The Internet of Things (IoT) is an inalienable element of business processes and corporate infrastructures these days. Despite the ubiquity of smart devices across enterprise and industrial networks, IoT security often leaves much to be desired. This article will shed light on the ways to protect those small but already irreplaceable connected entities.
What is IoT, and how to fortify it?
There are different interpretations of what IoT devices are. Generally speaking, these are appliances that can transmit, receive, and process data and run some kind of an operating system. The commonplace IoT categories include IT infrastructure equipment, office devices and peripherals, knowledge automation, industrial and medical systems, and personal gadgets.
How to ensure the security of IoT devices while keeping them affordable? Most analysts think manufacturers should develop tools that significantly reduce the cost of implementing security features during the design and production stages.
Strong demand for such instruments is already making itself felt across the developer community. It reflects the needs of users, primarily corporate customers because IoT is increasingly used in various industry sectors.
The line between intelligent devices for business and home use is blurred. For instance, the same smart light bulb can be installed in an apartment and industrial premises. At the same time, the level of risk at the corporate level is much higher, and therefore IoT can be subject to security requirements that apply to critical infrastructure.
IoT security technologies
Let us dwell on the technologies that are leveraged to secure IoT devices. What problems and challenges do manufacturers and customers encounter in this area? What are the applicable solutions? What are the most promising approaches to IoT security?
Since there are numerous manufacturers and categories of IoT equipment, each device has unique behavioral characteristics that make it easily identifiable. To ensure a proper level of security, it’s important to understand what devices are being used on the network, segment the infrastructure to limit the interaction of IoT devices with potentially more vulnerable parts of the network, and use special gateways to control the traffic traveling between this electronic gear and the cloud.
A fundamental problem in protecting IoT devices is the inability to equip them with extra security features. Therefore, the most effective mechanism boils down to monitoring the traffic sent and received by a device, which allows you to identify the moment of compromise. Multiple unsuccessful login attempts are a good example of such a red flag. However, if the device does not exchange data with the cloud but instead transfers it to an IoT gateway, this kind of monitoring might be difficult.
The Internet of Things is so diverse that approaches to securing different devices can vary significantly. In some cases, security tools can be used both at the protocol and the device level. The hardware must support secure data transmission standards and be able to reliably store the keys required to do so. Consequently, the basic concept of IoT security is to protect both the device itself and its communications.
One of the biggest challenges inhibiting the evolution of IoT security is the lack of demand from regular users. The reluctance to pay for security often stems from a scarce understanding of how protected, or unprotected, a particular device is.
Best practices for protecting IoT devices
The process of designing and using IoT devices should be aligned with a comprehensive security strategy. From an enterprise perspective, this tactic is one of the prerequisites for building a robust digital posture. Although this is undoubtedly a reasonable train of thought, it is somewhat abstract. Any organization that is planning to use IoT devices today will run into numerous challenges. A more hands-on approach to this issue should include, among other things, the following steps:
- Reflecting the IoT threat model in the company’s information security policy.
- Taking the lifecycle of smart things into account, which includes the decommissioning of devices that are no longer supported by vendors.
- Treating the multitude of IoT devices as a special segment of the network.
Many experts believe that the top-down approach to security, where regulators dictate the rules and standards, is ineffective. Instead, security requirements should be dictated by consumers and fit the context of industry peculiarities. In this regard, the IoT security market is heading in the right direction. Nevertheless, the role of regulators should not be underestimated, as they set high-level standards that create a roadmap for frictionless implementation of the technology.
Over the past few years, cyber incidents have become one of the top threats to businesses. It comes as no surprise that companies actively look for security providers that will help step up their defenses. The choice depends on the specific company, its needs, and key risks.
If an organization is building an IoT system from scratch, its executives can turn to a security vendor to suggest an optimal protection system for the existing infrastructure. If the company primarily seeks to avoid regulatory penalties, then compliance with the law is the top criterion to consider.
Market trends and predictions
As businesses mature in terms of protecting their IoT environments, the security of these devices will be improving as well. Customers are increasingly aware of the risks in this realm, and therefore manufacturers will have to offer more secure devices down the line.
The booming Internet of Things makes it relatively easy for vendors to differentiate themselves from competitors by equipping their devices with a unique set of features. At the same time, the functional filling of different devices with different capabilities may overlap in many ways. IoT, like other modern technologies, will allow companies to find new niches and get new business opportunities.
It is also necessary to educate users about the security nuances of this ecosystem. This could eventually have a significant impact on the home IoT market. However, smart home security will most likely remain a low-priority issue in the next few years. This is due to the immaturity of the market and its high growth rate. For businesses, IoT is inherently associated with malware risks, but the silver lining is that it helps achieve impressive results in the shortest possible time.
It is time to take it seriously
The home IoT market does not feel the end user’s need for security at this point. It is not even because of consumers’ lack of vigilance, but because of their low awareness. Manufacturers are guided primarily by economic motives and are slow to add security features that will make their devices more expensive.
The situation is better at the enterprise level, but there is still much room for improvement. Despite rigid regulations that apply to IoT, some customers do not know how to properly secure a large number of disparate devices. To take the leap, they should change their mindset. A video surveillance camera or some other IoT device that the manufacturer does not support anymore must be replaced with a new one, even if its characteristics still meet the company’s requirements.