In an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, multiple devices can be connected to the internet and each other to process data and send it over a network. But no one can discuss the IoT without considering how to keep it safe and secure. This is where the idea of IoT security comes in. IoT security is the practice of ensuring that IoT devices and connections are secure. Organizations can do this in several ways, such as keeping software up to date, using good password practice, or buying vulnerability management tools.

In this blog, we will talk in-depth about IoT security, its meaning, the challenges, and what tools can be used to protect it.

IoT security challenges

Organizations are finding it more challenging to keep devices secure as the number of connected devices grows. IoT devices are enticing targets for fraudsters because they are fraught with vulnerabilities and offer an attack surface ripe for security breaches. When managing, monitoring, and safeguarding the connected IoT settings, no matter how established an organization’s IoT network is, all confront the same difficulties.

Cyberthreats have become a significant issue for IoT systems; the need for IoT security is imminent. We have already discussed concerns about IoT security in our last blog, “Major concerns of IoT security.” IoT threats can have both virtual and physical impacts, especially in the industrial internet of things (IIoT) field, where previous cyberattacks have already demonstrated cascading effects on both devices and the stored data.

Standardization

The IoT market is rapidly expanding, and while the majority of IoT solution providers are building all components of the stack, there is a lack of consistency and standards across the services used by various IoT solutions.

Retrofitted legacy devices

Many Organizations rely on legacy equipment to function properly. Nonetheless, with rapid advances in automated and connected technologies, managing both new and old equipment simultaneously can be challenging.

Legacy devices that do not connect to the internet have little or no security. As a result, even if the additional sensors provide some level of security, the device opens new avenues for malicious parties to infiltrate the sensor.

Unauthorized firmware

Unsigned firmware on peripheral devices can expose IoT systems to attacks, allowing hackers to install stealthy and persistent malware, steal valuable data, or take control of a computer.

Devices with unsigned firmware are an easy target for malicious actors to install their firmware on and abuse it for various purposes.

Hardcoded passwords

Hardcoded passwords are risky because they are easy targets for password guessing exploits, which allow hackers and malware to hijack firmware, devices, systems, and software. The same hardcoded password, or a subset, is frequently used across all applications or devices. As a result, if a hacker knows the default password, they may be able to access all similar devices or application instances.

Unprotected and shared keys

Many IoT devices employ symmetric encryption, which employs a single key to encrypt and decrypt data. Data encryption adds an extra security layer over hardcoded or defaults passwords, but sharing and storing the encryption key introduces risk. Because a malicious party can use the key to encrypt and decrypt data, access the entire system, and share data if it intercepts it.

Weak cryptography

Encryption provides impenetrable security, but only when done correctly. The encryption strength is determined by the algorithm used to generate the public/private keys. To generate encryption keys, many IoT devices use weak algorithms that do not adhere to these standards. When this happens, it’s easier for malicious parties to determine the private key, allowing them to compromise the device.

Need of security standards

The advanced IoT devices have made their way into all industries, making it more convenient and efficient while also increasing the amount of data that is shared.

If IoT devices aren’t correctly secured, consumers, businesses, and government entities can all be at risk from cyberattacks. The manufacturer must ensure that the products they sell are as secure as possible at the point of sale. However, the importance of security measures varies naturally among businesses.

Until minimum IoT security standards and a code of practice for consumer IoT security are established and regularly updated to reflect emerging threats, we cannot assume that every IoT device is secure.

IoT devices worldwide will remain vulnerable to security breaches without industry-wide security standards and best practices.

IoT systems face numerous challenges, but these obstacles can only be overcome with a consistent and committed approach to IoT security at all process stages. Organizations must prioritize the creation of trusted device identity, data confidentiality, and the integrity of the data and firmware running on each device. These goals require critical security components such as authentication, encryption, and code signing.

Unique credentials for each device

Sending secure data is a critical function of any IoT device. To be effective, users and manufacturers should trust that the data they receive is genuine and intended for them. The best way to accomplish this goal is to provide each IoT device with unique credentials in the form of digital certificates.

Giving each device a unique digital certificate improves authentication and provides significantly more security than the current practice of using default passwords or even shared keys for symmetric encryption. This is due to the high risk of password compromise and symmetric encryption keys while providing more protection than default passwords.

Code signing to validate firmware and software updates

Hackers can easily push malicious software updates to connected devices; manufacturers can mitigate the risk by requiring devices to validate the authenticity of new firmware or software before installing it.

Development teams can sign their code with a digital signature, which can be accomplished using a public/private key pair. Each connected device would need a public key corresponding to a private key held by the manufacturer’s development team. If the developers “sign” their code with the private key, any device with the public key can confirm that the update was sent from the manufacturer and that it was not modified in transit.

Organization-specific Root of Trust (RoT) map

The root of Trust (RoT) contains encryption keys and aids initial identity validation when new keys or digital certificates are issued. By implementing an organization-specific RoT, manufacturers can gain complete control over identity validation for any device or person to issue an encryption key. Instead of using a shared root and trusting third party’s trust model and operations, keeping the RoT organization-specific allows manufacturers to set their standards for identity verification to create a robust chain of trust.

Monitor and Maintain

All these initiatives necessitate ongoing lifecycle management; any static system is inherently insecure. Without proper lifecycle management, the digital certificates, key pairs, and RoT will deteriorate over time. Organizations need to map everything in use to keep an accurate inventory of what is created and required. They should monitor all certificates, keys, and the RoT to identify potential threats and to ensure quick adjustments. They should regularly maintain the security’s health by regularly updating certificates, keys, and the RoT and revoking any certificates and keys when the relevant devices are no longer in use.

The security concerns provided by IoT hardware and software must be addressed by businesses to reap the benefits of IoT devices. They must also try to safeguard their devices, networks, and data.

These processes involve appropriate discovery and classification of all IoT devices on a network, continuous tracking of device behavior, risk assessment, and segmentation of susceptible and mission-critical devices from other IoT components.