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It is 2023 and we all know how the Internet of Things (IoT) has steadily gained importance in our personal and business lives because of the convenience and efficiency with which it connects disparate devices.
IoT offers many benefits to businesses, including manufacturers, such as reduced operating costs, increased productivity and workplace safety, and better customer experiences.
However, the IoT landscape is also prone to vulnerabilities (read: unauthorized access). As such, IoT security is critical for ensuring that the users’ data stays protected.
What does IoT security entail?
IoT security covers cybersecurity strategies and protection mechanisms that protect the IoT ecosystem, such as physical components, applications, user data, and network connections against cyberattacks.
Current scenario of IoT security
The rapid growth of IoT has made it difficult for globally standardized security protocols to be enabled to protect devices. The hybrid work environment enables personal IoT devices to connect to corporate networks without proper security and monitoring.
Through these vulnerable devices, hackers access the corporate network, which is a considerable security threat to organizational and private data and can cost the business millions.
The most common vulnerability of IoT devices is that they rely on weak credentials, such as default passwords and a lack of encryption. As the number of connected devices increases, it becomes more challenging to manage and secure them.
Additionally, many manufacturers focus on features rather than security, leaving the device vulnerable to malicious attacks. Plus, there are human-related risks associated with IoT security besides the vulnerabilities related to hardware and software design flaws.
For instance, users may be unaware of the potential risk associated with using public networks or downloading content from illegitimate sources. If they are not careful about connecting their personal devices to corporate networks, this could give hackers easy access.
One of the biggest IoT security challenges in securing IoT devices is that they are often difficult to patch or upgrade. It can also be tedious to monitor and detect cyber attacks.
As these devices are not built with a focus on security, most lack built-in monitoring capabilities and may require manual intervention or third-party tools to detect intrusions, which is impossible in real-time.
Examples of IoT security breaches and their impact
Hackers have the power to launch attacks and enter millions of unprotected IoT connected devices, accessing confidential data, taking down networks, and destroying infrastructure. Here are four illustrative cyberattacks demonstrating IoT vulnerabilities:
1. The Jeep Hack
A group of researchers launched this attack as a part of an experiment in July 2015 to test the security of the Jeep SUV. They took control of the Jeep by exploiting the firmware update vulnerability and then hijacked it over the Sprint cellular network. As a result, they could control the Jeep and make it speed up, slow down, and even veer off the road.
2. The Mirai Botnet
This was executed using a malware called Mirai in October 2016 against service provider Dyn which used an IoT botnet. As a result, many websites, including Twitter, the Guardian, Netflix, Reddit, and CNN, were affected. The bot continuously searched the web for other susceptible IoT devices before infecting them with malware by logging in using well-known default usernames and passwords.
3. Cold in Finland
The attack was launched in November 2016 in Finland when the country was experiencing severely low temperatures at that time of year. The hackers turned off the heating in two buildings in the city of Lappeenranta. It was followed by another DDoS assault that forced the heating controllers to continually reboot the system, preventing the heating from turning on.
4. The Verkada Hack
A cloud-based video surveillance service called Verkada was hacked in March 2021. It gave the hackers access to the private information that belonged to the software client and the live feed of various cameras mounted in organizations such as factories, hospitals, schools, prisons, and other sites.
Matter, governed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance(CSA), was previously known as Project Chip. It is a networking protocol or a standard for IoT connectivity.
Matter's primary objective is to enable interoperability between various devices and platforms. Furthermore, even if many IoT devices use various protocols, Matter will guarantee seamless connectivity.
Matter uses the Thread Networking Protocol, a current Zigbee 3.0 standard., which is an application layer for ethernet, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Regardless of the manufacturer, all Matter-compliant hardware will function together.
How does Matter contribute to IoT security?
During the development of Matter, several security considerations were already taken into account. According to experts, the requirement was meant to be "secure by design."
Trusted devices, a safe control system, and tap-proof communication are the pillars upon which Matter’s protective wall is built. For all three, encryption is a necessary prerequisite.
A special certificate known as the Item Attestation Certificate is attached to each device. It offers defense against imitation and reassurance that the hardware's packaging accurately represents its trustworthy source and the manufacturer's details.
Authenticity can be verified using a manufacturer's certificate (Product Attestation Intermediate or PAI), signed by an official certification organization, the Product Attestation Authority (PAA).
All these precautions are meant to stop unwanted users from breaking into the network, intercepting commands, or installing "hostile" goods in the smart network that jeopardize security from within.
Hackers will ideally find no attack points because all connections between the devices are authorized and encrypted. The standard also allows for the potential of software updates in case later security flaws are discovered.
Matter guarantees high IoT security for businesses along with privacy protection, especially regarding communication between devices and the server architecture.
Six strategies to improve IoT security
Whether you are a manufacturer building with IoT devices or a business deploying one, it is crucial to nip the problem in the bud before it wreaks havoc on your entire ecosystem. Here are six IoT security best practices you can adopt for your devices:
1. Reputable manufacturing
You must ensure you can patch and fix any security bugs that may arise in the IoT devices. If you do not have the expertise in-house, outsource it to someone reliable.
2. Fewer communication ports
Hackers typically use the device port as a backdoor to the network. Prevent intrusion by restricting access to ports and monitoring the entry path of the port into the network.
3. Updated router and software
It is essential to have an updated router and software with a firewall to shield your network against any attack. Make sure you add a provision to your IoT device and set reminders to update it.
In addition, deploy the latest security guidelines to control impact of a potential attack. There should also be password protection for accessing the software and regular checkups to ensure no security gaps.
4. Deployed network analysis tool
It is important to use a tool that monitors IoT device activity and quickly identifies potential security issues that can be overlooked due to human error.
5. Safeguard against identity spoofing
All IoT devices must be verified before connecting to the network. Hackers could disguise themselves as trustworthy devices and leave the network at high risk.
The password of every IoT device on the network must be changed and checked for any breaches. These passwords would be safe if stored in a password vault.
6. Encrypted protocols to secure IoT devices
Encrypted security protocols such as HTTPS, transport layer security (TLS), Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), and DNS security extensions must be used while communicating over the internet. It prevents any malware or hacker from accessing the network.
Choose IoT devices that support Simple Network Management Protocols (SNMP), a worldwide standard for network management. IoT security can be improved by clearing any unsupported operating systems and unwanted devices that have access to the network
Role of industry standards and regulations for IoT security
Industry standards and regulations are crucial for promoting security in the IoT ecosystem. Using industry standards and regulations can help ensure that all devices within the ecosystem have adequate safeguards to protect user data and prevent malicious hackers from compromising the system.
Industry standards can also be used to create guidelines for manufacturers like yourself on how they should design their products and write secure code, thereby reducing the likelihood of vulnerabilities being introduced into products and services. Prominent industry regulations that promote IoT security include:
1. European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is a European Standards Organisation that consists of 900 members. It is well-known for developing and ratifying IT standards according to global standards.
As a recognized regional standard body for electronic communications networks, telecommunications, and broadcasting services, it also leads in regulating IoT security standards.
2. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the official authority monitoring technology standards for the U.S. region. It develops standards for emerging technologies such as IoT.
In addition, NIST publishes a standard document that comprises valuable guidance to promote the best practices for mitigating IoT security risks.
3. Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) is a global organization with more than 750 mobile operator members from Asia Pacific, Greater China, Europe, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, and North America.
It promotes secure design, development, and deployment of IoT services and facilitates the evaluation of security measures.
4. Internet of Things Security Foundation (IoTSF) is a non-profit international organization that aims to make IoT safer. It comprises many tech companies such as Cisco and Huawei that work towards making IoT safe for users. In addition, it periodically holds a summit on IoT security to create more awareness.
Benefits of IoT security: Why invest in it?
If you manufacture IoT devices or deploy them like any other business, preventing malicious attacks or unauthorized access becomes especially important when dealing with confidential or sensitive information. Here are the key benefits of investing in IoT security:
1. Decreased risk of data loss and theft
Using IoT security solutions, businesses can protect their data from malicious attackers and keep it out of the wrong hands.
2. Better business reputation
A strong commitment to security can give your business a positive image, leading to increased brand loyalty and improved customer trust.
3. Reduced business expenses
IoT security solutions can help reduce the money businesses have to spend on data breaches by preventing them in the first place.
4. Improved customer service
Customers are more likely to trust a business with better security measures, and investing in IoT security can help improve relationships.
5. Increased compliance
Businesses that use secure IoT systems are more likely to comply with industry regulations as they are taking steps to protect confidential information.
6. Enhanced scalability
By deploying secure IoT systems, businesses can scale up their operations without worrying about potential cyber threats or data breaches. They can also reduce the risk of unexpected downtimes due to cyber attacks or data breaches.
7. Optimal efficiency
Secure IoT systems can help businesses save time, money, and resources by automating specific tasks and processes, resulting in greater efficiency.
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Over to you
IoT is transforming how businesses operate, but it also presents new security risks as hackers find new ways to exploit the former. Therefore, you must invest in robust IoT security solutions to protect your networks and user data from malicious parties.
By implementing robust authentication protocols and encryption technologies, you can limit unauthorized access and better secure the systems against potential attacks.
Investing in comprehensive IoT security helps protect a business network and yields benefits such as building trust and gaining an edge over competitors.
Additionally, deploying proactive protection helps businesses optimize efficiency and improve customer satisfaction by providing seamless service with minimal downtime or disruptions.