The emergence and growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) have meant that an increasing number of devices are connected to the internet. While this has most certainly provided numerous benefits within our everyday lives, it has also led to new threats emerging, meaning that IoT security needs to be a key consideration for all those involved.
It is estimated that over 50% of companies across the globe have already commissioned and implemented studies focused upon IoT, and a majority of companies consider it to be a relevant area of interest.
This includes the way in which it provides companies with the possibility of improving their existing business processes. However, there are concerns regarding the increasing networking of devices and the security risks that this poses in the long-term.
The main concerns are related to being hacked, DDoS attacks, or even for some companies, industrial espionage. It may appear to be something of an over-exaggeration, but there have been previous instances of this, including by the Mirai botnet, which compromised approximately 500,000 IoT devices.
These causes for concern are not without reason, so let’s explore IoT security and learn more.
Why are IOT Vulnerabilities so Dangerous?
An attack conducted through IoT has a much more devastating impact compared to a classic attack on an IT network. It would be possible for attackers to go as far as shutting down a company’s entire production process, or even causing serious injury or death if a hacker was able to hack a connected car. There have been instances recorded where hackers were able to carry out such attacks to demonstrate the threat posed.
This is not the only cause for concern as IoT devices also collect a wealth of users’ personal data, meaning that these vulnerabilities not only pose a threat to enterprises but also to end users.
Why an IOT Attack Is More Devastating?
An IoT network is far more complex than a traditional IT one and the networking ranges from MES to controllers, including PLCs, individual sensors and actuators. It is also important to consider that a large range of individuals have access to the environments. This includes a company’s own employees, external suppliers and contractors, through to the actual devices themselves, which communicate with each other or the cloud.
This means that the possibility of a breach is more likely due to the widespread access to the network, meaning that a focus upon security implementation at a device level needs to be a key consideration.
How does IOT Security Work?
One important security issue within IoT that we have to consider is the fact that security updates are often not provided throughout the lifecycle of a product. This is especially important when we consider that the lifecycle can last for a considerable amount of time and that there may be systems running on outdated operating systems that do not benefit from security updates.
In the past this would not have been a major issue as the systems were setup and designed for networking purposes, however, with the advent of the IoT this is no longer the case and it means that there are all kinds of vulnerabilities that need to be considered.
There are three key challenges that need to addressed for IoT security:
- Devices must be deemed trustworthy and only these can connect to relevant services. This helps to address threats posed by hackers, counterfeits and those attempting IP theft.
- Data must be protected at all times, both in transit between servers and in the devices themselves. The associated risks mean that the ideal solution is to provide commercial level security even on lower-end IOT devices.
- The code must be protected, and applications developed using robust APIs that protect code IP from theft, and devices against the aforementioned operating system vulnerabilities.
How to Improve IOT Security
It is estimated that by 2023 there will be 64 billion IoT devices across the globe, meaning that addressing security must be a priority. It is essential that the focus must be upon ensuring that connected devices can be proven to be legitimate and trusted. This also means protecting networks and applications and sensitive data.
Focusing upon designing and developing IoT devices with security incorporated at a hardware level will provide higher levels of protection in the long-term. This will provide the possibility to determine trustworthiness on a device by device basis and assist in developing more robust security.
It is important to remember that the device lifecycle of IoT devices is long and complex and there is a need to ensure that this level of trustworthiness is respected throughout the manufacturing process, including during the final stages when the device is delivered to the end user.
This can be achieved by focusing on a hardware level as the legitimacy of the device can be checked and guaranteed by connected services and each manufacturing and lifecycle stage can be proven to be secure and trustworthy.