IoT Security Challenges and how can we address them?

From music speakers to thermostats, to lights and accessories, everything has some sort of intelligence; We are living in tech heaven, to be precise. Having moved from keypads to touch interfaces, we are currently in the no interface era. Every company is focusing on getting the maximum done with very little interaction with the device, and that means voice-activated computing powered by artificial intelligence.

Opportunities IoT Implementations Can Bring

The thing that makes everyone excited about the future of IoT is the versatility of solutions it can provide. This also makes IoT the buzzword of the decade because we can expect an explosion of IoT solutions in various sectors.

Internet-equipped sensors on any device make it possible to tap all the unused data, and analysis of this data leads into inferences about things that are usually considered ‘offline’. This can lead to better productivity, reduce cost, and can bring about a sustainable lifestyle.

Think about it – there are so many devices we use on a daily basis that is generating vast amounts of data. This data provides great insight into user behaviour, the implications of this data over the lifecycle of a device is still unknown. For example, the information generated by health bands provides insight into your daily habits, like step counts, heart rate and sleep pattern.

Wearable technology enabled bands, accessories and even clothes are connected to the phone and are recording data about everything from blood pressure to the posture.

Further, this can help transform insights into action through powerful applications thereby creating new revenue and business opportunities.

Also speaking of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is not just the companies building consumer-facing products that are a big deal, there are many companies providing wireless power solutions and cloud-based solutions that are more useful. This increase in IoT adoptions have also made organizations rethink traditional IT approaches.

Need for Security:

Since the term ‘IoT’ was coined first, the definition has evolved a lot. In a generic sense though, this is a highly intelligent Machine-to-Machine technology which has potential to revolutionize how we live and work.

While we enjoy these benefits, there is a huge chance that things could go wrong. Chances of data leaks, modification, the hacker gaining control over your products etc. Hence, it is important to focus on these areas and ensure that we are safe and secure.

Further, the increase in the adoption of IoT based technology in areas of a home, retail and industrial automation, health & fitness monitoring and connected vehicles as well as the advent and growth of Smart cities, has also resulted in a greater need for a better model to secure these products.

Key Security Challenges and Solutions for protecting IoT devices

Security and Privacy are critical issues for any company that offers IoT Based products and solutions. According to Gartner, it is expected that by the year 2020, we will have over 25 billion devices connected to the Internet.

It is important to understand the key security challenges that come along with IoT; this needs more attention to detail than anything else. With the rise of connected devices, IoT based products need built-in security that can cover every aspect of the design. Let us look at the top 5 areas that can help make secure IoT solutions.

1. Secure Product Lifecycle:

Security must be addressed throughout the device lifecycle, from the initial design to the operational environment. Ensuring the product boots up with the known configurations and only digitally signed applications are installed.

The products have to be tamper-proof as well. The device should ensure data encryption is used; for when in transport and at rest. Also, it’s important to use secure APIs and tokens for access authorization. Usage of PKIs will also ensure Data Integrity.

The devices need to be properly secured to mitigate risks for organizations and individuals from malicious attacks.

2. Maintain Updates on Devices:

When we analyze the reasons behind the increasing numbers of vulnerabilities on IoT products, there clearly stands out two important reasons:

  1. Lack of standards and guidelines in the manufacturing of IoT devices.
  2. More open source platforms usage also allows attackers to stay ahead of the curve.

To address this, it’s important to have a security validation done on these devices before deploying these products in a work environment. It is also important to perform continuous updates and patching on personal devices to reduce vulnerabilities.

3. Secure Device Settings:

Data Leaks in IoT is another threat vector which most of the companies need to focus on. In the wake of massive data breaches and data theft cases we’ve seen in recent years, more effort needs to be made to secure IoT-related data to ensure the privacy of consumers and the functionality of businesses and corporations.

The gateways that connect IoT devices to company or manufacturer networks need to be secured as well as the devices themselves. IoT devices are always connected and on. In contrast to other devices, they go through a one-time authentication process, which can make them perfect sources of infiltration into company networks. Therefore, more security needs to be implemented on these gateways to improve the overall security of the system.

Data Integrity is a key aspect that would need focus as well. Certificates for devices validate identities to make sure only authorized users and machines have access to the device. It creates an encrypted link and allows information to be transmitted privately. They also make sure that any messages or data transferred from/to the device are not altered.

Good security principles are needed; regardless it is a low-powered device or a desktop class laptop.

4. Defense in Depth Strategy:

Defense in depth often includes usage of products and solutions like AV software, firewalls, anti-spyware programs, hierarchical passwords, intrusion detection and biometric verification.

Defense in Depth strategy would be the ideal solution for securing data from the IoT devices. Defense in Depth is an information assurance mechanism where multiple layers of security controls are placed throughout an information technology system.

A well-designed strategy will help system administrators identify people who attempt to compromise a device. If a hacker gains access to a system, defence in depth minimizes the adverse impact and gives administrators and engineers time to deploy new or updated countermeasures to prevent recurrence.

5. Default Passwords:

Most devices are ready to use out-of-the-box, attackers have learned how to leverage this to access devices discovered on the internet through tools like Shodan which has an inventory of Cameras, Refrigerators and other IoT devices. This has also been leveraged to employ devices to participate in massive attacks on the Internet.

In October 2016, Dyn DNS was attacked with IoT devices which were taken over in this way and caused a prolonged outage for sites including Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix.

Changing your default password on all devices helps prevent this type of attack and helps maintain your privacy.

Summary:

IoT devices can help simplify and improve our visibility and capabilities, at the same time it can expose us to new threats, taking a few simple steps will help protect us against these threats:

  • Keep devices up to date
  • Choose Secure settings available
  • Change all default passwords.

Building a successful IoT environment will require massive amounts of coordination and strong analytics. More platforms are coming up to sync up devices on a data level, and not just with respect to connectivity alone.

Just like any other field, there are many sceptics around in tech industry as well. They predict IoT as a bubble that would burst very soon. But for the rest of us, we are definitely heading towards a better, sustainable future where there’s going to be a lot more evolution happening on the IoT front and we will be there to protect it.