IoT SECURITY CHALLENGES
The Internet of Things (IoT) is booming, becoming one of the fastest-growing tech trends and bridging communication between the physical and digital worlds. But there’s a catch: security issues are holding back many customers from fully embracing IoT devices. Many devices are not designed with security in mind and problems include software vulnerabilities and cyberattacks – especially concerning for industries like healthcare, finance, manufacturing, logistics, and retail, all already using IoT systems. Just to give you an idea, in the first half of 2021 alone, there were a whopping 1.51 billion breaches of IoT devices. And in all of 2020, Kaspersky reported a mind-boggling 639 million breaches. It’s clear that IoT security is a major challenge that needs attention. Stephane Nappo, the Global Head Information Security for Société Générale International Banking says:
“The Internet of Things devoid of comprehensive security management is tantamount to the Internet of Threats.”
WHAT IS IoT SECURITY?
IoT security is all about keeping the Internet of Things safe and protected. It covers everything from the physical parts and applications to the data and network connections. The goal is to make sure that IoT systems are available, trustworthy, and confidential. But let’s face it, there are a ton of security challenges when it comes to IoT. There are always new flaws popping up in these systems, which makes it a real struggle to keep them secure. To tackle this, a robust IoT security approach is needed that covers all the bases. This means keeping an eye by using monitoring tools, updating firmware regularly, managing access, responding to threats, and fixing vulnerabilities.
THE IMPORTANCE OF IoT SECURITY
Why is IoT security so important? IoT systems are huge and vulnerable, which makes them a prime target for attacks. If we don’t secure these devices properly, they could become gateways for hackers to invade other parts of the network or expose sensitive information. IoT devices can be full of security holes. We’re talking about everything from cars and smart grids to watches and smart home gadgets. There have been cases where webcams were easily hacked, giving attackers access to networks. There have also been smartwatches with security flaws that allowed hackers to track people’s locations and listen in on their conversations.
KEY GOALS OF IoT SECURITY
IoT security has two primary objectives that are crucial in ensuring the protection and integrity of IoT systems:
- Secure Data Handling – The first goal is to establish a resilient framework for collecting, storing, processing, and transferring data securely within IoT environments. This involves implementing strong encryption protocols, authentication mechanisms, and access controls to prevent unauthorized access, tampering, or interception of sensitive information. By prioritizing data security, IoT systems can maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and privacy of the data they handle, safeguarding it from potential threats.
- Vulnerability Detection and Mitigation – The second goal is to proactively identify and eliminate vulnerabilities within IoT components. This requires conducting regular assessments and audits to identify potential weaknesses in devices, applications, and network connections. Once vulnerabilities are detected, prompt action is taken to mitigate the risks. This may involve applying software patches, firmware updates, or implementing additional security measures to strengthen the overall security posture of the IoT ecosystem.
Creating secure IoT systems and keeping them safe from attacks is no walk in the park. It’s a tough task that requires a lot of effort and know-how. Let’s take a look at five of the main IoT challenges.
IoT SOFTWARE AND FIRMWARE VULNERABILITIES
Securing IoT systems is a tricky business, mainly because a lot of those smart devices have limited computing power and resources. They just can’t handle fancy and resource-hungry security functions like their non-IoT counterparts. As a result, they tend to have more vulnerabilities.
Here are a few reasons why IoT systems often end up with security issues:
- Limited computing capacity – IoT devices can only do so much with their limited processing power. It’s hard for them to incorporate solid built-in security measures.
- Weak access control – Some IoT systems have dodgy access control mechanisms, making it easier for unauthorized troublemakers to exploit vulnerabilities and gain entry.
- Money matters – Limited budgets may mean there’s not enough cash for comprehensive security testing and firmware improvements.
- Patchy patching – IoT devices may not get regular patches and updates due to technical limitations or tight budgets. This means vulnerabilities can go unpatched for longer, making the devices more susceptible to attacks.
- User laziness – Not everybody updates their IoT devices regularly. Some folks just leave them hanging with outdated software, making them sitting ducks.
- Outdated devices – As time goes on, older IoT devices might not receive software updates anymore. That leaves them wide open to vulnerabilities that won’t be fixed.
- Physical attacks – Attackers can get crafty and physically tamper with IoT devices or hack them using sneaky radio waves. It’s like something out of a spy movie!
Bad guys love to exploit these vulnerabilities and wreak havoc on IoT systems. Just take the case of those Ring smart cameras—they got hacked because people were using weak, recycled, or default passwords.
IoT INSECURE COMMUNICATIONS
Most of the security measures we have today were initially designed for desktop computers. But for resource-constrained IoT devices, implementing those traditional security mechanisms is a real headache and the usual security tricks don’t work as effectively for safeguarding the communication of IoT devices. One of the nastiest threats that insecure communications can bring is the dreaded man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. These sneaky hackers can easily pull off MITM attacks if your device lacks secure encryption and authentication mechanisms during the update process. Once they gain control, they can wreak havoc by installing malware or tinkering with your device’s functionality. Even if you manage to escape the clutches of a MITM attack, your device’s data can still be snatched by cybercriminals if it’s sent as plain, unencrypted messages. Connected devices are also dominoes. If attackers manage to breach just one device in your home network, they can easily go on a rampage and compromise all the other devices within it. When one domino falls, so do the others.
IoT DATA LEAKS
You know that hackers can access sensitive information like your location, bank account details, and health records by intercepting unencrypted messages from your IoT system. But there are other ways they can get their hands on valuable data. All your data is transferred through and stored in the cloud, and even cloud-hosted services can be targeted by external attacks. So, data leaks can happen from both the devices themselves and the cloud environments they’re connected to. Something else to watch out for is third-party services in your IoT systems. Take the case of Ring smart doorbells, for example. It was discovered that these doorbells were sending customer data to companies like Facebook and Google without proper customer consent. How did this happen? Well, it turns out there were third-party tracking services enabled in the Ring mobile app causing the issue.
IoT MALWARE VULNERABILITIES
According to cloud security company Zscaler, the devices that are most vulnerable to malware attacks are set-top boxes, smart TVs, and smartwatches. If hackers manage to infiltrate an IoT system with malware, they can manipulate its functionality, gather personal data, and launch additional attacks. What’s more, certain devices can come pre-infected with viruses if manufacturers fail to prioritize adequate software security.
While some organizations have found ways to combat well-known malware targeting IoT, new methods of exploiting IoT networks and devices continue to emerge. In 2021, researchers discovered a malware called BotenaGo which can exploit over 30 different vulnerabilities in smart devices.
Besides malware and MITM attacks, IoT systems are also susceptible to these cyberattacks:
- DoS (Denial-of-Service) attacks – IoT devices are easy targets for DoS attacks because they have limited processing power. These attacks happen when a flood of fake traffic overwhelms the device, making it unable to respond to real requests.
- DoSL (Denial-of-Sleep) attacks – Wireless sensors that run on batteries use sleep mode to conserve power. But attackers can exploit weaknesses in communication protocols like MAC to drain the device’s battery through a DoSL attack. This effectively disables the sensor.
- Device spoofing – If a device doesn’t have proper digital signatures and encryption, hackers can “spoof” it and mess up IoT systems.
- Physical intrusion – While most attacks are done remotely, physical intrusion is also possible if a device gets stolen. Hackers can tamper with its components to make it work in unexpected ways.
- Application-based attacks – These attacks take advantage of security flaws in device firmware, software used in embedded systems, or weaknesses in cloud servers and backend applications. They exploit vulnerabilities in the system’s software or infrastructure.
THE IoT ZOO
Business innovation evangelist, Csaba Gabor says of IoT:
“By letting the IoT devices into our everyday life, it is not like we entered the zoo, but we released the animals into our world.”
But the Internet of Things needn’t be a zoo or any animal from a zoo. And that’s where I can help. I have over 20 years of experience in professional business IT support for SMEs, specialising in cybersecurity and risk mitigation. I can also offer world-class cybersecurity advice and get your systems and business ready for a whole new world of IoT. Get in touch today and let’s make sure you don’t get left behind.