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What Is IoT and IoT Security?

The Internet of things is the newest concept in the industry. You can connect all your smart devices through IoT platforms and link between them to perform certain tasks. It can be a toy, a fitness band, a driverless car, or anything, which connects with the internet. For example, you can set up your phone to send you a notification or blink when you complete 10,000 steps as per your fitness band. Undoubtedly, IoT comes in handy to have a seamless experience of managing smart devices. 

General Security Tutorials Sep 09, 21 by Nisal N 15 min Read
What Is IoT and IoT Security?

However, when all these devices are connected through a network, they pose an even greater risk of data theft. For instance, suppose a network includes several computers, printers, mobile phones, Bluetooth devices, and many other small and large objects. Each device and its connection are prone to attacks from hackers as the larger number of IoT devices, the more the number of gateways for attacks. These attacks are IoT attacks and thus demand IoT security.

The history of IoT attacks is rich, and thus the requirement for protection against these attacks is paramount. However, when it comes to larger organizations, the threat posed is even higher, and it is important to draw attention to the amplified need for IoT security measures. This article talks about IoT and IoT security measures that can help organizations and individuals to keep their IoT safe.

 What is IoT Security?

So, now you know about the IoT devices and that the risk is higher but do you have any idea about IoT security? With the increased number of IoT devices, the measures of IoT security are even increasing. Simply, it refers to all the techniques, methods, tools, and strategies deployed to protect the network and all connected devices from IoT attacks.

There is a long list of methods and strategies that come under the umbrella of IoT security, including Public Key Infrastructure, API, and several other things discussed in detail later. In addition, experts are working continuously to come out with new IoT security measures that can stand strong against new varieties of cyberattacks that target newest IoT devices and threaten the integrity of the network.

Different IoT Security Problems

When you are working with lots of IoT devices, there are several ways in which you connect them, and the more ways to connect, the more ways there are for the hackers to infiltrate your network. Then there are Bluetooth devices that are not even connected to the Internet but are prone to attacks. Some recent attacks have involved Bluetooth devices, and therefore IoT security intends to include these devices too.

There are HTTP and APIs, used by IoT devices and are favorites among hackers to use as a gateway to penetrate the security. Here are some common IoT security problems that threaten the security of individuals and organizations.

Ignorance On The Part Of Organizations

While organizations are continuously stepping towards advanced technology, they are risking their security to a great extent. The digital transformation of business, especially the industries like automotive and healthcare that rely heavily on more and more IoT devices, should come with digital transformation in security as well.

Of course, automation leads to more productivity and cost-efficient solutions for the customers, but it also increases the chances of the data breach. The companies are investing huge amounts in advanced technology and IoT devices, but the need for investment in security measures required is even greater than that. Unfortunately, this ignorance on the part of numerous organizations has made them unnecessarily vulnerable to hackers.

Remote Exposure

The ability to access a device from a distance or a remote location sounds more than good. Many IoT devices can be accessed from a distance that includes your car that uses a FOB key. If you can access it remotely, then hackers can also access them and hack them remotely. It has provided hackers a huge ground to play their tricks, and attacks like phishing have become very popular and common. These IoT devices need to be equipped with security to avoid any potential data breaches.

Resource Constraints

Yes, there is a greater need for all IoT devices to be equipped with security, but the problem is the lack of resource constraints. While these devices are changing the way organizations are networking within their walls, they lack the resources to install the antivirus or firewall. In addition, there are Bluetooth technology-supported devices, which can easily connect with other devices, but when it comes to protection, they have none.

There is nothing to be surprised if these devices are used by hackers to execute dirty plans. A recent incident can be traced back to 2020 when a hacker hacked the Tesla Model X within minutes using Bluetooth technology. It is one incident, but there are several others that go unnoticed. If devices are as vulnerable as this, you can understand the need for IoT security.

How To Implement IoT Security Measures?

There is a will, there is a way, and there are several ways to protect these IoT devices. Have a look at these security measures—

Implement The Security Measures During Design Phase

Designing a network and then designing a security system after its implementation is how most organizations work. However, this is a wrong approach. It would be best if you started preparation to protect your network right from the start. When you are getting an IoT-based industrial network for your organization, it is wise to address the potential security issues and design security measures to counter them during the design phase itself.

It will allow you to incorporate the most updated operating system and hardware components that can rival the hacking attacks with ease. And not only the design phase, but each development phase must address the vulnerabilities and ways to stop them.

API Security

APIs work in collaboration with each other and collect data in one place to make processes easier and manageable. However, while these APIs communicate with each other, hackers try to breach the communication channels between these APIs while the IoT devices send data to each other. Thus, it is essential to employ measures and allow only authorized access to APIs. The recent data breaches that put customer details and personal information at risk are some examples of poor API measures. It shakes the customer's confidence in the organization.

Use of PKI Security

PKI stands for Public Key Infrastructure, where authorized users, devices, and applications are granted digital certificates to access the data. Plus, the data is secure with end-to-end encryption. It uses a two-key asymmetric ecosystem where the data is doubly secure under keys. When the data is not sent into normal text form, it is hard to breach. E-commerce websites are the biggest users of PKI.

Physical Security

A network involves both physical and digital components. The IoT devices are accessible remotely, and thus hackers love them but apart from it, the security of physical components is also essential. The security measures should protect both digital access points as well as physical access points. Installation of firewall, intrusion detection system, disabled port forwarding, blocking unauthorized IP address access, opening ports when needed, etc. are some of the security measures that can be used to protect the network.

Other IoT Security Measures

These are not the only ways to protect your IoT devices. Some others are listed below-

Restricted Access- There are certain devices on the network which require a direct connection with the internet. Such devices open up the door for hackers to compromise the network, and thus, they should have restricted access to their own network. In addition, they need to be segmented so that if an issue arises, it can be traced and dealt.  

Patch Management- The software providers thrive without stopping to design security measures for the software to deal with attacks. These measures come in the form of updates for devices and software. To protect your devices from vulnerabilities, keeping them up to date is important.

Network Access Control- NAC is the measure to track every device that connects to the network. It helps in case any security issue rears its head, threatening the security of the network.

Training- While you educate your system, software, and devices to protect against IoT attacks, it is also important to train your security staff. Hackers use innovative methods to breach security, and your IT team and operational team need to be updated enough about the attacks to deal with them. The organization needs to organize training programs for security teams to learn new programming languages, tactics, and architecture to overcome rising security issues.

Consumer Care- Even if you keep all your systems and staff updated, there is a possibility that the breach may happen from an unexpected front, i.e., the consumer front. Therefore, they need to be educated as well about the potential threats to the IoT devices and the measures to deal with them and stay secure. Plus, if consumers switch to more advanced and secure devices, they can play a vital role in stopping IoT attacks.

Security Gateways- The security gateways stand between IoT devices and networks and have the ability to protect IoT devices from attacks.

Dropping The Organizational Barriers- If teams work in collaboration with each other, they can achieve greater results. The IT team can work with the security team to help them in incorporating security measures in the design phase itself.

History Of IoT Attacks

IoT devices emerged in the 1990s, and since then, experts have been indicating the risks they pose without proper IoT security measures. Since then, you have witnessed several kinds of hacking attacks involving TV, car, baby monitor, refrigerator, etc. These devices act as an entry point for hackers to penetrate deeper into the network.

If you look back, there are many incidents in the past that compels users to get equipped with knowledge of what is IoT and IoT security.

The attack, which is considered as the first IoT attack, was on Iranian centrifuges in 2010 which was initiated in 2009. The hackers used the Stuxnet virus to overtake the supervisory controls and steal data. The malware infected the PLC instructions and caused a stir.

Then in 2013, a Proofpoint Inc researcher found the first IoT botnet, that consisted not only of computers but baby monitors, TV, and other innocent-looking household appliances.

In 2015, Jeep became the victim of one of its kind IoT attacks when Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek hacked the vehicle’s connectivity system, Uconnect. They used the skills to automatically turn on the wipers, change the radio station, and restrain the accelerator. They claimed that they were capable of even more, and it sparked the need for effective security measures in such IoT devices.

But it did not stop there. In 2017, Mirai botnet reared its ugly head, and as a result, many websites like The New York Times, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, etc., went dumb for hours. There have been several other variants of Mirai since then, such as Okiru, Hajime, Masuta, Hide ‘N Seek, Pure Masuta, etc.

The extent to which such attacks can be fatal was confirmed by a 2017 notice from FDA that even pacemakers, resynchronization devices, and other St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac devices can be hacked.

In 2020, an IoT Mirai downloader surfaced, which could launch malware attacks on Big-IP boxes. In March 2021, Verkada was targeted by Swiss hackers who hacked 1,50,000 camera feeds containing recordings from hospitals, private schools, prisons, and even Tesla.

These attacks are constant reminders of why IoT security is a bigger concern than it sounds.

Industries That Are Prone To IoT Security Breaches

It does not span only industries, but a home with multiple IoT devices installed can become a target. Where there are IoT devices, there is the possibility of an IoT security threat. Say, your refrigerator can threaten life if it has medicines stored and there has been any foul play with temperature, which can render them useless. Imagine a car carrying an important personality, hacked by a hacker, and crashed. The impact can be severe if a large incorporation’s systems are hacked.

No industry is safe from IoT attacks if proper IoT security measures are not employed. The above attacks provide a window to understand the impact of IoT attacks on different industries.

IoT Security Standards and Regulations

The laws concerning IoT and security are work-in-progress, and there is no such law presently that spans industry-wide. However, several announcements, bills, and recommendations have been released by the Govt and concerned authorities, some of which are mentioned below.

In 2015, the FBI warned the public about the IoT devices’ vulnerabilities and recommendations to deal with them. In 2017, the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act was passed under which no manufacturer could sell a device to the US govt which used default passwords and had any known vulnerabilities, plus it offers a patch mechanism.

The Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act is still waiting for the House’s approval. Europe is not far behind and the General Data Protection Regulation Act was passed in 2018, which spans across the European Union, and brings the data privacy laws of EU countries under one umbrella.

 2018 saw the rise of different laws and regulations such as the State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends of IoT Act, California state’s SB-327 Information privacy: connected devices law, and others.

The above Acts and regulations are just the example of the seriousness of Iot devices, attacks, and security to counter those attacks.

Final Words

IoT Security measures, if employed at the right time and implemented in the correct manner, can effectively deal with IoT attacks. The kind of security methods you use depends on the ioT devices being used. It starts from the premises of the manufacturer who is manufacturing the devices. The hardware is to be designed in such a way that ensures no infiltration. Plus, it should ensure patch mechanisms and timely systemic updates and upgrades to counter attacks.

The article talks about what is IoT and ioT security, the history of IoT attacks, the security methods that can be used, and the regulations which are on their way to strengthen IoT security laws. These are essential so that industries can use IoT devices without any doubt or fear of attacks, and it is only possible if people understand what is IoT and IoT security and how they can incorporate them in the day-to-day business.

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Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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