The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology in the process of exponential growth, with countless success stories and applications in different business sectors. However, companies that are deploying the increasingly innovative solutions it provides also face IoT security risks.
🆕 Trends in the Internet of Things
The trend in recent years has been towards the increasingly widespread use of cloud providers, that offer delegated and remote cloud services.
This way, the customer does not have to manage the hardware and software infrastructure. It also allows the customer to focus on deriving value for their business and to focus on improving their products or operational processes.
In industrial sectors, this trend towards the use of cloud services is accompanied by the implementation of Edge Computing solutions, whose focus is to bring storage and computing capacity closer to the place where the data is being generated: factories and industrial plants.
On the other hand, the cheapening and miniaturization of electronic components, the emergence of new technologies and communication protocols and the development of increasingly intelligent devices, among other reasons, has led to exponential growth in implementing IoT solutions.
This growth can be seen in offices, factories, warehouses and also in homes, where applications such as artificially intelligent speakers, automatic lighting systems or smart thermostats are familiar to everyone.
🔐 The importance of security in Internet of Things
All these trends are leading us towards systems, infrastructures and homes that are increasingly connected and exposed to the Internet. And this, on the one hand, means improvements in production processes and people’s quality of life and safety.
But on the other hand, it also increases the risk of implementing vulnerable systems and thus facilitates attacks by cybercriminals and industrial spies.
Focusing on IoT systems and devices, security is probably the most important factor to consider when designing, building and marketing connected devices and solutions.
The integration of these technologies has brought enormous advantages in different technical, economic and social aspects.
However, there is no point in improving the manufacturing machinery or the monitoring system of an industrial plant if this increases the risk of attacks and the vulnerability of the systems by exposing them to the Internet in an insecure way.
This is why it is so important to design any IoT system with the necessary security features in mind. Resistance to any cyber attack must even be ensured before any design project is undertaken.
⚠️ Common risks when using IoT devices in industrial environments
The development and implementation of IoT solutions in industrial and enterprise environments entail certain risks, so it is necessary to design a mitigation plan to minimize the likelihood of attacks and ensure security.
According to Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s cyber practice, the top 10 IoT dangers are as follows:
❗ Lack of a security and privacy program
Any IoT solution implementation project must begin with a complete definition of the security program and the actions that will need to be taken.
Both at the beginning and throughout the project and in the subsequent maintenance, once the product is in production.
📝 Lack of priority or direction to boost security and privacy
In many cases, IoT projects are driven by departments or business lines of the company that do not have sufficient support in terms of investment in security.
This can lead to investing only in technology, leaving aside risk analysis and management.
📲 Security is not incorporated into the design of products and ecosystems
Sometimes the design of solutions does not directly include the security layer that should be mandatory, either because it needs to be implemented in production as quickly as possible, due to budgetary constraints or for any other strategic reason.
⛑️ Insufficient security training and awareness among engineers and architects
Many companies have problems finding trained professionals to tackle projects with security guarantees, or do not believe they need a cybersecurity expert for this.
This increases the risk of design or implementation errors or the lack of awareness of possible vulnerabilities, increasing the risk of attacks.
🔒 Lack of privacy and security resources for IoT products
Many IoT projects include a security layer, but are not robust or complete enough to guarantee its function of preventing or at least hindering, cyber-attacks.
This is usually due to the logical interest in trying to reduce costs and implementation times, leaving aside the need to manage adequate levels of security.
👨💻 Insufficient monitoring of devices and systems
One of the most important factors when implementing any IoT project is to design and maintain a good monitoring system.
This allows knowing the status of each device and component in real-time, so that any anomaly in the operation, loss of connection or any other unforeseen event can be detected at the moment. In many cases, this component is not taken into account when designing the system.
📋 Lack of post-marketing/implementation maintenance
Many companies make the mistake of thinking that IoT solution implementation projects end when the smart devices are deployed and the system starts working.
One must be aware of the importance of maintaining and updating these devices and the entire system to ensure security.
👁️ Lack of visibility, inventory and control of managed products and devices
IoT projects can involve fleets of thousands or even millions of connected devices. However, in these cases, it is complex to manage the entire inventory and maintain control and maintenance when working with such a large number of devices.
It is important to keep in mind that this increases the risk of finding vulnerabilities, which facilitate attacks through such devices.
🔍 Lack of identification and treatment of risks in existing and legacy products
A good part of IoT projects in industrial environments consists of sensitizing already existing infrastructures to obtain data or functionalities that did not exist before.
This implies that many of the devices already existed before and must be included in the design of the new solution, including the security measures to be implemented to avoid weak points in the system.
💥 Incident response processes that are non-existent or immature
Lack of experience can cause problems, such as not being agile in responding to cyber attacks, or not realizing we are under attack until it is too late.
🤔 How to minimize the risk of attack
Finally, let’s look at some simple practices that we should always keep in mind to apply in any professional project or smart home where we are going to work with IoT devices; to implement solutions securely and minimize IoT security risks:
- Change the default login credentials of our IoT devices. Also, always use strong and secure passwords.
- Update your firmware to the latest version and install application updates for our IoT devices as soon as they become available to maximize device security.
- Disable features and functionalities that we do not want to use and leave only the necessary ones active.
- Apply robust network segmentation for connected IoT devices. This way, only the devices that need connectivity remain connected and different segmented networks are available for different uses and security levels. Therefore, each IoT device connects to one or the other depending on its needs and characteristics.
- Disable or protect remote access to our IoT devices as long as it is not necessary.
- Maintain a monitoring and control system for the entire fleet of devices. This allows us to protect the devices, knowing in real time the status of each one of them.
If we consider the risks we have reviewed and apply the above recommendations, we will be greatly minimizing the risk of suffering attacks. This way, we will be able to implement and maintain robust and reliable IoT systems.
It is important to keep in mind that we must always be alert, as cybercriminals are continuously improving their attack techniques and technologies.