Once considered a “fad,” the Internet of Things (IoT) is now here to stay. It thrives in inter-connectivity though, making it a target of malicious programs and attacks. This is especially true when combined with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. All things considered, this can create quite the security nightmare since hackers love to target weakly secured devices such as these. If such devices are connected to your corporate network, hackers can use them as a gateway into your systems.
When you stop to think about this, it’s easy to imagine how more attacks in the future will target IoT technology. The reason why this is so appealing lies in the ability to connect various devices and systems, but this also makes it very susceptible to attacks. Not only will the devices themselves be affected here, sometimes they’re also used as a backdoor for hackers or enslaved as part of a botnet. When this happens, they put sensitive information in danger of being illegally accessed or intercepted while in transit.
Understanding how all this can affect you, Global Sign says it’s also time to understand how you can protect your business from IoT threats while enjoying the benefits that IoT devices bring in terms of inter-connectivity and convenience.
Limit IoT Devices at Work
Having a BYOD policy in place doesn’t mean that your employees should be able to just bring any device they have to work and connect it to your office’s network. This is especially true when dealing with IoT wearables. They have several security vulnerabilities that can put your business in danger of breaches. This is because many of them store and transmit data without encryption or without any password or biometric authentication. They then connect to your smartphone through unsecure connections (e.g. Bluetooth, NFC), which makes them particularly vulnerable to brute-force attacks.
The main type of data that’s at risk through this wireless network security threat is your employee’s own personal information since this is what’s typically used in IoT wearables. However, there are also other dangers. For instance, in 2014 white-hat hackers exposed vulnerabilities in IoT light bulbs, exposing Wi-Fi passwords. Once a device is compromised it can probe other devices that are connected to your network, putting them at risk as well. This is why it’s important to limit the IoT devices that connect to your network.
Another option is to connect them to a separate network that can only be accessed by guests. This provides them with only limited to no access to your business’ main network. You can also do this for you and your staff’s IoT devices.
Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Strong passwords are the beginning of any good security measure. This is why it’s so important for you to encourage your employees to use strong and unique passwords, especially when connecting their devices through a Wi-Fi network. It’s grown even more important since the massive Mirai DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack in 2016 that was specifically designed to probe IoT devices with weak passwords and out-of-date versions of the Linux Kernel. This attack infected routers and IP cameras – things it then used to flood DNS provider DYN. It managed to take down many major websites (e.g. Etsy, Shopify, Twitter, Spotify) and infect 380,000 devices.
There are some great guidelines available for creating passwords today, including:
- Use a combination of alphabetical (upper and lowercase), numerical, and special characters
- Create a unique password for each device
Never Use Universal Plug and Play
Most IoT devices have universal plug and play (UPnP) features so it’s easier to connect them to your other devices. This also makes it easier for these devices to discover and connect with one another without complex configurations. However, the problem is that it also makes your devices a little too open. When this happens it’s easy for everyone to discover them – even malicious parties. You can think of this like putting out a big welcome sign for hackers, telling them you’re open for business. So, while UPnP is convenient for you, it can make you vulnerable and open to attacks. This is why you should turn it off and spend a few minutes configuring the set up yourself.
Always Update Firmware or Move to the Cloud
Even though you have security features on your device, you shouldn’t assume that doesn’t mean you will automatically be safe. Instead, you should always update your IoT devices’ firmware. The patches that are released address bugs and other security-related issues that are continually evolving. As such, when you choose to neglect these updates it becomes easier for your device’s security to fail since they’re unable to recognize any new types of attacks. To prevent this you should automate your updates. Something even better that you can do is routinely check your manufacturer’s website to see if your device has the latest versions or if you need to download the most recent one.
IoT is meant to improve and simplify how your business does things. The technology is still in its infancy, which is why there are still so many security concerns. In adopting it for your business, you really need to do your best to stay on top of everything so it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.