Internet of Things (IoT) Security Issues and How To Prevent Them
This is our pinpoint tutorial to strengthen your guard against IoT security issues.
The Internet of Things can easily make it among the next bests.
But you wouldn’t believe it if I told you that the projected number of IoT devices in 2030 will be almost three times the number of humans inhabiting Earth.
In other words, that’s three IoT devices per person. That’s a lot of devices and even more of the internet.
And the internet, in trying to make our lives easier, brings along many vulnerabilities. So, it can be irreversibly idiotic to implement IoT without patching up the security loopholes.
But let’s dig a little deeper and first discuss…
What is IoT (Internet of Things)?
These Things collaborate over the internet.
A typical example is a Tesla, or better a group, sharing information and making auto-pilot safer by the hour.
A simpler instance is a smartwatch. It records data from your body and sends it to the smartphone to check your vitals, like pulse rate, sleeping hours, steps, etc.
Amazon Echo (or any smart home equipment) will also qualify as an IoT device.
Conclusively, IoT is a system of devices that electronically transfer information with each other.
And we’re gradually going to see a lot of them controlling crucial aspects of our lives. They will have an important say in our homes, offices, cars, health, and whatnot.
So, it’s crucial to bolstering the fences to keep the security intact and the data private.
Still not convinced!
Well, check out these distressing events, which ripped apart any false sense of security in the IoT community.
One such incident reported by a Reddit user, Dio-V:
When I load the Xiaomi camera in my Google home hub I get stills from other people’s homes!
Another unfortunate instance, as recalled by Samantha Westmoreland:
The thermostat continued to go up — and a voice began speaking from a camera in the kitchen — and then playing vulgar music. “So I unplugged it and turned it facing the ceiling,”.
The point is not to scare you off. But these issues, however big they might seem, are just the tip of the iceberg.
So, IoT is a domain that needs deep troubleshooting and repair before any widespread adoption.
Security Loopholes in IoT Devices
Further sections will highlight some areas that should concern the users and the manufacturers.
It’s the default weak passcodes on IoT devices that ultimately facilitated the biggest DDoS attack on 21st October 2016. This brought down Amazon Web Services and its clients like Netflix, Twitter, Airbnb, etc.
So default passwords like Admin, 12345 are the enemies of your digital security. Using strong passwords suggested by password managers is the first step to prevent an intruder.
The second is to use two-factor authentication (2FA). And it’s a whole lot better if you’re using hardware authentication like Yubikey.
The Internet of Things plays with sensitive data. And about 90% of the data is transmitted without any security envelope.
That’s a massive security glitch that manufacturers need to take care of immediately. The users, on their part, can verify their device encryption policies.
Since installing an antivirus or similar software can be difficult due to low processing power and compatibility complications, using a VPN can prove to be a solution. Put simply, a VPN protects your Internet Protocol (IP) address and encrypts your data.
Irregular Update Cycle
Every manufacturer is responsible for providing a healthy update cycle to its devices. IoT devices, missing on security and firmware updates, are more vulnerable to hackers finding new bugs.
Once again, it falls upon the users to check the update history of their manufacturer before going for a purchase.
And there is nothing a user can do except avoiding a brand with a bad update record.
Developers should embed IoT devices with specifically designed applications. Any modified software could include outdated security protocols putting the security of an IoT device at risk.
And a bad actor can compromise a weak IoT application to snoop and perform attacks over the entire network.
This section calls for a central management console for all the IoT devices in a system.
In the absence of a unified management system, it’s easier to mismanage IoT devices, especially if there are a lot of devices in a network.
These platforms should track the vital stats for all IoT devices, including security alerts, firmware updates, and general risk monitoring at a single place.
IoT devices often take part in a network, exposing the entire range of devices onboard. So, the IoT device should use a separate network tunnel.
This will prevent the perpetrator from benefiting from network resources and allow superior monitoring of the IoT network traffic.
Conclusively, it will keep the entire network unaffected in case a single device gets compromised.
Many IoT devices like security cameras operate remotely. In that case, it gets extremely easy to physically attack a device.
Moreover, it can be controlled and tampered with in malicious ways only to defeat the very purpose of the installation. For instance, an offender can take out the memory card from a remotely installed security camera and access (or modify) the data.
While it’s tough to completely mitigate this problem, periodic checks will certainly help.
For advanced equipment, one can note the relative position at the time of installation. In addition, there are sensors to identify and monitor any micrometer misalignment from the original position.
IoT is undeniably useful, and we can’t throw all of them out until they become foolproof.
Generally, these equipment are quite safe at the time of purchase. But gradually, they start missing updates or fall prey to mismanagement.
As users, we need to keep our heads up and adapt to best practices to manage any IoT device. In addition, try to keep in mind the manufacturer’s track record while making a purchase.
On a side note, check out our take on how to monitor personal data breaches.