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7 IoT Security Issues And How To Protect Your Solution

IoT security issues
There could be 21.5 billion actively connected IoT devices by 2025

The global Internet of Things market was worth $190 billion in 2018. By 2026, it will be valued at $1.11 trillion!

Also, in 2020 there will be 9.9 billion actively connected Internet of Things units. This number may rise to 21.5 billion in 2025.

It is evident that the Internet of Things (IoT) market is growing fast. This places a huge emphasis on the importance of reliable security measures in these devices.

In this article, we will touch upon 7 biggest IoT security issues currently jeopardizing these systems everywhere.

We will also address:

  • The sources and origins of these IoT vulnerabilities
  • Tips and solutions for protecting IoT devices
  • Advances we could see in the future regarding IoT security

Let’s get right to it!

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The Biggest IoT Security Challenges And Their Sources

The era of the Internet of Things has brought new ways in which we can interact with the internet: it’s no longer just us, humans, using it – machines do, too. And they do it without our intervention or guidance.

Devices communicate with one another via the internet. For instance, a thermostat is receiving info about room temperature and adjusts it accordingly. The lighting system is informed about the time of day and amount of light outside via sensors which turns the lights on and off automatically. All through continuous communication with the internet.

IoT is attractive and this is what drives consumers to adopt it in droves, even before they are ready and even before the devices themselves are fully equipped with safety standards.

Because this technology is not mature yet, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome – both by manufacturers and users. They all chiefly arise from:

  • Lack of user knowledge 
  • Inconsistent production standards
  • Poor maintenance and updates

All of these general categories of challenges contain more specific IoT issues and vulnerabilities. Let us now address the most threatening ones. 

Top 7 Internet Of Things Security Issues

From hijacking of IoT devices over potential home invasions to dangers of rogue devices, these are the 7 most serious internet of things security concerns.

1. Hijacking Of IoT Devices And Ransomware

Internet of Things devices that have weak security measures can become a target of ransomware – a malware that encrypts and blocks access to users’ sensitive files.

The real trouble begins when a hacker that infected the device with malware demands ransom money if a victim wants to see their files unlocked.

It sounds very dystopian, but it’s a reality nonetheless – thankfully, a rare reality as of yet. However, this is becoming an increasing trend in the underground hacker realm.

This security threat could put wearable technology, healthcare trackers and smart homes in great risk. It’s a distressing thought to think of a house that is locked down or a smart vehicle that doesn’t start until the ransom is paid. 

Ransomware attacks could not only lock users out of IoT devices and related platforms, but disable devices altogether and steal users’ data.

The rapid rise of a global number of IoT devices will make this particular IoT security issue unpredictable in the sense of possible permutations. However, the good news is that, because the majority of IoT information is stored in the cloud, this malware may not have valuable data to lock.

Lack of tests and updates is one of challenges
Some IoT device manufacturers don’t provide necessary tests and software updates

2. Insufficient Testing And Lack Of Updates

One of the security issues with IoT devices is that companies producing them are often too careless when it comes to proper testing and providing timely software updates.

This is a big problem because consumers tend to believe manufacturers and their judgment and are often convinced that they have taken all the measures to provide safety failures.

But, due to the fast-paced growth of Internet of Things market, a lot of manufacturers are in a hurry to create and release their products without giving testing much thought.

Sometimes, the only updates on offer are for shorter time periods. And since hyperproduction of devices is also a reality, they may abandon these updates to focus instead on new generation of devices and urging people to switch to them.

As a result, your IoT device with outdated software may be exposed to countless malware and hacker attacks and other breaches of security.

There is even another, scary possibility: during an update, there might be downtime when a device sends its info to the cloud. During this prolonged period and if your connection is nonencrypted, the update files may be unprotected which opens the doors to hackers.

Regular automatic updates are of utmost importance for avoiding IoT security issues. It is manufacturer’s duty to update the device’s software as soon as vulnerabilities are exposed and certain malware attacks become widespread.

3. Home Invasions

Possibly the most distressing scenario of IoT security issues are the home intrusions or home invasions because they blur the line between the virtual and physical world and place users in a very real, tangible danger.

Internet of Things devices are becoming part and parcel of a rising number of homes, which gave birth to the concept of “smart homes”. 

This home automation comes with a big threat in that unsafe devices, with poor defense mechanisms, could broadcast IP addresses. The so-called Shodan searches may make it possible for hackers to locate the address of the device user.

The possibilities of this abuse are apparent and can even go so far as the user’s address reaching criminal circles.

The way to prevent this IoT security breach from happening is by connecting through VPNs and securing your login credentials – which we will discuss later in the article.

4.IoT-Driven Financial Crime

Electronic payment companies that deploy Internet of Things may expect a surge in financial crime and synthetic identity fraud coming.

Some of these companies experiment with artificial intelligence and machine learning, while many of them will soon need to recognize the importance of integrating information on different business levels.

This is to ensure the timely detection of fraud patterns and its complex signals using deep learning.

All financial companies will face the challenge of launching these new models because they experience compliance and operational issues. That is, unless they improve model lifecycle and risk management strategies that include a rising threat of IoT security breaches. 

5. Remote Smart Vehicle Access

An IoT security challenge that is close to home invasion is the hijack of so-called smart vehicles, which are more and more an inevitability on roads thanks to the implementation of Internet of Things in cars.

Vulnerable IoT devices can pave the way for great risks such as remote hijack of your smart car’s access. This can compromise their autonomous capabilities such as self-driving and detection of other vehicles.

These malicious intrusions are, obviously, a huge threat to public safety as they can cause accidents. Also, remote vehicle access can be a subject to ransomware, as a hacker may demand a fee for unlocking the car or enabling its engine. 

Besides IoT device manufacturers that are working on solving this security breach issue, car manufacturers are also paying attention to it.

Microsoft and Ford Motor have developed an infotainment system that has proven vulnerable and open to these attacks. Luckily, the developers had enough time to address these attacks appropriately as they were mostly happening in a time before widespread wireless networks.

Remote vehicle access is a big vulnerability
Remote smart vehicle access is a very dangerous IoT security issue

6. Rogue And Counterfeit IoT Devices

A significant IoT security challenge is closing the perimeter and managing all single user’s devices. The sharp rise of Internet of Things devices’ popularity and production volume brings a problem of home networks to the table. 

Without any authorization, users are installing rogue and counterfeit IoT devices in secured networks. These units either replace the original ones or integrate into the network to collect confidential info and data, breaking the network perimeter.

These devices can turn into rogue access points, video cameras, thermostats and other types of devices to steal communication data without the user’s knowledge.

7. Lack Of User Awareness Regarding Internet Of Things Security

Because Internet of Things is such new technology, its users are still getting used to its quirks and traits.

People have largely mastered their own security in domains of phishing, virus and malware attacks on their computers and internet scams. They have learned how to secure their WiFi networks and how to protect their credit cards online.

But, when it comes to IoT security issues, they too can be attributed to users’ lack of education and neglect, as much as they are upon the manufacturer’s shoulders.

This user ignorance and lack of awareness is possibly the biggest Internet of Things security concern because it can put everyone at risk: the users themselves as well as those that are connected in one way or another with their own IoT units.

Social engineering attacks capitalize on this simple fact that a human factor is the easiest to bypass by targeting humans using Internet of Things.

A particularly severe example of such abuse of unprepared human factor was the devastating 2010 attack against a nuclear facility in Iran. The target was IoT device called programmable logic controller and it only took one worker to plug in a USB flash drive into one of the internal computers to disrupt the isolation of internal network from the public one, which made it vulnerable to attack.

These are 5 tips to solve internet of things security issues
Disabling plug & play feature is one way of improving the security of your IoT device

5 Ways To Solve IoT Vulnerabilities And Protect Your IoT Device

With this final, user-related IoT security issue in mind in particular, we will now touch upon some effective ways how you, as an IoT user, can prevent security breaches from happening.

1. Change Passwords Often And Make Them Strong

Changing passwords, on a regular basis, on internet accounts, computers and mobile devices is a norm nowadays. By now, it should also become a norm for Internet of Things units.

You should always do your due diligence and make sure that:

  • Each IoT device has a unique password
  • You change these passwords at least several times a year
  • Avoid common and generic passwords
  • Make these passwords very complex and tough to crack

You can rely on password managers to remember them all for you, but as that too can be hacked, a traditional method of writing passwords down on a piece of paper is your safe bet.

2. Don’t Rely On Cloud Technology

Cloud technology is very convenient for sure, but it is also a quite vulnerable emerging technology prone to attacks.

IoT manufacturers usually provide cloud storage space with every device you buy. And while it is enticing to use something that comes free of charge, consider that

  • You need an active connection to access data and files stored in the cloud
  • This connection can be hacked into while you’re accessing your cloud account

Do yourself a favor and go through privacy measures that come with your cloud account thoroughly. Also, make sure you secure your date or, even better, store your files and data locally, where they’re beyond the reach of fraudsters

3. Avoid Universal Plug & Play Features

Universal Plug & Play Feature, that a majority of IoT units have, makes it possible for multiple devices to connect with each other. This means you don’t need to configure every device on its own.

Although this provides an obvious convenience to Internet of Things ecosystem in your house or working space, be wary of that

  • Universal Plug & Play protocols use local networks for connecting
  • These networks, as we’ve seen, are quite prone to outside attacks and can be easily accessed
  • If the attack happens, it might affect multiple IoT devices by attackers accessing them remotely

Turning off the Plug & Play on Internet of Things devices would provide you peace of mind in that regard. 

4. Use Secondary Network

WiFi users often create multiple networks that include one with access restricted to themselves and their families.

This approach of making an additional network can be applied to IoT devices, as it helps to

  • Prevent unauthorized access to your private files
  • Stop any attempts of hijacking IoT units and implementing malware
  • Completely place the IoT device beyond the reach of any outside entity, protecting encrypted data

5. Update Your IoT Device Regularly

As we’ve discussed in the section about a lack of updates as one of IoT security issues, automatic updates must be in place to check for official updates by the device manufacturer.

This installs security patches on your device(s) and stops hackers from using novel ways of intruding them.

Regular IoT software updates ultimately provide:

  • Safety in knowing that your systems are updated with the latest security measures that can prevent the newest forms of attacks
  • A higher level of security for your home or office as a whole
Advances are being made in addressing iot security issues
Both manufacturers and academia are working on providing better IoT security solutions

The Future Of Internet Of Things Security: How Will IoT Evolve In 2020?

Internet of Things security concerns are the subject of research within the industry itself as well as a segment of academia that recognizes and studies the potential these systems have.

In 2020, more and more enterprises will realize the potential of IoT as the business investment will account for more than 50% of the overall IoT spend in 2020. This implies that manufacturers will need to double their efforts with cybersecurity in order to meet corporate expectations.

The average users will have to do their part too, by educating themselves and being up to speed with IoT security innovations and their importance. 

As most advances, this one too begins with organized efforts on a higher level. In March 2019, the US Congress introduced a cybersecurity bill whose purpose was to make IoT units bought by the government come with at least minimum safety measures.

Some manufacturers are already offering IoT products with embedded security. Also, wireless communication and information processing are being improved with certain optimization methods such as:

  • Convex optimization
  • Heuristic methods
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial neural networks
  • Evolutionary algorithms
  • Hybrids of AI and other optimization methods

We can also expect a formation of industry-specific fields of IoT security research that may focus and bring forth development in:

  • End-to-end system security models
  • Secure cloud computing in IoT
  • IoT design and implementation security and privacy issues
  • Prediction of attacks on IoT systems and detection of intrusion based on machine learning
  • Secure IoT systems architecture
  • Privacy of data and techniques of IoT device security

Takeaways On IoT Security Issues

The question of IoT security issues is very complex. Potential integrity breaches can come from several, mutually exclusive sources. And because this technology is practically still in its infancy, both users and manufacturers are still searching for the right solutions.

We have seen that Internet of Things security challenges can stem from

  • Malware attacks and the hijacking of devices
  • Poor user competence due to lack of awareness
  • Lack of official updates
  • Uneven standards in manufacturing
  • Rogue IoT devices

Thankfully, some measures users can resort to in order to minimize the impact of bad security are:

  • Keeping IoT network separate from the rest
  • Avoiding Plug & Play features
  • Not using cloud storage
  • Keeping IoT devices’ passwords unique and complex
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