Internet of Things (IoT) Tutorial

IoT Security (Challenges, Importance, Threats, Issues, Solution)

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What is IoT Security?
  • Why IoT Security is Important?
  • IoT Security Architecture and Model
  • Key Elements of IoT Security
  • IoT Security Challenges and Issues
  • IoT Security Threats (Cyber Attacks that Can Happen)
  • IoT Security Best Practices and Tips
  • Top IoT Security Devices and Tools
  • Quiz!

Introduction

IoT cybersecurity protects your systems from threats and breaches, identifies and monitors risks, and fixes vulnerabilities. It protects your IoT solution's availability, integrity, and confidentiality. Further, IoT solutions provide valuable data and insights that will enhance our lives. Success depends on ensuring IoT solutions and data integrity and privacy.

So, what should we know about the security of the Internet of Things? Continue reading!

What is IoT Security?

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are computerised Internet-connected objects, such as networked security cameras, smart refrigerators, and WiFi-capable automobiles. IoT security secures these devices and ensures they do not introduce threats into a network. 

Anything connected to the Internet is likely to face an attack at some point. Attackers can try to remotely compromise IoT devices using various methods, from credential theft to vulnerability exploits. 

On getting control of an IoT device, they can use it for multiple purposes, like to conduct DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, or else they might attempt to compromise the rest of the connected network or steal data. 

There are security challenges in IoT as many devices are not built with strong security. Typically, the manufacturer focuses on its features and usability instead of security so that the devices can market quickly. IoT devices are increasingly part of everyday life, and both consumers and businesses may face IoT security challenges.

Why IoT Security is Important?

Today, we are on the eve of an explosion of IoT-related products and services, and IoT device security is a problem. To pave the way for an analytical revolution, businesses, governments, and consumers have started preparing for the IoT. 

By connecting to every gadget soon, we will control the day-to-day activities of our lives, such as from connected houses to self-driving automobiles, intelligent toasters, smart buildings, etc.

  • There are several incidents of IoT devices being hacked because thieves successfully search for IoT security and privacy weaknesses. In some cases, the hackers hacked industrial robots and their equipment.

  • Hackers are able to alter control-loop settings, tamper with production logic, and change the robot's status. Cybercriminals can go to any extent, including hacking medical devices. Protecting gadgets is becoming the most challenging task as more gadgets connect to the Internet.

  • IoT gadgets often require secure software, hardware, and communication to function correctly, and hackers can hack any connected equipment if IoT security isn't in place. Hackers can control the object's functioning and steal the user's digital data. Additionally, the safety of Industrial IoT should be noticed.

IoT Security Architecture and Model

The security architecture of IoT comprises four fundamental layers for security analysis-

Perceptual Layer

This layer, also called the recognition layer, is the most basic level, which gathers all types of information with the help of physical equipment(sensors) and identifies and reads the external world. 

The data from the device’s sensors include the properties of the objects, or the things, the environmental condition, and more. Physical equipment like RFID readers, GPS, sensors, and other equipment come under this layer. Though there are different components involved, the critical element in this layer is the sensors that capture and represent the physical world, i.e., the data given by sensors connected to this layer.

Network Layer

The layer is connected to broadcast data and data collected on numerous essential networks. This layer is responsible for providing reliable data from the previous layer. The data gathered from sensors broadcasts to the next level—the initial handling of data collection through the sensors, cataloguing, and polymerisation.

Support Layer

The layers act as the mediator between the upper layer and the lower layer. Consider it the platform for setting up a proper application layer, as it helps merge the application layer upward and the network layer downward. Grid and cloud computing use all kinds of creative computing powers.

Application Layer

In this layer, the personalised delivery of applications happens; whatever application the user wants, whatever application the user is presented with, is taken care of in this layer. It can be from smart water, smart transportation, smart environment support, smart air system, and more. It can be done through computers, mobile devices, television, and more.

Key Elements of IoT Security

The more devices we have linked to the network, the greater need to consider the security elements and requirements for IoT accessories. Connectivity is critical to your IoT project’s success. IoT networks are complicated, and cybercriminals can intercept them. We must consider the following security elements to defend an IoT network fully.

Device Access

Many IoT devices operate in unmanaged and insecure contexts, allowing hackers to upload malware and access functions of the device. This, in turn, will enable them to harm the entire network.

Device Signature

Attackers can, for example, clone a device’s identity to gain access to your data. Furthermore, they can even enter your entire system by infiltrating the network. Therefore, the device signature must be secure, unchangeable, and unique. Without adequate device identity management, we can’t deploy IoT security on all other network components.

Data Security

IoT networks continuously transfer data, including sensitive and regulated data, which is self-explanatory. However, data security, privacy, and integrity in storage are vital. This included data on the IoT device, on the network server, and in the cloud. 

Any data in transit is vulnerable and must be considered an essential aspect of IoT security. As a result, throughout the IoT lifetime, data security must be established across all devices and equipment.

Commands

Commands refer to the instructions sent to IoT devices, and these instructions might activate features, command the device to execute specific functions, turn it on/off, etc. 

These commands can be performed either by machine-to-machine automation or human input. Therefore, only verified persons and/or systems, including AI, should be able to provide commands to IoT devices.

Security of Software Decisions

Algorithm-based or AI-based software decisions are used in IoT applications with automation. As a result, hackers can disrupt the entire IoT network. They can do this if they intercept and modify these decisions. 

Therefore, all software decisions should be made in a secure environment to avoid this. In addition, they should be done with proper anti-interception and anti-tampering protection.

Physical Actions Security

Physical actions such as unlocking a smart lock or stopping/starting a device are everyday actions with IoT devices. They also include increasing/decreasing the temperature of HVAC equipment. 

These typical IoT deployments are places where security must be considered. Hackers can intercept these acts. Therefore, they may not only compromise the system but may also jeopardise the user’s safety. Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that devices and equipment can only do these tasks if they receive authenticated commands.

IoT Security Challenges and Issues

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionised how we live and work, from smart homes to industrial IoT. However, with this convenience comes a significant security risk. The IoT security issues landscape is set to evolve with new and emerging threats that we must be aware of. Here are the top security aspects in IoT to look out for.

1. Lack of Device Security

Device security is among the most significant IoT privacy risks. Many IoT devices are not designed for safety, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Hackers can take control of these devices and use them to gain access to the network or launch a DDoS attack. As IoT devices continue to increase, ensuring they are secure by design is crucial.

2. Weak Authentication and Authorization

IoT devices often rely on weak authentication and authorisation mechanisms, which makes them vulnerable to attacks. For example, devices that use default passwords are easy targets for hackers. We expect to see more attacks that exploit weak authentication and authorisation mechanisms to access IoT devices and networks.

3. Inadequate Encryption

Encryption is essential for protecting sensitive data transmitted by IoT devices. However, many IoT devices use bad encryption, making them vulnerable to attacks. We can expect to see more attacks that exploit inadequate encryption to intercept and steal data transmitted by IoT devices.

4. Lack of Patching and Updates

Many IoT devices need to be designed to receive regular security updates, which makes them vulnerable to attacks. In 2023, we expect to see more attacks that exploit unpatched vulnerabilities in IoT devices.

5. Lack of Network Segmentation

IoT devices are often connected to the same network as other devices, which means an attack on one device can spread to others. We can expect to see more attacks that exploit the lack of network segmentation to gain access to IoT devices and networks.

6. Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks are more prevalent, and IoT devices are not immune to these attacks. We can expect to see more attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain to compromise IoT devices and networks.

7. Rogue IoT Devices

Rogue IoT devices are unauthorised devices connected to the network. These devices can be used to steal data or launch attacks. We expect to see more attacks that exploit rogue IoT devices to gain access to the network or launch attacks.

IoT Security Threats (Cyber Attacks that Can Happen)

Botnets

A botnet network combines several systems to control a victim’s system and distribute malware remotely. Cybercriminals control botnets using Command-and-Control-Servers to steal confidential data, acquire online-banking data, and execute attacks like DDoS and phishing. They can utilise botnets to attack IoT devices connected to multiple other gadgets, such as smartphones, desktops, laptops, etc. 

Mirai botnet has shown how dangerous IoT security threats can be. The Mirai botnet has infected about 2.5 million devices. Attackers used the botnet for launching distributed denial of service attacks on several IoT devices. After noticing the impact of Mirai, several cybercriminals have developed multiple advanced IoT botnets; these botnets can launch sophisticated cyber attacks against vulnerable IoT devices.

Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

DoS attacks cause a capacity overload in the target system by sending multiple requests. Attackers implementing DoS don't focus on stealing critical data; however, it can be used to slow down or turn off service to hurt the business's reputation. 

For example, an airline attacked using DoS will be unable to process booking a new ticket request, check flight status, and cancel a ticket. In such cases, customers may prefer to switch to other airlines for air travel. Likewise, IoT security threats such as DoS attacks can ruin the reputation of businesses affecting their revenue.

Man-in-The-Middle

In a Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attack, a hacker breaches the communication channel between two individual systems to intercept messages between them. Attackers gain control over the participating system's communication and send illegitimate messages. 

MiTM attacks can attack several IoT devices since they share real-time data. With this attack, attackers can intercept communications between multiple IoT devices, leading to critical malfunction. For example, using MiTM, attackers can control innovative home accessories such as tube lights and bulbs to change their colour or switch it on and off. Such attacks can have disastrous consequences for IoT devices, such as industrial and medical devices.

Identity and Data Theft

In 2018, multiple data breaches made headlines for compromising the data of millions of people; confidential information was stolen in these data breaches. Hackers attack IoT devices to gain additional data about several users and organisations. On collecting such data, attackers can execute much more sophisticated and detailed identity theft. 

Attackers also exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices connected to other devices and enterprise systems. For example, hackers can attack a vulnerable IoT sensor in an organisation and get access to their business network. This way, attackers can infiltrate multiple enterprise systems and obtain sensitive business data. Hence, IoT security threats can give rise to data breaches in various businesses.

Social Engineering

Hackers use social engineering to manipulate people to provide sensitive information such as passwords and bank details. Cybercriminals may secretly access a system to install malicious software. Usually, phishing emails are executed. An attacker develops convincing emails to manipulate people. 

Social engineering attacks are simpler to perform on IoT devices because IoT devices, especially wearables, gather massive amounts of personally identifiable information (PII) to develop a personalised user experience. Such devices also utilise users' data to deliver user-friendly services, for example, ordering products online with voice control. However, attackers can access PII to get confidential information such as home addresses, purchase histories, and bank details. 

Such data enables a cybercriminal to execute an advanced social engineering attack targeting a user, family, and friends using vulnerable IoT networks. This way, IoT security threats such as social engineering are used to gain illegal access to user data.

Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are a significant security concern for various organisations. This is a targeted cyber attack, where an intruder gets illegal access to a network and stays undetected for a prolonged period. Attackers focus on monitoring network activity and stealing crucial data using advanced persistent threats. Such cyber-attacks are challenging to prevent, detect, or mitigate. 

With the advent of IoT, large volumes of critical data are effortlessly transferred among several devices. A cybercriminal can target these IoT devices to access personal or corporate networks. With this approach, cybercriminals can steal confidential information.

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks are one of the most notorious cyber threats. Here, a hacker makes use of malware to encrypt data required for operations in a business. An attacker decrypts critical data only after receiving a ransom.  

Using smart thermostats, researchers have demonstrated the impact of ransomware, where hackers can turn up the temperature and refuse to return to the average temperature until they receive a ransom. In the same way, ransomware can also attack IIoT devices and smart homes. For instance, a hacker can attack a smart home and notify the owner to pay a ransom.

Remote Recording

Cybercriminals can use zero-day exploits to record the conversations of IoT users. A hacker attacks a smart camera in an organisation and records video footage of everyday business activities. Cybercriminals acquire confidential business information. 

To mitigate their effects, business leaders must be updated about IoT security threats and prepare a holistic cybersecurity strategy before utilising IoT infrastructure for their organisations. For this purpose, they can hire cybersecurity professionals to handle all security concerns. 

Alternatively, business leaders may want to carry out cybersecurity techniques independently. For this, they can confirm that their confidential data is encrypted and systems are regularly audited for security purposes. Also, businesses can deploy modern technologies such as AI, big data, and blockchain to enhance their cybersecurity efforts.

IoT Security Best Practices and Tips

Securing the IoT infrastructure is essential. It requires a powerful strategy to secure data in the cloud and, in transit, protect data integrity. Here are some of the iot security solutions to improve IoT security.

Stay updated

Always keep your IoT up to date with the latest software updates. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve device security. As threats arise, they figure out how to prevent them. Once a fix is identified, they code that into their software update. However, if your devices need the newest protections, they may pose a risk to your network security.

Use encryption

IoT devices collect large swaths of data, which is often the primary target of hackers. One of the most effective ways to subvert bad actors is to encrypt your information. Despite its benefits, 98% of all IoT traffic is unencrypted, according to Palo Alto Networks. This exposes data to malicious actors who want to listen in on your network and obtain sensitive information. Encryption tools make data unreadable for unauthorised users.

Automate security with antivirus software

Regarding cybersecurity, the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach doesn't work. But automation can still be a valuable tool in thwarting cybercrime. Installing antivirus software and enabling automated threat detection relieves you of needing to patrol your network manually. Cloud-based systems with machine learning capability are especially adept at understanding regular network performance and identifying anomalies.

Keep tabs on all connected devices

A device connecting to your network opens a doorway into your home or organisation. Nowadays, that can mean dozens — if not hundreds — of potential entry points for hackers. Protecting your information begins with knowing exactly what devices are on the network and ensuring they are safe and secure.

Take advantage of authentication tools

Device-level security is just the beginning. From an organisational standpoint, user-level security is just as important. Companies should take steps to implement authentication protocols that restrict who has permission to access what is on their network. This puts an added layer of security between your information and outside users.

Regularly audit actions on your network

You can assess security performance by looking back on what is happening on the network. Keeping a log of activity and metrics can help you monitor for strange behaviours and irregularities.

Disable unused devices and other entry points

It's essential to minimise the potential attack surface. In other words, unused devices, sensors, and routers may be forgotten but threaten network security. Identifying and turning off these entry points will further secure you and your information.

Top IoT Security Devices and Tools

IoT Security Tools

Key Features

AWS IoT Device Defender

1. Automate security assessments

2. Send alarms to your preferred AWS interface

3. Identify and evaluate attack vectors

4. Analyse historical device behaviour for anomalies

5. Easy Mitigation of Security Issues

Appknox

1. Secure interfaces

2. Cryptographic Security

3. Verified Software

4. Automated security updates

5. Vulnerability reporting program

Palo Alto Network

1. Automate Zero Trust Security

2. In-depth Risk Analysis

3. Best-in-class protection

4. Faster Policy Creation

5. Network Segmentation

Azure Sphere

1. The hardware-based root of trust

2. Defence in depth

3. Small trusted computing base

4. Dynamic compartments

5. Password-less authentication

6. Error Reporting

7. Renewable security

Microsoft Defender for IoT

1. Agentless device monitoring

2. Support for cloud, on-premises, and hybrid networks

3. Extend support to proprietary protocols

4. Protect enterprise networks

Forescout Platform

1. Multifactor Risk Scoring

2. Asset inventory and lifecycle management of all devices

3. Dynamic network segmentation

4. Assessing devices with weak credentials

5. Automated zero-trust policy orchestration

6. Real-time continuous monitoring

7. Complete device visibility and classification

Verizon IoT Security

1. Device Authentication and Management

2. PKI Lifecycle Management

3. GPS Fleet Tracking Software

Verimatrix

1. Endpoint Encryption

2. Cryptographic Keys to Prevent Attacks

3. Code Shield

4. App Shield

5. Key Shield

Trustwave

1. Proven Security Experts

2. 24/7 Protection

3. Assurance for Everyone

4. Flexibility for Evolving Technology

5. Incident Readiness Services

6. Managed Security Testing

7. IoT Product Security Review

Armis

1. Comprehensive

2. Agentless

3. Threat Detection

4. Behavioural Based

5. Endpoint Behavioural Security

6. Out-of-band Sensing Technology

7. Contextual asset intelligence

8. Segmentation and boundary analysis

Quiz!

Security of IoT devices is a big concern because the data transmission occurs over the internet. True or False?

Select the correct answer

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