For several years the Internet of Things has been a quintessential element of the industry, but not without its fair share of setbacks like lack of relevant advancements. Some experts agree that most of these setbacks are mostly due to the fact that the concept of what “IoT” isn’t something the general population knows about.
A good way to start off this guide is from the beginning, explaining what it is and what it does, the broad concept is that thanks to the Internet of Things provide valuable data and insights to help us improve the safety of roads, homes, cars, digital devices, among other things. One of the general purposes is to improve the way products are being manufactured and consumed.
What is the Internet of Things?
The IoT is a network of digital devices that automatically gathers/exchange data. IoT has multiple applications across a wide array of industries, but it is most predominant in these three:
- Consumers – The Internet of Things is front and center among all consumer products like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, smart homes devices like Alexa, Echo, or Google.
- Businesses – From small businesses to big corporations, they all use a multitude of IoT devices in their day to day activities, anything from smart security cameras, GPS trackers to sensors, and biometrics.
- Governments – Probably one of the sectors that benefit the most the Internet of Things are the governments, they can use devices to monitor traffic and avoid congestions, keep an eye on potential natural disasters among other things.
While the number of IoT devices has never stopped growing, in recent years its development seems to have hit a wall, and it is in desperate need of funding and innovative ideas to keep the technology moving forward and solve one of its biggest problems to date, its safety.
How do these IoT devices work?
Before moving forwards with the top ten IoT security tips and its best practices, let’s explain how IoT devices work.
In order for IoT devices to function efficiently, there are two main aspects, an internal and an external one, the first has to do with the software while the latter has to do with how the device communicates with other devices. This connection is achieved by simply having all IoT devices link to a command and control center, which is responsible for keeping the software up to date, provide maintenance, firmware updates, etc. Lastly, the communication between these devices is carried through an API (Application Program Interface), once its online, other devices can patch through and start sharing data.
So, how about security?
Now it becomes obvious why one of the biggest issues and challenges with IoT is its security. Just think about the fact that every large corporation around the World relies almost solely upon IoT devices to control virtually every aspect of their company, from large pieces of equipment to highly sensitive data. While IoT devices have brought valuable advancements, they have also introduced new levels of vulnerabilities, and because of that, it is important that both individuals and corporations take these tips very seriously before moving forward with IoT technology.
1. Protect the endpoints
When a new IoT device is added, it creates a new endpoint in the network and a potential entry point for hackers. This situation must be remedy immediately.
According to an article published by ISACA, there are multiple manufacturers worldwide building IoT devices each with different features, operating systems, storage capacity, and most importantly, levels of security, meaning that every single endpoint from these devices has to be monitored.
2. Keep track of all the devices
It may sound like an obvious thing to do, but nevertheless, it is a best practice to know exactly which IoT devices are connected to the organization’s network, and what they are doing. However, manually tracking every single device could be a titanic endeavor, which is why it is recommended the use of a software solution to keep track and manage these devices from the beginning of an IoT project.
3. Pinpoint what IT security can’t protect
Adding an IoT device to a network consists mainly of two things, a physical and a cyber aspect. The first one deals with the actual hardware and its operation, and the second one deals with how it is used, and data collection. A fully equipped IT department can easily take care of the cyber aspect of an IoT device, but it is ill-equipped to deal with the physical aspect because it doesn’t follow the same rules. Knowing how and when it is required to secure the physical aspect will be one of the most important things to do in every IoT project, and it will require the expert hand of an engineer.
4. Patching and Remediation are the best allies
Patching and Remediation are the two best practices that will keep your IoT project secure. When Businesses are searching for IoT devices to implement them, they need to consider their capacities for patching and remediation, not just because of their level of security, but also because they code can be easily changed in the future in case it is required. Some devices have limited patching capacities, and in others, the patching demands the user to manually take several steps.
5. Don’t be afraid to take risks
Like with most technological projects, an IoT project also requires a kind of triage in terms of cybersecurity. In this regard, the expert suggests that a risk-driven strategy is the best policy, making sensitive areas in the IoT infrastructure the number one priority. The head of the IT department should know exactly when to take these risks, investing the necessary assets to ensure the IoT project moves as smoothly as possible.
6. Schedule regular testings and evaluations
One of the best IoT best practices is to conduct testing and evaluation of the IoT device hardware and software before it is deployed. Experts recommend that reverse engineering could be a necessary tool depending on the case. IoT devices have vulnerabilities that need to be recognized and understood before they are released to the market and reach the hands of the users, therefore, it is important that every test and evaluation is done.
7. Change all passwords and credentials regularly
While this is one of the most obvious IT security tips in the World, it is important to remember that most IoT devices come with default passwords, meant to be used for the initial configuration, however, some manufacturers have the password-changing process unnecessarily difficult or it can’t be changed at all.
Hackers are fully aware of this vulnerability and they can use to gain access to the device, passwords are still the weakest link in the chain, and IoT devices are not exempt from it.
8. Pay attention to the Data
Understanding how IoT devices and data interact with each other it’s crucial when looking to improve their security, companies need to look at the data and see what is happening, whether it present itself in a standard format, or in a simple structure that helps to quickly determine whether or not there has been an anomalous activity.
9. Keep the encryption protocols up to date
All the data coming in and out of an IoT device should be encrypted, companies need to rely on top of the line, sophisticated encryption programs to protect their data from unscrupulous people, this is part of the risk-driven strategy companies need to take to protect themselves, and their product. The encryption is only as strong as how it will be implemented, which means if companies use old protocols they will be left vulnerable.
10. Consider changing to an Identity- level control
Nowadays, most IoT devices allow for more than user to be connected to a single device, therefore, companies should switch their focus from device-level control to identity-level control. The authentication process allows the company to understand how the device is being access, helping them understand the “use patterns” of said device by the multiple users linked to it. Additionally, this adds an extra layer of protection against security vulnerabilities.
One thing is clear, modern IoT devices are complex, while the technology may seem to be at a stalemate, there have been significant advancements, especially in terms of security, which is why it is important to follow and enforce these best practice to ensure their devices and network are fully protected against outside manipulation. Nowadays, every piece of equipment and machinery in every type of industry in the World can be connected and configure to send and receive data.
The IoT journey has vulnerability all along the road, and sadly, there are well-trained hackers who knows exactly where to attack, the way to protect the data isn’t the same for everyone, it depends on what exactly the device does. The first step every IoT oriented business needs to do is order a risk assessment in order to pin point their vulnerabilities in the devices and the network. All risks need to be mitigated for as long as the deployment lasts.