Types of IoT Cyber Risks
This blog was originally published by Agio here.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has given us loads of valuable new devices, but it’s also created a new kind of security risk for organizations. Many people don’t see the danger posed by something as simple as a smart thermostat or lightbulb. So how does the issue of cybersecurity relate to the Internet of Things? Most of these devices have poor security requirements and serve as a platform for criminals to access the wider network.
Fortunately, while the industry adapts to IoT risks and challenges, there’s plenty you can do to prevent cybersecurity issues from IoT devices.
Common Types of IoT Cyber Attacks
First, let’s take a look at the types of cyberattacks we’re working with. Common IoT attacks include:
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS): A DDoS attack occurs when a botnet — a network of computers — consistently and simultaneously requests services from a business. This extreme demand shuts the system down as it tries to serve the requests.
- Firmware exploits: Many cybercriminals use known vulnerabilities. Often, these vulnerabilities have patches available from the developer, but the user hasn’t downloaded them, leaving them open to the hack.
- Man-in-the-middle: In this type of IoT attack, the hacker intercepts the communication between two connected systems. The victim may believe they’re legitimately communicating with someone, but they’re actually leaking information to the hacker.
- Data interception: Since many IoT devices are not encrypted, attackers can snag information, such as login credentials, without needing to decrypt it.
- Physical attacks: Simply plugging a USB into an IoT device can be enough to spread malware to a network or spy on the communications.
- Brute force attacks: Just as passwords can be brute-forced, many IoT devices can be hacked with a system that generates password guesses until it gets through.
- Unauthorized access: With so many interconnected IoT devices, intrusion can lead to serious physical breaches. An IoT-enabled door lock may sound incredibly convenient until it lacks sufficient security and leads to an office break-in.
- Ransomware: Ransomware blocks access to a system until the hacker is paid. IoT devices can grant access to the larger system or be locked themselves.
- Radio frequency jamming: By interfering with radio signals, hackers can prevent IoT devices from communicating.
Common IoT Cyber Risks
These kinds of attacks aren’t limited to IoT devices, but there are a few factors that make them — and businesses that use them — much more susceptible to cyberattacks. Below are some common IoT problems and solutions that can help.
Poor Data Protection
IoT devices create a bridge between a secure network and insecure devices. When compromised, they can cause leaked information or unauthorized access. This is due to the very nature of the devices. Often, they’re too low-powered to support necessary encryption, and they usually grant access to shared networks. They also rely on interfaces that create more opportunities for a breach. An IoT device might, for example, be controlled by an app or website that lacks a secure login.
Strong authentication measures and digital certificates can help, especially since there are no consistent security requirements across the industry. Devices with strong encryption can also offer greater security.
Poor Password Protection
Most of the classic risks associated with bad passwords carry over to IoT devices. Botnets can often guess simple passwords. Some strategies that tend to improve credentialing for IoT devices include:
- Password expirations
- Account lock-outs
- Unique, complex password generation
- Multi-factor authentication
Don’t leave your system vulnerable when a patch has been released. Remember, hackers often target known vulnerabilities, so regular, automatic updates can help you apply necessary updates as soon as they come out.
Poor IoT Device Management
Many businesses don’t even know the full extent of IoT devices touching their network. These devices that IT doesn’t know about are called shadow IoT devices. Aside from clear security risks, they could also pose compliance violations.
When you look outside of the organization, the numbers are even more concerning. Just 37% of businesses in a 2020 IoT study tracked third-party IoT exposures. Consider the Target data breach from 2013, in which a third-party vendor’s stolen credentials led to over 41 million cards being compromised. Poor third-party IoT practices could link you up to less secure networks.
IoT Skill Gaps
Another issue with IoT devices is that many users don’t fully understand them. Employees often don’t know how to use devices securely, protect their information, or understand the risk of IoT. Robust training can help employees avoid the security and privacy issues in IoT devices.
Attack Surface Areas
Part of the reason IoT devices are so vulnerable is that there are a few different ways that hackers can enter:
- Hardware: The device itself has different components like firmware, a physical interface, and internal memory. Attackers can initiate hacks on any part of the device, including out-of-date hardware and firmware updates.
- Communication channels: Hackers can also target the channels that link up IoT components. The protocols that organize IoT systems can have their own set of security issues and fall to other types of network attacks like DDoS.
- Applications and software: Another method of compromising IoT devices is to go after vulnerabilities in applications and software used with IoT devices.
New IoT Threats in 2021
Cybersecurity is always evolving, and IoT is no exception. Designs with poor security make IoT devices susceptible to being compromised, but modern tech is making hacks look a little different. Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting better and better at mimicking human behavior. It can be used for more robust data processing or repetitive attacks.
Another fast-moving technology is deepfake photos and videos. Hackers can create false voices, images, or videos to take advantage of IoT devices. They could use a doctored video to bypass security requirements or create a fake voice to issue commands. While these kinds of attacks take some work, many hackers are “specializing” in different areas to work more effectively and take on specific targets.
Addressing IoT Security Issues
Some possible solutions for preventing IoT problems include:
- An effective IoT device management program
- Remote access security
- Abnormality detection
- Private networks
- An International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) lock
- Network-based firewalls
- Encrypted data
- Functionality restrictions and isolations
The best way to get a comprehensive IoT solution that addresses your company’s unique qualities is to work with professionals. Partner with someone who has a strong track record of quality service and experience in your line of work.
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