The Internet of Things (IoT) has become integral to business operations. Gartner predicts that there will be approximately 25 billion IoT devices by 2025. As more devices are connected to the internet, more threats emerge that may cripple a business’s digital infrastructure.
It’s 2023, and IoT security is still a significant concern for businesses. Security risks involving IoT devices can be costly and damaging for any business, disrupting network operations and losing or stealing sensitive information. In addition, hackers may use malicious code or malware to access critical data or other sensitive information on these devices. Thus, organizations and IoT developers must take measures to mitigate these risks.
Why Must Businesses Focus On Maintaining IoT Security?
IoT vulnerabilities threaten business data and integrity; thus, enterprises must maintain the security of IoT devices. Below is an insight into the reasons why it’s essential to maintain IoT security:
- IoT devices collect and transmit sensitive data and hence are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. An IoT security breach exposes data to unauthorized parties, leading to financial and reputational damage.
- Industries follow data privacy and security regulations like the GDPR, CCPA, or HIPAA. Hence, if they fail to protect the client’s data, they are liable for penalties and fines for non-compliance.
- IoT devices support critical business operations like supply chain management and manufacturing processes. Their vulnerability causes downtime and operation disruptions, leading to lost productivity and revenue.
- Customers trust businesses with their data and expect them to protect it. Organizations failing to maintain IoT security erodes customer trust leading to loss of business.
IoT Security Challenges And Risks To Watch Out For In 2023
As the number of connected IoT devices in businesses grows exponentially over the next few years, so will the associated security challenges. Below is an insight into major IoT security risks and challenges that businesses must be aware of:
Ransomware has been the most prevalent threat in the past years. In Singapore, the ransomware cases rose to 54% last year to 137, with small and medium-sized businesses the most common victims. The new connectivity trends and diversity in IoT devices further increase the risks of ransomware attacks.
Ransomware for IoT or R4IoT is a new malware that exploits IoT devices and impacts both IT and OT networks. It targets potentially weak IoT devices like IP cameras to get initial access. Later, it deploys the ransomware in the IT network and then takes advantage of the vague operational security practices to disrupt business operations.
The number of mobile workers worldwide is increasing rapidly. According to statistics, the population of mobile workers will likely increase to 93.5 million by 2024, only in the USA. As more personal devices are used for work, the number of endpoints within the company’s IT network increases. Multiple endpoints make it difficult to actively monitor all the activities on each device and recognize malicious programs or any unauthorized user.
Besides this, hackers can easily access sensitive information by intercepting the network if these devices are connected to an unsecured WiFi network. They can even launch a phishing attack and trick the employees into giving away their login credentials. All this makes it easier for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to business data. Even if the employees use office devices, weak passwords or outdated software or applications provide easy access to the attackers to hijack the device and enter the network.
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Lack of Visibility
According to a report, 67% of organizations in North America experienced an IoT security incident. However, only 16% of security managers say they have proper visibility of their IoT devices. One prime reason for this is that not all devices are registered. Employees bring their devices into the workplace without the IoT administrator’s knowledge, and keeping a record of such devices becomes difficult.
As a result, they fail to monitor the devices for any suspicious activities. Once the hackers get hold of the device, they can easily access the company’s network, steal sensitive data, and make it vulnerable to other attacks.
Software Supply Chain
Software supply chain attacks are quite prevalent and thus have become a significant challenge for IoT security. IoT devices often use software components and services from third-party vendors to accomplish their functions. This makes them vulnerable to attacks as each component can introduce a security vulnerability that an attacker can exploit to gain access to the device or network connected to it.
Moreover, many IoT devices receive regular software updates to address security vulnerabilities and improve performance. However, if an attacker compromises the update process, they can inject malicious code into it and take complete control of the device.
Technologies That Bolster IoT Security
Organizations must look for better security-boosting technologies like Zero Trust to maintain IoT security. Gone are the days when businesses relied on access point names (APNs) and virtual private networks (VPNs) to improve IoT security. The Zero-Trust approach improves security by considering that all the devices and applications are potentially compromised and subject to verification before being allowed to access the network or a resource.
In a Zero-Trust environment, all the IoT devices and their data are continuously monitored for signs of anomalies and malicious activity. If an IoT device behaves in a way that’s outside its normal pattern of behavior. The system uses advanced machine learning technologies to analyze the network traffic and flag suspicious activity for further investigation. In addition, Zero-Trust protects sensitive business data by ensuring that authorized users and devices can access a network or its resources.
Moreover, relying only on Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools is insufficient. All connected devices require much more advanced network security tools like Network Detection and Response (NDR). Instead of giving an internal view like the EDR solutions, these tools provide the network’s 360-degree view. By monitoring the network for suspicious IoT devices, traffic, or activities, the NDR tools gain visibility against the shadow IoT devices and prevent software supply chain attacks.
Building An Actionable IoT Security Plan
Protecting IoT devices is a long process that requires immense planning, action, and regular monitoring. As the security teams start to build an IoT security strategy plan for their organization, here are some additional best practices that help in strengthening the security posture:
- Certifying IoT devices ensures that businesses meet specific security standards. This includes certification for compliance with specific security standards like ISO 27001.
- Regularly updating the software ensures that devices run with the latest security features and can respond to new security threats.
- Employee education is crucial in preventing cybersecurity incidents. Ensure that employees at all levels are aware about the latest threats and how to spot and report them to the IT teams.
- Patching applications and systems restrict the number of vulnerabilities an attacker can use to enter the network through a compromised IoT device.
- Closely follow the life cycle of the devices and replace them immediately when they are no longer secure or updatable.
To sum up, the enterprise network is vulnerable, but by practicing the above measures, businesses can protect against potential threats.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought numerous benefits to business organizations. But with them, it has welcomed a hoard of security challenges and risks. These risks disturb business operations, damage their reputation, and lead to significant financial and business loss. Securing IoT devices is the top priority of the security teams. Therefore, its crucial that they must incorporate sophisticated technologies like the Zero-Trust model or NDR tools to strengthen IoT security.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.