The Internet of Things is probably the most burgeoning section of the internet. A connected network today associates a growing number and variety of smart devices like computers, smartphones, smart home appliances, automation tools, and more. But with growth also comes speculation and, over the past few years, IoT has found itself embroiled in controversy related to security issues.
Similar to all types of technologies out there, it has its upsides, but there are threats that accompany this technology. As manufacturers are racing to bring and maintain the latest devices and capabilities to their markets, not many of them are thinking about the security issues associated with IoT devices. In the following paragraphs, we’ll detail some of the most important IoT security threats to keep on your radar.
IoT Security Threats
1. Compromised Devices
The evolution of technology has brought with it a variety of smart devices that use similar computing powers and can be used together for various, interconnected activities. However, a compromised device – especially one connected through IoT – can not only infect itself, but others.
For example, a compromised device can be turned into an email server. According to a report by the Internet security firm Proofpoint, a smart refrigerator was used to send thousands of spam emails without its owner ever realizing the contraption was being compromised. Similarly, most of these smart, IoT-connected devices are capable of being turned into email servers for the purpose of sending mass spam resulting in overloaded networks and overwhelmed email services.
2. Privacy Leaks
Skilled hackers can wreak havoc by identifying an unsecured IoT device and jumping onto a leaked internet protocol (IP) address.
We at ITS recommend securing IoT connections by means of implementing a virtual private networking (VPN). With a VPN, it becomes possible to encrypt all traffic through your ISP, even when you are outside of the office or your computer’s “home base”, and the same functionality isn’t far off for other IoT devices. With the right VPN, you can protect an entire network and keep your network private, thus free from hackers.
3. Unsafe Communications
Many IoT devices don’t encrypt the messages when sending them over the network (again, another reason to install and start using a VPN). This is one of the biggest IoT security challenges out there. Consumers need to ensure that communication between devices and cloud services is secure and encrypted.
Similar to a VPN, another best practice to ensure secure communication is to use transport encryption and to use standards like Transport Layer Security – a cryptographic protocol providing end-to-end communications security over networks and widely used for internet communications and online transactions. Isolating devices through the use of network segmentation also helps create a secure and private communication channel which keeps the transmitted data secure and confidential.
4. Password Pitfalls
Many companies ship devices with default usernames and passwords (think ‘admin’ and ‘1234’) and don’t remind their employees or customers to change them. Unique passwords and user account names are critical. Default passwords are one of the more common bits of knowledge criminals can use for hacking.
Weak credentials leave IoT connected devices prone to password hacking. Companies using unsafe credentials on their devices are putting their company, employees, and customers at risk of being susceptible to direct attacks and being infected through a brute-force attempt.
Ransomware has been used on networks for a long time, but with the expansion of IoT beyond the professional world, further threats are looming. Criminals have the ability to encrypt your entire network and data– holding your network, its capabilities, and sensitive information hostage — until you pay the “Ransom,” thus the name.
As for IoT connected devices outside of the office, researchers have already found out a way to install ransomware on smart thermostats (AKA home/office heating and cooling systems). What is particularly freaky about this hack is that criminals take over the devices, garnering the ability to raise or lower the temperature of a pin-pointed space until the ransom has been paid. Even more terrifying is attackers gaining control of home security systems, or smart appliances.
6. Data Theft
Hackers are always on the lookout to get their hands on data which includes hyper-personalized information like employee/customer names, addresses, credit card numbers, financial details, and more. Even when a corporation has tight IoT security, there are different attack vectors that the cybercriminals can exploit to gain access to coveted information.
One vulnerable IoT device is enough to cripple an entire network and gain access to sensitive information. If such a device is connected to a corporate network, hackers can gain access to the network and compromise all of the valuable data.
Staying Safe and Protected
IoT is definitely a game changer for consumers, governments, education, and companies and its use is only going to increase with the passage of time. Sadly, with the increased adoption of these IoT technologies, the greater the target it becomes. Knowledge is the first line of defense against such threats. So, it’s important to work with a trusted IT partner to mitigate IoT security threats and their countermeasures.
The tech solutions professionals at Information Transport Solutions, Inc. (ITS), a Uniti company, are adept at making software and technology solutions available to our clients that will make organizations safer, more profitable, and more productive. Especially when using an IoT-connected network, such steps and precautions are absolutely necessary. To learn more about how you can better protect yourself, your company and your devices from IoT security pitfalls, get in touch with us today.