I might be dating myself here, but do you remember the Jetsons? The cartoon featured a modern family living in a super-connected world. George and his family lived in a smart home where Rosie, the robot, handled all the chores, and life was comfortable due to the Internet of Things.
Well, the future is now, so they say. Our daily experiences are like what happened in Orbit City. Everything is connected in the home and the office, making the sharing of data lightning-fast. However, that data is highly susceptible to hacking, something not talked about on the show.
Today’s businesses are just as connected and susceptible to data breaches. Let’s dive into IoT security challenges and how to mitigate them so we don’t get flak from Cosmo Spacely or your boss!
What are Internet of Things Devices?
The Internet of Things isn’t a new concept; the term IoT was coined in 1999. However, the first example of an IoT device can be traced back to the early 1980s. Local programmers near Carnegie Mellon used the Internet to connect to a Coca-Cola machine to find out if drinks were available and cold before walking over to buy a soda.
A lot has changed since the 80’s and 90’s. IoT has grown and matured to become a part of our everyday life. We have smart homes, smart offices, smart devices. Now, everything from phones, airplane engines, medical devices, manufacturing machines, and even the printer in your corporate office is connected to the Cloud.
All smart devices have hardware sensors that collect data. Thanks to the Internet and Cloud technology, these sensors can easily share this data via the Cloud to be integrated with software. The software can then analyze and share the data with an end-user via an app or website. The challenge is that this data transfer is easily hackable, so your office printer can become the entry point of a data breach.
What are the 5 challenges of IoT?
As it relates to your business, IoT security should be taken seriously. Imagine the frustration of experiencing a data breach through your office printer when it can be easily avoided. With that said, let’s look at the most common IoT security challenges.
Software and Firmware Vulnerabilities
One of the easiest ways to allow hackers to access your Internet of Things devices is by not running updates and patches. Cybercriminals will seek these out using tools like the Shodan Search Engine, which allows them to target insecure devices.
Suppose you are not using secure encryption and authentication methods. In that case, hackers can use man-in-the-middle attacks to take control of smart devices. This becomes problematic when all devices are connected to the same network, as it only takes access to one device for all unisolated devices to be affected.
Data Leaks from IoT Systems
Since all data is transferred and stored in the Cloud, data leaks are possible from both IoT devices and the cloud environment they’re connected to, and this includes any third-party vendors you might work with. (More on that later).
When malware is injected into Internet of Things devices, hackers can change its functionality, collect personal data, and even launch other attacks.
Outside of MITM attacks and malware, IoT devices are susceptible to Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks, Denial-of-Sleep (DoSL) Attacks, Device Spoofing, Physical Intrusion, and Application-based Attacks.
Examples of IoT Security Breaches
Regarding the data leaks from IoT systems, let’s talk about some modern examples of security breaches that might make you wonder if these smart devices are worth it.
In 2023, Target hired a third-party HVAC vendor to install IoT devices to monitor energy consumption within the retailer’s physical locations. Unfortunately, the HVAC vendor didn’t have secure devices, and hackers could access the Target IT environment via those devices to steal thousands of customers’ credit card information.
Another example comes from Telsa. Since the car is a giant IoT device, it can receive new features and safety updates via the Cloud. How convenient! But in 2020, Belgian researchers could ethically hack into Tesla Model X SUVs through a Bluetooth-connected key fob. It took only minutes!
Best Practices for Ensuring the Security of IoT Systems
If you’re thinking, well, those are big brands and companies. That sort of breach won’t happen to me and my business. Unfortunately, the stats show hackers highly target SMBs. Here are some best practices to help keep your office printer from becoming a gateway to your client’s sensitive data.
- Keep up to date with device and software updates
- Change default passwords on IoT devices
- Use strong passwords for all devices and your Wi-Fi network
- Change your router’s name
- Use a strong Wi-Fi encryption method
- Set up a guest network
- Check the privacy settings for your Internet of Things devices
- Keep track of device available features and turn off the unused features
- Enable MFA
- Understand what IoT devices are on your network
- Be careful when using public Wi-Fi
Are IoT Devices Vulnerable to Security Issues?
The short answer to this question is yes, IoT devices are vulnerable to security issues. We’ve pointed out those flaws above. However, we’ve also outlined best practices to keep your IT environment safer. Your company must address IoT security challenges as the world becomes increasingly more connected.
Beyond following the best practices, your business will want to include IoT security challenges within your overall cybersecurity plan. This plan should consist of an inventory of all the third parties you work with so you don’t find yourself in a position like Target.
Finally, we can’t stress this enough: cybersecurity awareness and training for your employees is crucial, especially when creating strong passwords, using MFA, and understanding phishing attacks. Businesses are increasingly relying on smart devices and the Cloud. Suppose we want to have a seamless experience like that of Orbit City. In that case, we must take Internet of Things security seriously.
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