6 Vital Steps to Enhancing IoT Security

Photo of Priya Khaira-Hanks by Priya Khaira-Hanks

You may have heard the term ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT, referred to with increasing frequency in technology and business circles. It is cited more and more frequently as key in the future of computing, the workplace, consumer technology, travel and more.

But what do we mean when we say Internet of Things – and what implications does it have when it comes to security?

What is Meant by Internet of Things (IoT)?

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) refers to every object connected to the internet. These connected sensors, hardware, software, and other technologies can collect and share data over a wireless network without the need for human intervention.

IoT systems use their devices to gather data and enable automated decisions and calculated predictions. This helps organizations respond more efficiently to operational demands. The IoT embeds IT into various devices to use and control them.

Therefore, there are huge benefits available to the businesses adopting IoT technology. This is something many leaders are realizing: around a quarter of businesses were using IoT technologies in 2019 according to management consulting firm McKinsey, who also predicted this number to rise to 43 billion by 2023.

Why Does IoT Come With A Risk Factor?

The catch is that connecting to the IoT makes your organization’s technology vulnerable and notoriously insecure. IoT security should therefore be a major part of your cybersecurity strategy. This is of utmost importance as any security breach could cost millions of dollars in revenue and lead to a loss of consumer trust.

Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerable areas where they can gain entry. Even the smallest devices, processing the most ostensibly insignificant information, can compromise the whole system.

Providing IoT security is a major challenge because of the number of devices that are connected. That being said, the IoT has real potential to drive change and is a truly remarkable advance in technology.

As McKinsey’s study attests to, current projections forecast explosive growth in the number of IoT devices and their applications. That makes IoT security more important than ever, as vulnerability could lead to sensitive data being compromised and weaponized against you and your business partners.

Source: Pixabay

To protect your data from unauthorized access and protect users, here are six steps to enhance your IoT security. 

1.   Risk Assessment

Securing the IoT requires a multifaceted approach. The risk management considerations for your project should include identifying all IoT-related assets. Consider how a security breach would affect your business. You need to scrutinize the risk matrix of all devices and implement relevant security controls that correspond to the level of uncertainty.

Create a response plan that includes policies and processes that will be followed in the event your IoT is compromised. You could consider a crisis response simulation to improve your ability to respond to any future cybersecurity attack. 

Business continuity should be an important consideration in simulations and all your staff should be trained to continue day-to-day activities in case of a security breach where they are forced to work offline.

A cyber resilient organization should be able to prevent a security breach but also spring back from it immediately. Your disaster recovery objectives should be identified and met to attain certain standards of cyber resilience.

2.   Create a Separate Network for IoT Devices

For IoT apparatus like smart home devices, thermostats, and lighting controls, it’s wise to connect them to their own network. Hackers cannot come through them if they’re not connected to a wide local area network (WLAN). 

If you restrict the interaction of devices to the main network, you can ensure critical files are protected as these devices will not have access to them.

A segregated network can be managed from a centralized location, and it’s a good idea to invest in the best remote IT support software and device access management tools. Route the traffic to these devices through a firewall for an added barrier against unauthorized access.

Source: Pixabay

3.   Access Management

User access control and the right authentication procedures add some of the securest protection. Limit who can access your IoT network and monitor logins. As user-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions grow, there’s an increased need to strengthen identity management and assertions.

Instead of the standard username and password authentication process, consider two-factor authentication to make your network more secure. Hardware-backed security credentials should be used to reduce the risk of impersonation and security breaches. 

None of your devices should be able to be logged into using default login around your enterprise. Define a robust authentication process that hackers cannot get through even by brute force. You should also force users to have strong passwords in place.

Physical access control, i.e. limiting access to the physical building that houses your devices, is a key part of IoT security too. This includes building management systems and being able to control who can access computers and devices. Such a system will add to your IoT but will help ensure only authorized personnel have physical access.

Also, maintain a log of actions by devices and users, so you can regularly audit it to ensure there is nothing out of the ordinary.

Source: Pixabay

4.   Defend Against Identity Spoofing

Hacking techniques are advancing in line with legal technologies. It’s vital to protect your system against hackers and to do so, you need to ensure IoT devices cannot be easily spoofed. Spoofing is where a hacker tricks the user into thinking they’re an authorized entity and gains illegal access to the network and its data.

It’s the responsibility of your IT security department to ensure all devices connected are legitimate and have a unique identity. With the increase in IoT devices in homes and offices, there’s been an exponential increase in the entry points available to hackers. 

Hackers have become more skillful and found ways to exploit the flaws in these devices. This makes it imperative for businesses to verify all IoT devices connected with the network and limit the flow of data within these devices depending on the access control levels of users.

5.   End-to-End Encryption

End-to-end encryption is one of the best ways to protect data. It keeps it safe as it crosses the network and while it’s stored on the back-end server. This is important for technologies like voice over internet protocol and instant messaging. VoIP pros and cons aside, the addition of devices to the IoT by routing calls through the internet calls for extra security to be added so calls are secure.

If you’re video conferencing or sending files to a colleague via the internet, end-to-end encryption makes sure all traffic is fully encrypted and authenticated. If anyone captures that traffic, they’re unable to read or access the information inside. 

Asynchronous communication examples, like  messaging apps, video chat services and even standard emails, use end-to-end encryption, and therein lies the most important factor for people’s trust in them. 

It’s essential to keep IoT devices protected consistently, from beginning to end. If IoT devices cannot encrypt the data they store or transmit natively, you can use encrypted tunnels to secure data to and from these devices.

End-to-end encryption ensures that not even your software or firmware developer can access your data as it traverses the internet. If we want IoT to reach its true potential, end-to-end encryption has to be standard for all devices, especially for securing business communication.

Source: Pixabay

6.   Supply Chain Management

The vendors you buy your devices from should focus on security, and you need to ensure they do so throughout the life cycle of the installation. IoT systems require constant support and maintenance, just as all installed systems do. 

Ensure your software and firmware are constantly updated because hackers are always on top of their game and you don’t want them finding a way into your data because you missed an update. It’s in your best interest to install devices that can be easily updated and will stay relevant, so you can keep them free from vulnerabilities.

There are multiple partners in an IoT device supply chain that you need to take into account.  Your suppliers should have trustworthy manufacturing partners so the hardware only collects and sends the data you want it to.

The purchasing of all devices should be pre-approved by the IT security department. This should be standard practice in your organization so your security team can endorse vendors who make security a priority as opposed to those who take it easy.

Though you must run regular audits to check for vulnerabilities in your network and IoT devices, we recommend doing so randomly. Audits held at the same time and at regular intervals, instead of random checks, can miss security threats from within the organization.

Source: Pixabay

IoT: A Security Hellscape

While figuring out answers to problems like ‘how can I fax without a fax machine’ or ‘how can I make calls over the internet’, you are creating technological solutions for your problems but adding to the Internet of Things. As technology advances, the IoT grows, underscoring the need for organizations to take cybersecurity seriously.

Whether you want to start an e-commerce business, improve equipment maintenance, develop new forms of human and machine collaboration or automate your supply chain, IoT is driving change across these industries. As more devices connect to the internet, however, IoT security becomes more challenging and a bigger priority.

The Internet of Things is a necessary part of business processes, and in the 21st century, it’s not something we can do without. Follow these essential security tips to reduce uncertainty around your IoT and keep its performance at an optimum level. 

This article is written by Elea Andrea Almazora- RingCentral US

Profile ImageElea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade's worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.