When it comes to IoT security, there’s a lot of attention paid to hackers or other malicious actors who constantly want to get into your business and work against you. But sometimes the biggest security threats are closer to home. By keeping an eye on where your business might be vulnerable, you can pinpoint these risks, address them proactively, and mitigate IoT security challenges.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is when physical devices are connected to the Internet for communication and control. IoT has many benefits including enhanced security, increased efficiency, and reduced costs. However, as IoT devices become increasingly sophisticated and interconnected, they face new cybersecurity threats that were not present with traditional IT systems.
Gartner Inc. predicted that by 2023, CIOs would be responsible for over three times the endpoints they were responsible for in 2018 due to the rapid evolution of IoT technologies. With billions of physical devices worldwide connected to the internet today, this prediction is on its way to coming true. However, the rapid evolution of IoT technology has proven to be a double-edged sword from a cybersecurity and compliance standpoint.
The Internet of Things has brought about a plethora of benefits, but it has also added to the risk landscape in more ways than one. IoT can lead to cybersecurity risk, third-party vendor risk, and additional compliance and data protection regulations. Data generated by IoT devices is stored, managed, and shared within the IT infrastructure of an organization; therefore, it needs to be fully managed by the organization to ensure it complies with security and data protection regulations.
Securing your IoT devices isn’t just about securing the device itself or doing a security check. It’s also about securing the access that an IoT device provides. Besides looking at the device’s built-in vulnerabilities, you must also consider where and how IoT devices connect to your network, what type of IoT cybersecurity you need, how they process and store data, and their user interface.
How IoT Devices Can Be Exploited
IoT devices can be compromised in several ways. Here are three common attack vectors:
1. The device itself: Often cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in the memory, firmware, physical interface, web interface, and network services of an IoT device. Additionally, aspects such as unsecure default settings and unsecure update mechanisms can also be exploited.
2. Communication channels: An IoT device security could also be compromised by attacking the communication channels used to connect it with another IoT device. Security issues with the protocols used in IoT systems put the entire network at risk, making IoT systems susceptible to network attacks like denial of service (DoS) and spoofing.
3. Applications and software: Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in web applications for IoT devices. For example, web applications can be targeted to steal user credentials or push malware.
Three Major Threats to Watch Out for:
1. Abundant and Unauthorized Data Collection – IoT sensors and devices collect enormous amounts of very specific data about the environment they are deployed in as well as the users. They even store and share sensitive data without one’s knowledge or explicit permission. Therefore, as per the compliance regulations applicable to your business or industry, this data must be secured the same way any other sensitive data in your network would. For example, if you collect medical data in the U.S., you must safeguard it as per HIPAA regulations.
2. A Backdoor Entry for Cybercriminals – All it takes for a cybercriminal to ransack your network is a single IoT device that’s not fully secured. Even a malicious insider could carry out a full-fledged cyberattack on your business using an unsecure IoT device. Leaving these threats unchecked is unacceptable under any data protection regulation and warrants your immediate attention.
3. A Single Security Policy Doesn’t Cut It – IoT ecosystems are complex and can add to the complexity of your IT environment. Given their unique nature, it’s neither realistic nor currently achievable to implement a “one size fits all” security policy or “IoT firewall” for all IoT devices. The unprecedented surge in remote work has only amplified this challenge. For example, while many businesses have not had personal devices in the office during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have had them at home, which means business-related work and data could be accessed by exploiting such devices.
To make matters worse, some devices may also be used in multiple roles within an enterprise or organization. For instance, an employee might use an IoT device as both a personal and business device. While some organizations may want to implement a single security policy across all their devices regardless of the user’s role or location at any given time, this approach may lead to lack of user engagement due to its overly restrictive nature.
Are you concerned about your company’s IoT security posture?
If yes, then it’s time to take action.
While there are no universal regulatory requirements or “standards” for the security of IoT devices, please do not assume that risks to IoT data and devices aren’t on the radar of regulators worldwide. This isn’t just a matter of cybersecurity but compliance as well. While investing in the right security solutions will enhance your business’ cybersecurity posture against IoT-related risks, you’ll also need assistance in tackling this challenge from a compliance point of view.
Struggling with finding the right balance of IoT security and usability? As always, we’re here to help.