IoT Security is a Challenge. Here’s How to Tackle It.

Our expert explores advanced strategies to shield the Internet of Things from evolving threats.

Written by Tyler Owen
Published on Jun. 03, 2024
IoT Security is a Challenge. Here’s How to Tackle It.
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The Internet of Things has transformed how we live, work and interact with the world around us. With more than 17 billion connected devices today, from smart thermostats in our homes to intricate sensors in industrial machinery, this network is vast and continually growing.

Its significance is echoed in corporate boardrooms, with IoT securing its place as a top-three technology priority. Yet, as our reliance on these interconnected devices grows, so does the vulnerability of our data and infrastructure.

Vulnerabilities in a single device can compromise an entire network, highlighting the critical need for robust security measures.

Strategies to Strengthen IoT Security

  • Profile all devices across a network to better manage them.
  • Segment devices to isolate them from other devices.
  • Use zero-trust architectures to minimize the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Enable automatic software updates where you can.
  • Implement anomaly detection systems to identify unusual patterns.

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What Does IoT Security Look Like Today?

IoT security today paints a picture of rapid growth shadowed by escalating risks. The sheer volume of connected IoT devices is set to double by 2030, with forecasts by Transforma Insights predicting a surge to 25 billion devices by 2027 and around 30 billion by the decade’s end.

Data output is also set to skyrocket. The International Data Corporation projections indicate that IoT devices will generate nearly 80 zettabytes of data annually by 2025.

But this technological boom comes at a cost. The volume of devices and their data generation creates a complex web of connectivity. Every device added to the network introduces new vulnerabilities, turning each connection into a potential access point for cybercriminals.

This report by Asimily underscores the gravity of these challenges. Notably, routers, which account for 75 percent of IoT device infections, serve as primary targets due to their critical role in network access. Security cameras, digital signage systems, medical devices and industrial control systems are among the most frequently attacked.

 

What Are Common Hurdles in IoT Security?

Below are key challenges in securing the IoT ecosystem.

Heterogeneous Nature of Devices

IoT devices range from simple sensors to complex industrial machinery, each with its unique hardware and software configurations. This diversity makes it difficult to establish a one-size-fits-all security strategy.

Manufacturers often prioritize functionality over security, leading to inconsistencies in the security features of devices. Integrating these varied devices into a secure, cohesive network presents a complex challenge.

Expansive Attack Surfaces

The diversity and quantity of IoT devices create a vast attack surface for cybercriminals. This surface expands further when everyday activities involve IoT technology, such as using a mobile device to accept credit card payments. 

As the IoT network expands, so does the complexity of managing and securing it. Each device adds a potential entry point for attackers, complicating the process of securing the ecosystem.

Lack of Standardization

The IoT industry lacks unified security standards, resulting in a fragmented ecosystem where devices operate on different protocols and standards. This lack of standardization complicates our ability to implement comprehensive security measures.

Legacy System Vulnerability

Many IoT environments incorporate legacy systems that were not designed with modern cybersecurity threats in mind. These older systems often cannot be updated or patched, making them easy targets for attackers.

Data Privacy and Integrity

The huge amount of data IoT devices generate and transmit poses a risk to privacy and data integrity. Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of this data is paramount. The decentralized nature of IoT networks, however, makes it difficult to control access and protect data from interception or alteration.

 

How to Strengthen IoT Security

The following strategies are essential to safeguard sensitive data and maintain the integrity of IoT networks.

Profile Every Device

Gaining a comprehensive overview of all IoT devices connected to a network marks the initial step toward fortified security.

Devices often connect automatically and remain unnoticed by standard security measures. Achieving visibility through manual discovery or specialized monitoring tools is crucial for the effective management and security of these devices across the network.

Segment Devices

Segmentation involves dividing a network into distinct sections to enhance both performance and security. This method restricts devices within a segment from interacting with those in different segments, effectively isolating them.

Such segmentation safeguards sensitive data and ensures operational continuity by confining the impact of a cyberattack to the compromised segment.

Implement Zero-Trust Architectures

The zero-trust model operates on the principle that no entity should be trusted by default, regardless of its network location. It mandates continuous authentication and authorization of all users, granting access solely based on necessity. This strategy reduces the risk of unauthorized access and lateral movement within networks.

Update Software

Regular software updates are vital for addressing vulnerabilities and enhancing device functionality. Enabling automatic updates where feasible ensures timely protection against known threats, keeping devices secure from exploitation based on outdated software vulnerabilities.

Perform Anomaly Detection

Continuously monitoring IoT devices and networks for suspicious activities is essential. Implementing anomaly detection systems can help identify unusual patterns that may indicate a security breach, allowing for immediate action to mitigate potential threats.

 

How Will New Tech Shape IoT Security?

As the IoT landscape continues to expand, here are the technologies and trends that will shape it.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are set to revolutionize IoT security by enabling predictive threat detection and automated responses to potential vulnerabilities. These technologies can analyze vast datasets to identify patterns indicative of cyber threats, allowing for preemptive action before breaches occur.

Blockchain for Enhanced Security

Blockchain technology offers a decentralized security framework, making it an ideal solution for securing IoT transactions and data exchanges. By using blockchain, IoT systems can achieve tamper-proof data recording, ensuring authenticity and integrity across networks.

Edge Computing

Edge computing processes data closer to the source of data generation, reducing latency and minimizing the exposure of data transit. This shift enhances security by limiting the points of attack within an IoT ecosystem and enabling real-time security analyses at the device level.

Security Protocols Standardization

Efforts towards standardizing IoT security protocols are gaining momentum, aiming to establish uniform security benchmarks across devices and industries.

For instance, the Biden administration’s cybersecurity strategy emphasizes the importance of developing secure IoT devices. This push toward standard measures will simplify the implementation of security measures and enhance interoperability among IoT systems.

More on IoTThe IoT Needs to Enter Its Secure Age Right Now

 

Be Proactive in Achieving Security

The rapid expansion of the IoT ecosystem simultaneously brings opportunities for innovation and efficiency while introducing security challenges.

Proactive measures must be the cornerstone of IoT security strategies, from profiling every device to embracing zero-trust architectures.

Individuals, corporations and governments must come together to ensure that as our devices grow smarter, our defenses grow even stronger, safeguarding our digital and physical worlds alike.

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