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The Biggest Risk with the Internet of Things Explained

Learn about what you need to do to secure your smart connected or IoT devices.

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There are several major risks associated with the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as hacking and government spying. Without the owner's knowledge and permission, third parties can access and compromise sensitive information. For example, hackers can take over security cameras and use the information for extortion or selling to competitors. A single breach could compromise the integrity of the system. In addition, hackers can take control of multiple IoT devices, including those of competitors or even governments.

Lack of physical hardening

While hackers may not use social engineering techniques on everyday targets, they do target people. Despite the fact that IoT devices are increasingly autonomous, many fail to receive the proper security updates. Because of this, they can be tampered with or compromised. One of the best ways to prevent this is to implement physical hardening. This can be accomplished by ensuring that access to the device is restricted. Physical hardening is crucial to ensuring that no unauthorized party can access your data or your devices.

Besides physical vulnerability, IoT devices need to be protected against external dangers. The main threat that IoT security vulnerabilities have is lack of physical hardening. Because these devices are autonomous, they are constantly exposed to a wider physical attack surface. Even if you do not intend to damage the devices, they can still be used to extract information. For instance, insecure microSD cards are a goldmine for attackers.

Insecure data storage and transfer

Another big risk with IoT is insecure data storage and transfer. The problem is that many of these devices are not managed or monitored at all. Without visibility into how the device is being used, organizations may not be able to detect and respond to security threats in a timely manner. For example, IoT pacemakers and defibrillators can be tampered with by hackers who purposefully deplete the batteries or administer incorrect pacing or shocks.

Regardless of the size of the business, IoT security should be a top priority. Several solutions are available for businesses to protect their data. The secure element is a hardware security module soldered onto devices and provides cryptographic functions. This module, combined with a public key infrastructure, is the key hardware element of the security chain. For added security, it is recommended that companies use a certified public key infrastructure (PKI) for all their IoT devices.

Insecure data storage and transfer is one of the biggest risks associated with IoT, according to Gartner's IoT report. It shows that the number of M2M connections increased by 204 percent in the years from 2013 to 2014. Industries like healthcare, finance, retail, and transportation are among the fastest-growing sectors. According to the report, data from M2M devices will generate a tremendous amount of data.

Lack of visibility and device management

One of the biggest risks associated with the Internet of Things is lack of visibility and device management. Many companies fail to secure their devices properly, allowing cybercriminals to access sensitive information. One study found that one in three HVAC systems had been hacked. Other examples include connected cars and smart HVAC systems. The study also found that one in five connected devices used unsupported operating systems. These vulnerabilities are the biggest risk associated with the Internet of Things.

Many companies lack visibility into their devices' stack, and only know a small fraction of their network. This makes it difficult to identify problems and stretches out the time it takes to address them. Organizations need to have visibility into the status of devices, including the firmware version, default password, and device status. Having visibility and device management will prevent the most common security risks and help reduce the costs of a company's IoT initiatives.

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Botnets

Cyber criminals have targeted IoT devices as a prime target. The problem is that the majority of these devices lack effective security measures. They may also be operating on outdated operating systems and have no easy way to patch security flaws. However, there are ways to improve security by deploying firmware updates. Many IoT devices use generic default passwords that make credential theft very easy. By implementing secure password policies, you can make credential theft more difficult.

The most common source of IoT malware is outdated software. Users often fail to update these devices and leave them unpatched for months. This creates a perfect environment for botnets to attack your system. This malware is particularly effective against home automation and routers, so you should regularly check for firmware updates for these devices. If you're unsure whether your IoT devices are updated, you can visit the manufacturer's website to find out. Botnets attack is common problem for victim web development companies.

Weak passcodes

One of the biggest risks of IoT devices is that they do not have strong passwords. Default passwords are easily guessable, publicly available, and are often hardcoded into devices. In a bid to increase user confidence and bolster the image of a secure device, governments worldwide are banning easy-to-guess default passwords. Manufacturers must also tell users when to expect security updates for their devices. Developers should build in security into their products and encourage users to change their default passwords with more complex ones.

While automatic updates have improved computer security in the past, IoT devices need to be updated regularly. Older systems use outdated code, which makes them vulnerable to hacking attacks. Many IoT devices still use the outdated firmware, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. Luckily, new technologies are helping companies increase their security levels. Using a machine-to-machine authentication (M2M) protocol is one way to improve IoT security.


Insecure ecosystem interfaces

One of the biggest challenges associated with IoT is insecure ecosystem interfaces. Insecure networks provide an easy opportunity for cyber criminals to exploit vulnerabilities and access sensitive or confidential data. Insecure ecosystem interfaces are particularly susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, which seek to steal credentials and authenticate devices. A secure ecosystem interface makes it difficult for an attacker to compromise a device. To address this challenge, organizations should implement authentication processes. For example, organizations should employ practical identity tools to differentiate legitimate users from malicious ones.

Insecure ecosystem interfaces are the most common vulnerability in IoT. Many IoT devices do not adhere to secure encryption standards, making them vulnerable to eavesdropping and sniffing attacks. Another major vulnerability is weak encryption, which allows hackers to intercept critical messages and inject new ones. Fortunately, many devices are equipped with a security update mechanism, but insecure ecosystem interfaces remain a major security risk.

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AI-based attacks

A recent report from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology has highlighted the increased potential for AI-based attacks. While the threat is not widely understood, it is not difficult to imagine the threat posed by these programs, and the risks are real. While there are many different ways to defend against these programs, a focus on the development of new and robust techniques should be the top priority. The use of techniques that "harden" AI methods makes them more difficult to exploit, such as Address Space Layout Randomization, has already made cyberattacks incredibly difficult to execute.

One of the greatest risks of AI attacks is that they are undetectable. An adversary can alter a small input aspect and manipulate an AI model, causing it to make mistakes or produce false results. For example, an autonomous vehicle could be programmed to ignore stop signs, leading to a crash. It could also fail to recognize terrorist propaganda or blatantly misclassify a stop sign, causing the system to shut down or impede safe traffic flow.


Summary

While the benefits of IoT are numerous, its security challenges are also significant. IoT devices have limited processing power, memory, and power, so existing security measures are insufficient to protect them. Further, because most IoT devices are located in cities, physical security is difficult to achieve. Insecure IoT databases are another major concern. In the absence of these measures, IoT devices are not secure, which presents another significant risk.

One of the primary risks with IoT is that IoT devices have a long shelf life and may not receive regular updates and support. This makes it difficult to upgrade or reconfigure them. As a result, this kind of device is also vulnerable to cyberattacks. In fact, most IoT devices use cheap chips, which makes them insecure. Further, their lack of regular updates creates an opportunity for attackers to steal credentials.

The biggest threat of IoT lies in the exponential growth of data collected through the IoT. One connected device can potentially generate thousands of data. The IoT network was built to connect people, data, and devices. However, this network poses some serious risks. The risks of IoT and Big Data can threaten the lives of people, and the security of IoT devices is imperative. Therefore, it is essential to secure the data stored in the Big Data cloud.

Guest Writer: Harry Leo is a technical content writer with 5+ years of experience in this field. He writes regularly on internet technology based topics.


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