoT world, everything is linked to everything else. This means that you need to be extra vigilant with cybersecurity… In everything from your text communications to your website hosting.
Whatever your business is, you can’t separate yourself from the IoT. The risks become your risks, and the solutions become your solutions too. It’s not just giant corporations like Microsoft that need to worry about these things, either. A data breach can effectively destroy a smaller company before it even takes off.
Even if you haven’t yet been the victim of a cyberattack, take steps now to prioritize cybersecurity. When you have that first incident and no harm comes of it, you’ll be thankful you did.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected devices, sensors, and objects that communicate and exchange data with each other. These devices can include everyday items like smart home appliances, wearable technology, industrial machinery, and transportation systems.
IoT devices can be vulnerable to cyberattacks due to weak security measures, such as inadequate encryption, default passwords, and a lack of regular updates. Additionally, the sheer number of IoT devices increases the potential attack surface for hackers, who can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access, steal sensitive data, or disrupt critical services.
Common IoT security threats include data breaches, unauthorized access, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, malware infections, and software or hardware tampering. These threats can lead to severe consequences for businesses, governments, and individuals, such as financial losses, privacy violations, and damage to reputation.
Businesses can secure their IoT devices and networks by implementing strong encryption, requiring unique and complex passwords, regularly updating device firmware and software, segmenting their networks, and monitoring for unusual activity. Additionally, they should conduct regular security audits, establish comprehensive security policies, and educate employees about IoT security best practices.
IoT device manufacturers can improve the security of their products by incorporating security by design principles, such as using secure hardware components, implementing strong encryption, and providing regular software updates. They should also conduct thorough security testing, establish a vulnerability disclosure program, and collaborate with the cybersecurity community to address potential risks.
Governments and regulatory bodies can play a crucial role in IoT security by establishing and enforcing cybersecurity standards and guidelines for IoT devices, promoting public awareness of IoT security risks, and fostering collaboration between the private sector, academia, and the cybersecurity community to develop innovative solutions.
Individuals can protect their IoT devices at home by changing default passwords, regularly updating device firmware and software, disabling unnecessary features, and securing their home network with strong encryption and firewalls. They should also be cautious when purchasing IoT devices, opting for reputable brands with a strong commitment to security.
AI and ML can play a significant role in IoT security by automating the detection of security threats, analyzing vast amounts of data for anomalies, and predicting potential vulnerabilities in IoT devices and networks. These technologies can help businesses and security professionals respond to threats more quickly and efficiently, ultimately enhancing overall security.
To ensure the privacy of data collected by IoT devices, businesses should implement strong encryption for data storage and transmission, limit data collection to only what is necessary, and establish clear policies for data usage, sharing, and retention. They should also be transparent with users about their data practices and allow users to control their data.
IoT security risks can have significant implications for industries like healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing, as a successful cyberattack could disrupt critical services, compromise sensitive data, and jeopardize public safety. As a result, organizations in these sectors must prioritize IoT security and adopt robust measures to protect their devices, networks, and data.