internet ot things security
  • 11 May 2021
  • Laura Kszczanowicz, Jonatan Borkowski
  • Data Security

The Internet of Things is a network of connected devices that can help businesses unlock their potential, improve efficiency and increase profits. There are some threats though concerning the devices, user data and overall safety that the company needs to deal with. IoT devices include building automation, industrial machines and some personal devices that your employees use in the workplace. What are the risks?

IoT devices can serve your company well, but you have to keep in mind that they were not built with security in mind, which means that you should take numerous steps in order to protect your business data and other resources. It is also important to protect your customers from many threats. From this article, you’ll learn what kind of challenges you can meet and how to solve security issues connected to IoT devices. 

What is the IoT?

Internet of Things devices are connected in a common network. Every day they collect and exchange enormous amounts of data. We already use them a lot at home and at work, and they are even used by the government. Business applications make up a big share of IoT devices. They’re used in multiple industries. 

IoT devices communicate via API (application program interface) to gather and use data. Some APIs can be used by assigned people to control particular devices remotely. The thing is that all devices connected to the network can be targeted by a hacker. All operating systems (Linux or Windows IoT) are publishing some ports by default – they can easily become bridges for attackers. To prevent it, you have to make sure that all services/ports are behind the firewall. You should also consider reducing the number of sub-networks that can be used to access an API. Cyberattacks can result in tragic consequences for both types of users companies and individuals (or even the whole community).

What kind of IoT devices can be used in business?

So, what kind of IoT applications do we use during day-to-day work? Starting from the basics, companies use smart locks so we can unlock doors remotely for employees, customers or vendors. We have smart security cameras to monitor our company’s buildings or goods. But it doesn’t stop there. Alexa and Siri enable your experts to work more efficiently on a daily basis.

We use smart solutions to improve conditions in the workplace. IoT applications are used in thermostats, lights and air conditioning to reduce energy costs and ensure optimal conditions for our employees during work. They’re used by industrial machinery to monitor work, preventing failures that could stop production lines. Special sensors can also protect our employees from being harmed when working with heavy machines. 

The modern IoT business ecosystem can be very complex. A lot of data is collected, shared and processed by many devices all the time. Such advanced solutions for companies can turn out to be vulnerable and there is not yet a solution that could be 100% effective in protecting IoT ecosystems. To protect your IoT devices, business resources, employees and customers you should start by identifying the threats.

Potential security vulnerabilitiess – reasons for low safety

Cyberattacks carried out on IoT devices are not rare. As there are more and more smart devices, the number of cyberattack attempts also grows. We’re talking here about many kinds of attacks from phishing to DDoS attacks. Why do they happen so often? 

The most obvious reason is certainly weak authorization and authentication. If an IoT device can be easily accessed by an unauthorized person, or user passwords can be easily deciphered, it is not actually hard for a hacker to intercept and gain entry. 

The second cause of security problems is software vulnerabilities which are the consequence of unpatched issues. If there are no automatic updates and device end-users need to download them, a smart device can easily be infected or simply run on outdated software for a long time, thus remaining vulnerable to attacks.

APIs usually store information about their implementation and structure, which can be used as intelligence for a cyberattack. There are many types of attacks (such as MITM, SQL injection or DDoS) that can be performed on an API, and its vulnerabilities may lead to serious consequences.

Threats to an IoT device user

IoT devices are using data all the time they collect, exchange and process it in order to operate. The huge amount of this information is unique to the individual person using a device. This can be sensitive data, information about daily activities, purchases, bank accounts or health. If an Internet of Things device isn’t protected properly, hackers can access this information and use it for their own purposes, for example to enter other areas of the network where they can cause even more serious damage. In this way not only can an individual lose money, but companies can also be robbed of their resources (not only money, but also documentation or sensitive customer data).

Losing control of smart devices can result in loss of health or even life. Nowadays, smart equipment is even being introduced to the medical industry in order to improve treatment results and increase staff efficiency. Imagine if it stopped working. And what about the IoT vehicles which are supposed to be the future of safe and comfortable travelling? Cyberattacks on such devices can be deadly, just as attacks on industrial machinery or locks can be.

How can you protect IoT devices and their users?

In the face of such serious threats many companies make securing their IoT devices a high priority. The first and most important task is to make users understand how important security is and what the best practices are that everyone can follow to protect their devices better. Safety relies strongly on systems and device vendors and manufacturers as they are responsible for applying and improving security solutions. What specific steps should be taken? 

Regular software updates

Your workers or end-users need to be informed when their smart devices are running on outdated software. For this, you can leverage notification systems that will send such information. If you invest in smart devices for business purposes, the wise thing to do is to make sure that device software, as well as antivirus, updates automatically. Your employees should be made aware that they must allow device updates as soon as they are suggested.

Mandatory password changes

Do you know people whose credit card PIN is “1111’ or their date of birth? Or others who use the same password for all accounts business and on social media and never bother to change it? Unfortunately, many of us do so. There are solutions that will compel your employees to change their passwords regularly and follow high standards to create strong ones.

Disabling unnecessary features 

If some features, like remote access to a device, are not crucial for your business operation, you’d better disable them just in case. Don’t forget to analyse what you and your employees can do with the smart devices your company possesses. If you don’t need to use some functionalities, switch them off and reduce risk.

End-to-end encryption

Devices connected to the IoT network communicate all the time. They’re sending, receiving and processing data. This information should be protected you can ensure their safety by encrypting data. 

User authorization

Managing IoT devices usually takes place after an SSH session. Forced authentication using certificates would significantly improve the level of security and prevent unauthorized access. Also, it is good to know that bots scan open connections on IoT devices and attack default ports SSH. Additionally, it may be a right thing to do to change a default port SSH to non-standard one. 

Use a professional cybersecurity provider’s help

Not all companies have the resources, knowledge or experience to deal with cybersecurity issues on their own. You can ask Internet of Things cybersecurity experts to provide solutions that will be best suited to your business. 

Modern, innovative IoT security solutions use many technologies and techniques like Big Data analytics, real-time monitoring and encrypting. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is leveraged in order to not only spot suspicious activity, but also to learn how to secure your smart devices better. Our cybersecurity experts can tell you all about how you can protect your IoT ecosystem. Contact us for more information.