The Best Ways to Protect IoT Devices from Attack

By admin6 December, 2023Write a Comment

In today’s hyperconnected world, the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized our lives, seamlessly integrating technology into our homes, workplaces, and cities. However, this interconnectedness also introduces new cybersecurity challenges. 

As IoT devices become increasingly prevalent, so does the need to safeguard them from potential attacks. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the best practices for protecting your IoT devices from cyber threats, ensuring your connected devices remain secure and trustworthy.

What Is an IoT Attack?

IoT devices are manufactured to meet the general needs of an organization; therefore, they lack strict security protocols. Attackers have taken advantage of this to penetrate an organization’s system through weak IoT devices.

IoT attacks are cyberattacks that use any IoT device to gain access to users’ sensitive data. The attackers usually install malware on the device, damage the device, or gain access to other personal data of the company.

Risks of the IoT

Internet-enabled devices pose several security challenges. But while the Internet of Things has brought connectivity to new devices, the overall cybersecurity issues are not new. We’ve been dealing with hackers for as long as we’ve been enjoying the benefits of the internet.

Weak Authentication

Passwords are one of the first lines of defense against hacking. But if your password isn’t strong, your device isn’t secure. Most default passwords are relatively weak because they are meant to be changed. In some cases, they are even publicly available or stored in the application’s source code. 

Many IoT devices have little or no authentication. Even if no important data is stored on the device itself, a vulnerable IoT device can be a gateway for an entire network or be integrated into a botnet where hackers can use its computing power to spread malware and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Low processing power

Most IoT applications use very little data. This reduces costs and extends battery life, but it can make it difficult to update over the air (OTA), and prevents the device from using cybersecurity features like firewalls, virus scanners, and end-to-end encryption. This ultimately leaves them more vulnerable to hacking. This is where the network itself must have built-in security features.

Inconsistent Security Standards

Within IoT, there’s a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to security standards. There’s no universal, industry-wide standard, which means companies and niches all have to develop their own protocols and guidelines. The lack of standardization makes it harder to secure IoT devices, and it also makes it harder to enable machine-to-machine (M2M) communication without increasing risk.

Lack of Encryption

One of the greatest threats to IoT security is the lack of encryption on regular transmissions. Many IoT devices don’t encrypt the data they send, which means if someone penetrates the network, they can intercept credentials and other important information transmitted to and from the device.

Risks of the IoT

Missing firmware updates

Another of the biggest IoT security risks is if devices go out in the field with a bug that creates vulnerabilities. Whether they come from your own developed code or a third party, manufacturers need the ability to issue firmware updates to eliminate these security risks.

Ideally, this should happen remotely, but that’s not always feasible. If a network’s data transfer rates are too low or it has limited messaging capabilities, you may have to physically access the device to issue the update.

Gaps between Mobile Networks and the Cloud

Many IoT devices regularly interact with cloud-based applications. And while the cellular network an IoT device uses may be secure, and the cloud application may be secure, transmissions from the network to the cloud typically pass through the public Internet, leaving them vulnerable to interception and malware. Even these small gaps can compromise an entire IoT deployment. Thankfully, IoT manufacturers and their customers can close them with cloud-based connectivity solutions.

Limited Device Management

Businesses often lack the visibility and control they need to see when a device has been compromised and then deactivate it. Every Mobile Network Operator (MNO) has their own connectivity management platform, and some give customers very little insight or functionality. Hacked or compromised devices tend to consume data differently, and so end users should be able to detect anomalous behavior and remotely deactivate these devices before they have opportunities to cause greater harm.

How to Protect IoT Devices from Attack

Cyberattacks often take advantage of the weakest link in a network’s security. Therefore, it is essential to know how to spot a phishing attack that is a common cause of cybersecurity breaches. Poorly secured devices can pose a serious risk, as well, such as those left on the manufacturer’s default password.

Luckily, you do not need extensive security knowledge to protect your IoT devices. A few simple best practices can go a long way.

1. Employ Device Discovery for Complete Visibility

The first thing an enterprise should do is get visibility into the exact number of IoT devices connected to its network. Moreover, you should discover which types of devices are connected to your network and keep a detailed, up-to-date inventory of all connected IoT assets, ideally with a dedicated IoT security solution to ensure all devices are identified. Then you need to collect the manufacturer and model ID; the serial number; hardware, software, and firmware versions; and information on underlying operating systems and configuration applied to each device. 

Determine the risk profile of each device and its behavior as applied to other connected devices in the network. These profiles should assist with segmentation and next-generation firewall policy creation. You should always keep your asset map current with each new IoT device connected to the network.

2. Apply Network Segmentation for Stronger Defense

The security goal of network segmentation is to reduce the attack surface. Network segmentation divides a network into two or more subsections to enable granular control over lateral movement of traffic between devices and workloads. In an unsegmented network, when a large number of endpoints communicate directly with one another without any partitioning in place, there is a greater chance that a single compromise event will spread laterally to become a contagion. 

In contrast, the more a network is segmented, the harder it is for hackers to endanger a device as a single point of compromise for launching exploits laterally. Enterprises should use virtual local area network (VLAN) configurations and next-generation firewall policies to implement network segments that keep IoT devices separate from IT assets. This way, both groups can be protected from the possibility of a lateral exploit. Greater integration between your IoT security solution and your next-generation firewall will add IoT context to your next-generation firewall’s capabilities and reduce both time and effort in policy creation.

3. Adopt Secure Password Practices

Poor password security practices continue to fuel password-related attacks on IoT devices. Therefore, maintaining strong password security is critical to securing your IoT endpoints. Many IoT devices come with weak preset passwords that are easy to find online. As soon as an IoT device is first connected to your network, it is a best practice to reset its preset password with a secure, more complex one. The new password should be difficult to guess, unique to each secured device, and in line with your IT security team’s password policies and management practices.

How to Protect IoT Devices from Attack

4. Continue to Patch and Update Firmware When Available

While most IT systems can patch security flaws via regular updates, most IoT devices are not designed with this ability. Hence, their security flaws stay there indefinitely. In the case of IoT devices with particularly long shelf lives, there is often also a risk that the manufacturer will discontinue support. When setting up a new IoT device, you need to visit the vendor’s website and download any new security patches for known vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, ensuring your devices are regularly patched with the latest updates is essential. Therefore, you need to work with your IoT device vendors to establish a recurrent patch management and firmware upgrade strategy. In addition, you should add dedicated IoT-aware file and web threat prevention, and virtual patching capabilities via intrusion prevention.

5. Actively Monitor IoT Devices at All Times

Real-time monitoring, reporting, and alerting are crucial for organizations to manage their IoT risks. However, since traditional endpoint security solutions require software agents that IoT devices are not designed to take, these traditional solutions cannot protect IoT assets.

Additionally, you should implement a real-time monitoring solution. It is necessary to continuously analyze the behavior of all your network-connected IoT endpoints by seamlessly integrating with your existing security posture and next-generation firewall investment.

Conclusion

Smart, connected IoT devices can ultimately function completely autonomously. However, human interaction is essential to increase security and monitor performance. Many cybersecurity incidents that have hit the headlines involve IoT devices. That means cybersecurity should be a top priority for both consumers and businesses.

Deploying an IoT device identity solution provides complete visibility and security of all devices, data, and communications, allowing an organization to manage IoT device identities throughout its lifecycle while protecting them from cybersecurity threats.

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