Of the 29 billion connected devices that will be deployed by the end of 2022, 18 billion will be related to the Internet of Things (IoT). Yet, the security of these devices remains largely overlooked in a market of unstandardized manufacturers and less-than-secure network protocols. Read on to learn the top risks IoT deployments face and how to address them.
Why is the Internet of Things (IoT) Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?
The Internet of Things is a web of connected intelligent objects that exchange data over the internet without human involvement.
The architecture of IoT systems typically comprises interconnected wireless connections, cloud servers for connectivity, sensors, data processing applications, and intelligent gadgets. In fact, this is what increases the attack surface compared to typical IT systems.
An attack surface is, at its most fundamental level, the maximum points of entry for unauthorized system access. Beyond entry points, an IoT attack surface comprises all possible security flaws for IoT devices, linked programs, and network connections.
Threat actors may destroy not just the network and software supporting IoT devices, but additionally the devices themselves, which is an increasing security problem for IoT devices. In addition, IoT device use is increasing faster than the protocols and guidelines that can guarantee safe, dependable connectivity.
Given the non-standard construction of IoT devices, as well as the vast quantities of data streaming via connected systems, we are continually vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
What Causes IoT Cyber Attacks?
In light of the following factors, hackers discover means to attack IoT systems:
1. Too must trust
IoT devices may have considerable faith in the local network, so no additional authentication or permission is needed. Also trusted is every other device on the same network. This is particularly problematic when the gadget is linked to the Internet since anyone around the world has the capacity to access the device’s capabilities.
2. Password-related issues
Another typical issue is that all identical devices are shipped with identical default passwords (e.g., “0000” or “password”). The firmware and factory settings for equipment that share the same model are often similar. Since the passwords for the device are publicly available, they may be used to gain entry into all units in that series, assuming that the user has not updated them.
3. Not updating systems
IoT devices running obsolete or unsupported operating systems are exploitable. By exploiting a single susceptible machine on a network, hackers may bring down the whole system. The WannaCry Ransomware of 2017 targeted 300,000 Windows-based PCs. It successfully compromised computers without security upgrades.
4. Lack of IoT data encryption
All information being transferred between a device and a user device or backend service may be acquired by a “Man-in-the-Middle” (MitM) when the machine transmits in plain text. Encryption should be used to safeguard sensitive data kept on a machine (at rest). Typical vulnerabilities include maintaining API credentials or passwords in plain text on a machine without encryption.
5. Limited computing power on IoT devices
The majority of IoT apps use relatively little data. This cuts expenses and increases battery life, but may make Over-the-Air or OTA updates difficult, preventing the device from accessing cybersecurity capabilities like firewalls, virus analyzers, and end-to-end encryption. This eventually increases their susceptibility to hacking. It is vital that the system in itself has in-built security safeguards at this point.
6. Lapse in privacy protection from the vendor
Concerning privacy protection, the role of the vendor is essential. Apart from an external hacker, the seller or an allied entity might be accountable for a violation of privacy. Without express authorization, the seller or provider of an IoT system might collect information on user behavior for reasons such as market research. There are many instances when IoT devices (such as smart TVs) may have eavesdropped on conversations.
7. Delayed detection
Whenever a device is hacked, it often continues to operate properly from the user’s perspective. Typically, any increased bandwidth or power consumption is not observed. The majority of IoT devices lack logging and alerting capabilities to warn users of security issues. When they do, the hacker may overwrite or deactivate them. As a consequence, consumers are seldom aware whether the device is under assault or has been hacked, prohibiting them from taking preventative actions.
8. Unapproved IoT devices connected to the corporate network
IT administrators cannot always manage which devices link to their networks, creating a security risk known as shadow IoT. IP-addressed devices, such as fitness trackers, might provide personal convenience or help workers with their tasks, but they may not fulfill an organization’s security requirements. IT administrators cannot verify if the software and hardware possess basic security features or check the devices for harmful traffic if they lack insight into shadow IoT devices.
Top IoT Security Risks to Guard Against in 2023
Due to these (and other) deficiencies, the Internet of Things may be susceptible to many cyber threats and assaults. Below are the top five dangers to watch out for in 2023:
1. The hacker consumes the IoT device into a botnet
Through open ports or phishing attacks, an attacker may infiltrate an IoT system with malware. They incorporate this into an IoT botnet (namely, an army of infected devices) to launch huge cyber assaults. Hackers may readily discover malicious software on the internet that identifies vulnerable computers or conceals code prior to another code module signaling devices to initiate an attack and steal data.
2. The hacker drains the device battery (a denial of sleep or DoSL attack)
Sensors linked to a wireless network system are often fueled by batteries that do not need frequent recharging so they can continually monitor the surroundings. The battery is conserved by placing the gadget in sleep mode the majority of the time. The sleep and waking modes are governed by the communication requirements of various protocols, such as media access control (MAC). In order to execute a DoSL attack, an adversary may use MAC protocol weaknesses. This form of assault depletes battery power, rendering the sensor inoperable.
3. The hacker disrupts IoT deployments by “spoofing” the device
When a device has inadequately executed digital signatures and encryption, spoofing attacks are likely. Inadequate public key infrastructure (PKI), for instance, might be used by hackers to “spoof” a connected device and disrupt IoT installations.
4. The hacker holds maliciously accesses IoT data and holds it for ransom
IoT ransomware threats expand in tandem with the number of unprotected devices linked to enterprise networks. Hackers corrupt devices with malware to transform devices to botnets that probe access points or scan device firmware for appropriate credentials that they may use to gain access to the network. With network access via an IoT system, attackers may extract information to the cloud and demand a ransom – and suggest that failure to pay would mean that the data is held back, released for mass consumption, or simply deleted.
5. Hackers can use AI to scale their attacks
Hackers may now create AI-powered solutions that are faster, more adaptable, and more powerful than humans in executing cyberattacks. This presents a significant risk to the IoT ecosystem. While the techniques and components of classic IoT dangers as posed by cybercriminals will remain the same, the scope, complexity, and pernicious personalization of AI-powered assaults will make them more difficult to combat.
How to Protect IoT Systems from Security Risks?
IoT security best practices must be adopted at the IoT ecosystem’s device, network, and data layers.
To protect device data, you must make your product tamper-resistant. In addition, it is prudent to provide compulsory, automated security upgrades that do not necessitate any action from end users. Communication between devices requires safety and security. One may restrict network activity to the minimum amount required for the IoT device to operate. Lastly, verify that the Internet of Things device captures only the data essential for its functioning.
Apart from this, you can invest in:
- Physical security: For instance, with cellular IoT devices, the SIM card keeps a significant amount of sensitive data. Since an eSIM is soldered directly into the circuit board, it is more secure.
- Abnormality detection: Dashboards and alarms must inform you as soon as an attempt is made to compromise your device’s security if there is unusual network behavior.
- Encrypted data transfer: By using an X.509 certification and/or a solitary VPN/IPSec connection, one may seal the security gap that exists between the smartphone service and the application server. that puts data in transit at risk.
- Network-based firewall: The data is protected by a network-based firewall the minute a device joins the network.
- Limited connectivity profile: The more you can restrict the network connection of the gadget to its essential operations, it will heighten safety and security standards.
These basic best practices, combined with user education and greater security awareness, is the first step toward protecting the Internet of Things from existing and emerging risks.