The Challenge of Securing IoT Devices (And Strategies For Success)

iot device

One of the catchphrases we hear so much about these days is the “Internet of Things,” also known as IoT. The products that comprise the vast and ever-growing network of devices are now part of our digital lives. Although many provide conveniences we don’t want to set aside, the challenges of securing IoT devices are significant. Securing IoT devices better protects our personal identity and business data. That’s why it’s in everyone’s best interest to know what they are, understand IoT device security issues, and implement success strategies.

What are IoT Devices?

It’s important to understand that the wall between business computers and personal devices crumbled long ago. Technology-driven products enjoy Wi-Fi connectivity and, like enterprise-grade computers, can sync with an organization’s network and digital assets.

Items such as smartphones, iPads, and laptops are obvious IoT devices we routinely use to check bank accounts, credit card balances, email, or tap into the company network. But in terms of IoT device security vulnerabilities, there's another level of seemingly idle technology that includes the following.

  • Smart Thermostats
  • Echo Dots
  • Medical Equipment
  • Smartwatches & Wearables
  • Radio Frequency Identification Clothing
  • Home Appliances

In fact, any product that has sensors or gathers data counts toward the IoT. In 2020, the number of IoT devices hovered around 15.1 billion globally. That number is expected to exceed 29 billion by the decade's end.

How are IoT Devices Being Used in Industry?

The sectors utilizing the greatest portion of IoT devices in a straightforward fashion are reaping their cost-effective and efficient benefits. That makes them attractive devices that also improve customer satisfaction and drive profitability. These are examples of how sometimes secure IoT devices are being deployed.

  • Healthcare: IoT devices allow healthcare professionals to gather real-time information about patients. Wearables monitor heart rates, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and other vital signs. The internet-connected device transmits this information, triggering warning sign alerts.
  • Manufacturing: The wide use of sensors in manufacturing has dramatically enhanced productivity. They detect potential equipment breakdowns and can be set to notify technicians when items need maintenance, repair, or replacement. Forward-facing data helps plants avoid machinery breakdowns and lost productivity.
  • Retail Outlets: Typically used to track customer behavior and inventory levels, IoT devices help maximize store layouts and designs. In this sector, they deliver critical information about product placement and profitability.

It may come as something of a surprise, but much of the global supply chain is synced together through IoT devices. Shippers and receivers can now log into a device and know precisely where their goods and materials are located. Much of that information is due to seemingly innocuous sensors.

Are IoT Devices Secure?

The elephant in the room is: Are IoT Devices Secure? Although the answer depends on whether individual items are being appropriately vetted and used with a cybersecurity program in mind, the statistics paint a dark forecast. In 2018, there were a reported 32.7 million IoT-based hacks. That number skyrocketed to 112.29 million in 2022 and keeps climbing rapidly. These are ways IoT device security has largely faltered.

  • Increases Attack Surfaces
  • Lacks Secure Hardware
  • Data Transfers Not Encrypted
  • Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks
  • Weak or Default Password Usage

A Belgian cybersecurity professional reportedly hacked a Tesla Model X in under two minutes through a Bluetooth vulnerability in 2020. The cybersecurity gap created by the IoT device allowed hackers to remotely bypass the EV’s security systems. Are IoT devices secure? Many are not.

How to Secure IoT Devices

The fact that IoT devices have become a cybersecurity liability doesn’t mean your organization has to stop using them. What you need are secure IoT devices. By implementing success strategies such as the following, you can harden your cybersecurity posture and reap the benefits of IoT technology.

  • Network Segmentation: By dividing your network, you can reduce the ability of hackers to impact the entire organization in the event of a breach. Strategies such as segmentation also help restoration and recovery efforts.
  • Zero Trust: Limiting each profile to only programs and information needed for that person to perform their job also restricts unauthorized users. A zero trust policy, thus, shackles hackers who may have exploited an IoT vulnerability.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Ranked among the simplest and most effective cybersecurity defenses, multi-factor authentication requires people to input their username, password, and then get a secure code. The code is typically sent to a secondary device, out of a hacker’s reach.
  • Update Passwords: The default passwords of IoT devices too often go unchanged. This basic step can prevent a costly data breach.
  • Monitoring: Adding IoT devices to your cybersecurity monitoring program provides advanced warnings about suspicious activity in real-time.

Securing IoT devices can greatly reduce a hacker’s ability to penetrate your network and steal sensitive and valuable digital assets. The first step to truly securing your business involves having a risk assessment performed.

What a Cybersecurity Consultant Can Do for Your IoT Security

At CyberTeam, our managed IT and cybersecurity consulting experts have the experience and technology to protect your company from IoT-driven data breaches. We start by conducting a risk assessment to gain a clear understanding of your system’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Schedule a risk assessment with us and let’s get the process started.

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