Today’s Top IoT Challenges and Best Practices
Everyone’s talking about the Internet of Things – and for good reason. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to exchange data over the internet. And, it’s growing rapidly. In fact, there are more than 7 billion connected IoT devices today ranging from common household products to sophisticated industrial tools. According to IoT Analytics, this number will continue to increase, with more than 27 billion connected devices in the world expected by 2025.
All of this connectivity, of course, brings about security concerns. Software vulnerabilities and cyberattacks can make some people hesitant to use IoT devices. So, how can companies and individuals better improve IoT security? In this blog, we explore how those that operate in finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and other industries can manage IoT securely.
What is IoT Security?
IoT Security is all about securing Internet devices and the networks they’re connected on. With the right protection, IoT devices can be more secure from threats and breaches. Of course – and unfortunately – many IoT devices were not built with security in mind, making them vulnerable to hackers.
Because of the large number of IoT devices, a vulnerable piece of equipment could have an impact on a single individual or thousands of people. For example, a home security system could be turned off by burglars, endangering a single homeowner. Or, traffic lights on a busy city street could be hacked, creating chaos for hundreds of commuters.
Many IoT devices also store a lot of personal information, which by cybersecurity laws, standards, and regulations, requires them to be protected. When personal information gets into the wrong hands, it can damage – or destroy – a company’s credibility and reputation.
To keep people and their personal information protected, IoT security requires that data is collected, stored, processed, and transferred securely. It also means that vulnerabilities need to be continuously monitored and threats are eliminated.
Common IoT Challenges
Here’s a look at some of the most common IoT challenges impacting individuals and organizations in 2022.
Studies show that the average person has more than 100 online accounts. Remembering all of these passwords has become problematic, so many use simple or similar passwords across accounts. Of course, weak and simple passwords can easily be hacked, resulting in data breaches, account takeovers, and other forms of cyberattack.
Data is commonly exchanged through IoT devices. When the device transmits data, threat agents might exploit vulnerabilities to intercept sensitive data while it’s traveling across the wire. The most common threats are when an adversary shares your local network (compromised or monitored Wi-Fi) or carrier or network devices as well as malware found on your mobile device.
Unpatched vulnerabilities are another way that bad actors breach networks. These occur when security teams fail to patch vulnerabilities in commonly used software. The HIPAA Journal reports that ransomware gangs are increasingly targeting unpatched vulnerabilities in software and that these unpatched vulnerabilities are now the primary attack vector in ransomware attacks.
Outdated Operating Systems
Many organizations fail to consistently update or upgrade their operating systems. By using outdated operating systems, they are more likely to fall victim to a data breach. You may recall the WannaCry ransomware outbreak of 2017. This breach was carried out by hackers gaining access through outdated Windows operating systems.
All software has an expiration date, and the longer you use it, the worse it becomes. That’s because it’s no longer being maintained. This can lead to unpatched vulnerabilities that open doors for attackers. By using outdated software, individuals and organizations become prime candidates for a cyberattack.
An Application Programming Interface (API) is what allows software applications to interact with each other. Vulnerable APIs – those that are not properly authorized or authenticated – can allow unauthorized users access to sensitive data and systems. This makes it critical that organizations regularly test APIs to identify vulnerabilities and address them when they’re discovered.
A data leak is another IoT challenge that happens when any type of sensitive data is accidently exposed either physically or on the internet. A data leak can occur simply by someone losing their laptop, smartphone, or other IoT device, leading to a cybercriminal accessing data with ease.
malware is an umbrella term used for viruses, trojans, and other destructive computer programs. Malware is used by cybercriminals to infect systems and networks in order to gain access to sensitive information or hold data hostage until some form of payment is made.
Six IoT Security Best Practices
As you can see, there are many ways for your data to fall into the wrong hands. Fortunately, some IoT security best practices can help keep cyber threats at bay.
1. Implement Secure Password Protection
Passwords can be a pain (and 75% of people, according to a Google study are frustrated with them) but they are one of the most effective ways of protecting your network, assets, and organization’s reputation. Adopting multi-factor authentication processes can strengthen your IoT security even further. It’s important to remember that many IoT devices come with weak preset passwords that are easy to find online. So, once you add an IoT device to your network, also reset the present password with a secure, more complex password.
2. Implement Access Control Policies
Device-level security is a great starting point, but user-level security is just as important. Access control is a security technique that regulates who or what can view or use data and resources at any given time. Implementing access control can greatly minimize threat risks. There are two types of access control: physical and logical. Physical limits access to offices, rooms, buildings, and physical IT assets. Logical access control limits connections to computer networks, system files, and data. Implementing authentication protocols that restrict who has access to certain data and where they can access it from can greatly reduce IoT security threats.
3. Implement Data Encryption Practices
IoT devices can horde large amounts of data which is why they are so valuable for attackers. One of the best ways to protect this information from thieves is to encrypt your information. Studies show that 98% of all IoT traffic is unencrypted, leaving it exposed to cybercriminals. With encryption tools, you can make your data unreadable for unauthorized users.
4. Implement Software Update Policies
Updating software is key to preventing vulnerabilities that leave you open to an attack. Most software developers are always looking for ways to improve device security; as threats arrive, they offer updates and patches. However, many IoT devices do not yet do this automatically like most IT systems. So, consider setting automated reminders to check for updates or program your device to automatically download and install new versions when available.
5. Implement IoT Security Training
It may seem like common sense, but IoT security training is important for employees. People only know what they know, and many may not understand how IoT devices can be used to harm them or the organization. Always try to relate the training to their specific roles in the organization, which may require breaking out groups with different functions. And, don’t make security training a one-and-done event. People tend to slip back into bad habits, so it’s important to regularly remind them to be vigilant (and update them on any new information).
6. Always Be Monitoring for Vulnerabilities
Last but not least, real-time risk monitoring, reporting, and alerting are critical for IoT security. To protect your sensitive data, you’ll want to implement a threat monitoring solution that continuously analyzes the behavior of all network-connected IoT endpoints.
Stay More Secure with Compuquip!
Implementing good cybersecurity policies starts with securing all devices on your network, including the potentially-overlooked IoT devices. However, if managing this on your own sounds daunting, we get it. Developing a strong comprehensive strategy for protecting your organization – especially if you’re unaware of all connected devices within your organization – can be challenging.
That’s where Compuquip comes in! Our cybersecurity experts will help you determine the best course of action, whether that entails performing a security audit to identify each connected device or developing a strategy for establishing good IoT security practices.