Internet of Things (IoT) security is a phenomenon of growing importance, considering how deeply IoT has integrated into the modern user’s everyday experience and interaction with technology. These devices are everywhere in modern technology, from self-driving calls to smart home devices.
With a connected network of devices, the end-user can experience a higher degree of personalisation, and they can even automate several mineral tasks entirely. However, certain risks become more likely with this growing dependency on IoT connectivity, particularly the threat of cyber attacks.
These attacks can effectively compromise entire networks, lead to data theft and privacy breaches, and are why some end-users are dissuaded from adopting IoT devices entirely. IoT attacks are a primary concern for digital entrepreneurs and businesses of every size. This guide will dive deeper into understanding IoT systems as a concept, realising which IoT devices need the most security and the best strategies for implementing security across your connected devices.
What is IoT security?
IoT security is a mix of rules and strategic measures designed to protect the data, connected devices, and overall network within an Internet of Things ecosystem. Unfortunately, the rise in IoT integration and adapting to a tech-driven world has also led to an immediate increase in cybersecurity threats to connected networks. Some of these attacks include but are not limited to malware installation, privacy breaches, phishing attacks, and malicious hacking.
By implementing a robust IoT cybersecurity system, businesses can ensure that the data transfers and connected devices within their cloud security system are always kept private and accessible. However, there are specific challenges and hurdles a business needs to face before enjoying the benefits.
Some potential challenges include securing devices with limited hardware power, including outdated firmware, limited processing power, and less memory than other network devices. In addition, since these devices are outdated, modern cybercriminals will find it a lot easier to exploit them. Therefore, the best approach is to explore a multi-layered strategy focusing on monitoring, updates, securing communication channels and network protocols, and considering a secure firmware and hardware base.
Businesses can benefit significantly from implementing the proper security practices for their IoT network security system. Here is a look at some benefits they can expect:
Benefits of effective IoT security solutions
As we have already discussed, the most important benefit of good IoT security is protection against cyber attacks. With a strong network, it is possible to limit data breaches and unauthorised access that could lead to data theft, disruption of business operations, physical or technical damages, or financial losses.
Since an IoT ecosystem runs with a network of connected devices, a lot of sensitive data is collected and transferred within the devices in a network, including user and business data. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that this data remains protected at all times and there are no identity theft, financial fraud, or other negative impacts on concerned stakeholders.
Customers are generally more educated and aware of the risks of tech integration. As a result, they will be unlikely to engage with a company’s IoT network and any connected products or services that fail to show a standard for data security. It is possible to enjoy regulatory compliance benefits if a business maintains a high standard for its security systems. It will also avoid any penalties or legal costs that come with non-compliance.
Lastly, there are also communication benefits that come with good IoT security. For example, a secure system is generally more reliable, and there is a more limited chance of disruptions to critical communication that could result in downtime.
Which IoT devices require the most security?
Some IoT devices, like smart homes, financial devices, and medical equipment, generally require more security than others, mainly because they work with highly sensitive data. Therefore, it is crucial to have a multi-layered security system to protect every connected device, regardless of its function.
However, it is only possible to do so by securing the network protocols, ensuring regular software updates, and analysing network traffic. Here is a look at some IoT devices that generally require more security and details on what data they handle, their functionality, and the potential risks that come from leaving them vulnerable.
Financial devices like ATMs, online banking systems, and point-of-sale devices are generally integrated into an IoT ecosystem for better functionality. Unfortunately, there are multiple ways a hacker could infiltrate these devices and attempt to install malware on the system that can be manipulated for malicious financial gains.
Therefore these devices demand a higher level of security to ensure that there are limited phishing attacks, data breaches, or any other risks that could put a customer’s financial safety at risk.
With the rising popularity of process automation and productive approaches, it is common to see IoT integration in PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. These processes are a primary part of core business operations. Therefore, protecting them and ensuring their continuity is essential.
However, most of these systems are expensive to update, so they often need more robust security protocols. In addition, this poor device management approach makes it easy for cyber criminals to target the control systems of businesses using botnets, among other types of cyber attacks.
Protecting IoT medical devices is also very important, even though most do not store much personal data. These devices include everything from pacemakers to insulin pumps, and it is crucial to prioritise their security because they store data that detail a patient’s emotional and physical health.
While cyber criminals often target entire hospital networks to steal sensitive medical data, personalised attacks on health-related data could directly target a patient’s health, often resulting in life-threatening danger. To learn more about the impact of big tech in healthcare, check out our detailed guide on the topic!
Smart homes and smart cars
One of the most common uses of secure IoT devices is for personal home security and automating several daily activities like driving. Home security cameras, thermostats, and smart locks are a few examples of IoT devices in smart homes. Since they act as a layer of protection to a user’s most private spaces, it is essential to deploy strong security measures to ensure a limited risk of unauthorised access.
Similarly, it is also essential to be careful with the sensors installed in smart cars that are becoming a popular replacement for traditional cars. Most IoT sensors can also be integrated into older cars, and while they provide exceptional benefits, their data can be used to figure out driving patterns and track locations.
What are the best methods for improving IoT security?
The best way to improve IoT security is to ensure a well-researched and well-maintained multi-layer approach that provides data security on all fronts. Here are some things to consider when designing an IoT security plan.
Risk assessment and base security
The first step to setting out a security strategy should be to research and identify potential risks and vulnerabilities that pose a critical risk to user safety and security. After that, it is essential to ensure that every device has a set level of criticality, and there should also be clear rules on what data it can process and store.
Other than that, businesses need to ensure that the hardware and firmware in their company are up to date. This can be done by providing secure updates from authenticated providers.
Strong authentication and network protocols
It is also essential to ensure that businesses employ secure user authentication methods that help prevent unauthorised access to any IoT devices and the network. This can be done using user access controls, password policies, and other steps such as multi-factor authentication.
Suppose sensitive data is commonly transmitted across communication channels. In that case, using VPNs to ensure data protection is an excellent idea. Businesses can also shift to network protocols such as SSL/TLS (Transport Layer Security) to help prevent data interception and other cyber threats.
Lastly, it is essential to analyse network traffic and immediately take action against any intercepted malicious activity. It is possible to do this using intrusion detection systems and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools.
Should cybersecurity students study IoT device security?
Yes, cybersecurity students need to prioritise learning about IoT device security, considering how far IoT integration has come into everyday tasks. Unfortunately, the rise in IoT integration has also given rise to the potential of personalised cyber threats. This is where cyber criminals exploit a user’s data to manipulate them in real life. This is possible since IoT devices are often developed with limited memory and processing power, making them more vulnerable to these attacks.
By studying IoT device security, cybersecurity students can learn how to develop a more comprehensive security strategy for their future employers that promotes scale and lessens the risk of data breaches and subsequent reputational risks.
Cybersecurity professionals with expertise in IoT security will be increasingly sought after in the near future. If you want to learn about the essential cybersecurity skills that will get you hired immediately, check out the Institute of Data’s comprehensive course on Cybersecurity that professionals and field experts teach!
Tech professionals and businesses must realise the growing popularity of IoT devices and how they will be adopted by even more users in the coming years. It is vital to be proactive with research into how these devices can lead to data breaches and how to devise ideal strategies to protect every stakeholder that could potentially be affected.
Equipping your team and their strategy with the right tools, adequate research, and an open mindset is essential. By doing that, you can expect to scale business operations, encourage IoT integration and prevent cyber attacks on your network. If you want to learn more about tech and Cyber security in general, schedule a career consultation with one of our experts today and get the proper roadmap to your career goals!