What Is Internet of Things (IoT) Security?

Justyna Obara
Cybersecurity Content Writer
iot security

According to Statista, customers across the globe spent $805 billion on Internet of Things solutions in 2023. However, the rapid growth of smart devices and interconnected systems could provide hackers with more ways to access data if your IoT device's security issues aren’t addressed. This blog post will examine IoT security and how to ward off cyberattacks.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing number of devices and appliances connected to a local network or the Internet. IoT devices can include your smartphone, smart fridge, or other devices that communicate and work together across a network. Although the term itself was first coined in 1999, IoT has increasingly become a significant part of our day-to-day life.

What is IoT security?

IoT security is the safeguarding of connected devices and networks. IoT devices aren’t just restricted to personal use – a growing number of smart devices and systems are entering the workplace. For example, companies can install heat and temperature controls, smart blinds, and seating planners to help optimize resources in an office environment.

The benefit of these devices syncing and working together is they regularly share and communicate data to improve their functionality. However, if all your devices are interconnected, access to one device could allow bad actors to exploit and breach your entire network. IoT network security is paramount to prevent exploiting vulnerabilities that could lead to cyberattacks.

Why is IoT security important?

The recent influx of IoT devices has provided another avenue for hackers to exploit in recent years. IoT devices can be particularly vulnerable to security breaches. At the end of 2021, a study concluded that up to 82% of healthcare organizations experienced an IoT cyberattack over 18 months. There are often security oversights regarding the IoT and its apps. For example, a German teenager hacked Tesla vehicles’ app component not that long ago. While he couldn't access the driving functions like steering or brakes, he could still exploit other potentially dangerous features like unlocking doors, playing music at max volume, and flashing lights. The more IoT devices become common, the more widespread their security threats will become.

Which industries need IoT security?

Smart devices have made their way into almost every part of our lives. However, some industries rely more heavily on IoT technology than others and require additional security due to its strategic meaning for the nations' and communities’ welfare.

  • Healthcare

Patient monitoring, advanced medical equipment, administering treatments and vaccines: Medical services increasingly rely on smart devices. Cynerio and Ponemon's Study proves that healthcare is especially vulnerable to cyber attacks involving the Internet of Things devices as they constitute 88% of all hospital data breaches. More than half of hospitals in the US have experienced an attack on their smart devices between 2020 and 2022. The damage that cybercriminals can cause in healthcare is horrifying — the mortality rate increased in 24% of the attacked hospitals.

  • Energy and Utilities

Internet of Things devices are widely used in the energy and utilities sector for smart grid management, optimizing energy consumption, and remote monitoring of infrastructure. Monitoring devices such as smart meters, security cameras, and temperature/fire/chemical leak controls are prime targets for cybercriminals. Protecting energy infrastructure is essential to prevent disruptions to critical services, including electricity, heating, traffic control, or medical care.

  • Manufacturing

It’s hard to imagine a modern factory without Internet of Things solutions enabling process automation, supply chain management, and predictive maintenance. The endless possibilities that smart devices present to this sector can be overshadowed by the costs of cyberattacks, as hackers often target factories to demand ransom.

  • Logistics

IoT devices are entering the logistics industry through fleet, vessel, and traffic management systems. Self-driving vehicles are becoming commonplace in major cities. Also, the railway relies on Internet of Things devices for traffic planning and power supply management. Hacking an IoT-reliant logistics system could cause chaos on highways or railroads.

  • Supply Chain

In the supply chain industry, connected devices are used for tracking, monitoring, and managing goods throughout transportation. The security risk created by IoT tools used in day-to-day operations grows with the number of vendors a company cooperates with. Supply chain attacks often target third-party partners or suppliers to access the company’s assets.

IoT security challenges

While smart devices introduce plenty of opportunities and convenience to our lives, they also open up the possibility of cyberattacks. Industries such as healthcare and manufacturing increasingly rely on IoT devices, exposing unprepared organizations to cyberattacks. Here are some of the threats IoT devices are susceptible to:

  • Malware: Because cybersecurity isn’t the primary concern of many smart devices, hackers don’t require advanced malicious software to attack. Rudimentary malware can steal data and cause damage to networks and devices. Mirai is used to infect security cameras, scan the network for the IP address of IoT devices, and connect. This allows hackers to launch significant DDoS attacks.

  • Credential-based attacks: Using stolen login IDs and passwords is a popular method for hackers because many people’s logins are already floating around online thanks to massive data leaks such as Collection #1. Once a business’s smart device’s application layer is breached, hackers can access any device connected to the network.

  • Data theft and exposure: Adding IoT devices to your home or office will introduce more potential entry points for hackers to access data. This increases the risk of personal information being stolen and exposed on the internet. A good example of this is when hackers used Amazon’s Alexa to issue self-commands allowing the attackers to control smart lights, buy items on Amazon, and tamper with calendars.

  • Incorrect device management and configuration: Similar to the above, the more devices and accounts you add, the greater the chance of reusing passwords and usernames. Companies often ship IoT devices with default logins that should be changed during their setup. However, a survey of CIOs and IT managers showed that almost 50% of them allowed IoT devices onto their corporate network without changing the default passwords.

  • Complex ecosystem and smart device diversity: An office’s IoT ecosystem can quickly become a juggernaut of interconnected devices. These devices have many moving parts that operate at different levels. Overseeing and managing your wide array of IoT devices will help you prevent IoT attacks.

  • Not following security by design: Cybersecurity is generally not the main focus of many IoT devices, often taking a backseat to its functionality. Your office’s IoT security could be at risk because specific devices may have cybersecurity weaknesses that need to receive software updates. There’s also the possibility that any security features may be obsolete if the product is discontinued and no longer supported by its developer.

How to secure IoT devices

The good news is that maintaining an overall good cybersecurity policy for your company will help safeguard your IoT devices. Training your staff with cybersecurity best practices and appointing specific admin roles to deal with the security of IoT devices in your organization are all methods for securing your business from IoT threats.

  • Regularly updating and checking IoT devices for patches: By staying up to date with your IoT devices’ firmware, you’re better equipped to protect your workplace from ever-evolving cyber threats. While people regularly update their computers and phones, they may forget to update their IoT devices.

  • Monitoring device behavior: By knowing your device’s base behavior and aspects such as its performance or regular network activity, you can recognize irregular behavior and intervene if you notice any deviations to your device’s performance.

  • Using strong and unique passwords: Using a password manager for your organization helps secure your IoT data security. NordPass Business creates unique, complex passwords. Additionally, it regularly reminds you to update passwords if they’re old, reused, or weak.

  • Checking app permissions for IoT devices: If an IoT device comes with an app, it is better to review the permissions it’s requesting before allowing access to your device or network. You shouldn’t grant apps more permissions than are strictly necessary.

  • Applying network segmentation and network security: Your workplace should have a way to monitor network activity and any devices connected to it. Tracking this information will help you recognize irregular internet traffic and act as an additional layer of security. This means that if one device is affected by an attack, it won’t be passed on to your other devices.

  • Considering additional security solutions and tools: To secure the app component of IoT devices, consider only accessing the app via a VPN. Doing so will encrypt the data transferred and give your network an extra layer of security.

  • Using multi-factor authentication (MFA): The more layers of security (authentication factors) smart devices used in your workplace have, the safer your company assets are. Incorporating additional factors to authenticate the user, such as biometric data or the user’s geolocation, makes your IoT devices less vulnerable to cyber attacks.

  • Applying Cloud IoT Security: Many IoT applications leverage cloud computing for storing, processing, and analyzing data. Therefore, it's essential to implement security strategies, procedures, and tools that encompass cloud security if your organization utilizes smart devices.

How NordPass Business boosts your IoT security

The surge of IoT devices in private and professional settings provides more potential routes for hackers to steal valuable data and information. These devices and networks are more intertwined than ever, meaning cybersecurity for IoT shouldn’t be ignored. For companies working with large amounts of data, NordPass Enterprise is the cybersecurity solution you’re looking for. With NordPass, you can securely store and share login credentials for all your accounts and generate strong, unique logins in no time. NordPass allows you and your colleagues to quickly access important office notes (alarm PINs, WiFi passwords, and recovery codes) in one place.

Try NordPass Business’ free 14-day trial and discover how a business password manager can make corporate data security a smooth experience.

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