Blackmail from hackers in control of an infected smart device some years ago sounded more like a dystopian sci-fi fantasy. Yet nowadays, with the expansion of the Internet of Things, security vulnerabilities and challenges are becoming increasingly more relevant.
The number of IoT devices is steadily growing: It’s expected to triple from more than 11 billion in 2021 to nearly 30 billion in 2030. Since the IoT world is expanding fast, we must consider security concerns seriously.
Let’s take a closer look at how IoT devices function and what challenges the IoT network has to deal with.
Security Concerns of IoT Devices
IoT devices cover a wide spectrum of intelligent objects, from smart wearables and means of communication to cars and home appliances. Since IoT devices are so different, they can be used and applied in numerous environments.
In the heart of each object, there are sensors and software that enable interconnection based on one essential act – the exchange of data. Each smart device has a unique identifier – an IP address – which guarantees smooth communication across the internet.
Today, every modern home has at least a few internet-connected devices that gather data, exposing users to probable cyber threats. Due to the rapid IoT development and a highly competitive market, some devices lack basic data protection and, therefore, are sensitive to security threats.
So, what are the biggest concerns related to IoT devices?
Each IoT device gathers and transfers data. Unfortunately, various apps, services, protocols and IoT security patches meant for communication usually originate from unstable or insecure interfaces. The most common interface issue relates to the lack of device authentication as well as weak encryption (or no encryption at all).
In order to solve this issue, it is advised to trust only reliable manufacturers, who implement strict standards and practices. You can also prevent unauthorized access to IoT devices and their data by using device authentication mechanisms and digital certificates, which allow computing objects to transmit data in a secure way.
Lack of Regular Updates
Since there’s strong competition in the IoT market, security is a questionable priority for developers of IoT devices. Thus, when it comes to proper testing and provision of timely software updates, the measures to provide safety are lacking, and most manufacturers are in a hurry to release their products without proper testing.
Therefore, updates are often offered only for a short period, while the developers turn their focus on the next generation devices, corresponding to consumerism. Due to that, individual IoT devices with outdated software can be exposed to malware, hacker attacks, and security breaches. Moreover, if the connection of the device is non-encrypted, when it sends its info to the cloud during an update, unprotected files can create a backdoor for attackers.
The only solution to these security issues is updating the IoT device regularly. Note that if vulnerabilities are exposed, it is the duty of the manufacturer to put automatic software updates in place. However, it is up to you to install updates that contain security patches and prevent hackers from attacking.
Sensitivity to Malware
Together with the growing number of IoT devices, the number of malicious programs is increasing as well. Ransomware, for example, can lock access to smart devices until a ransom fee is paid to the attacker. Unfortunately, modern ransomware attacks could not only limit or disable the functionality of IoT objects but also lead to the theft of victims’ data.
Fortunately, since the majority of IoT information is stored in the cloud, malware lacks valuable data to lock. Even to this day, the best way to protect oneself from malware is to not open spam emails/links and keep the passwords for the IoT devices unique and complex, changing them several times per year.
One of the reasons why traditional security means are not as effective when it comes to protecting IoT devices is that most existing security mechanisms were designed with desktop computers in mind. Hence, implementing such mechanisms on IoT objects with limited processing and storage capabilities is challenging.
Connected devices are prone to attacks from other devices. For example, if hackers gain access to one of the intelligent objects in a home network, they might be able to access other unsecured devices as well. If the data your device transmits to others is sent in cleartext messages (not subjected to encryption), it can also be captured by cybercriminals.
In order to prevent vulnerability, it is important to transfer the data between devices securely, ideally – with an encrypted connection. Also, be cautious about the public Wi-Fi networks when transmitting data from one smart device to another.
Secure, secure, secure
The IoT network is broad and fascinating, like the future itself experienced at this moment, but its biggest strength – interconnectivity – becomes a great threat. Since the IoT network is constantly growing together with the means to protect it, a lot depends on an end user’s awareness too. Thus, secure smart devices, secure the network and secure your data. That is the key to preventing the risks posed to IoT devices.
Have you already dealt with security breaches in a specific IoT device? Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to prevent that from happening again in the future.