In the past, we only focused on computers and probably smartphones when discussing cybersecurity. However, that’s no longer the case today with billions of IoT devices around us, all connected to the internet.
Today, it is estimated that there are more than 5.8 billion IoT devices deployed all around the world, including mobile devices like autonomous vehicles. While these IoT devices certainly have their benefits in various industries, this also means cybercriminals now have 5 billions+ more potential attack surfaces to target, creating a new challenge in cybersecurity.
In fact, according to the latest research, 57% of deployed IoT devices may be vulnerable to medium to severe cybersecurity threats. The biggest threat? Consumer data in these IoT devices may be compromised, like private footages in IoT security cameras and other sensitive data.
Compromised IoT devices can have long-term serious implications for both individuals and enterprises.
Why IoT Devices Are Vulnerable?
IoT devices are not only vulnerable to various cyberattacks, but they are more vulnerable and thus, more attractive to cybercriminals than computers, servers, routers, or other endpoint devices.
There are many different factors that may contribute to this, but one of the most important reasons is the current lack of regulation and standardization around IoT cybersecurity. In computers and even smartphones, it’s very common to have antivirus software installed, but we can’t say the same with IoT devices.
Many IoT devices have very small storage and very low processing power, so they can’t support comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. On the other hand, fewer people are familiar with IoT technologies and cybersecurity best practices specific for IoT devices, and so human errors are also an important issue.
Another important consideration is that there are now various IoT devices that are connected to sensitive data and critical operations, and so these vulnerabilities can be a potential gateway for hackers to breach these sensitive operations.
In short, IoT cybersecurity is now no longer a luxury thing, but a necessity for all organizations and individuals with IoT deployments.
Top IoT Privacy Challenges and The Available Solutions
1. Lack Of Compliance and Uniformity
As briefly discussed above, at the moment there is a lack of universal IoT cybersecurity standards across manufacturers, resulting in devices with poor security for example:
- Hard-coded default passwords that are weak and guessable (i.e. “12345”)
- Hardware issues that can act as potential vulnerabilities
- Lack of frequent and secure software updates
- Old OS with vulnerabilities
- Insecure data transfer and data storage protocols
To tackle this issue, there’s not much we can do being an end-user, but the best option at the moment is to only use IoT devices from reputable companies with a proven track record in security.
2. The Rise of IoT Botnet Attacks
A relatively new but serious type of IoT cybersecurity threat is IoT botnet attacks.
In this type of attack, the hacker infected IoT devices with malware and essentially took control of the IoT devices, turning them into parts of a botnet (essentially, zombie devices.)
The attacker can then use these botnet IoT devices to launch more severe attacks on websites and networks, like spreading malware or performing a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack.
To tackle these botnet attacks on your system or network, an advanced botnet detection solution like DataDome is recommended. Hackers are getting really sophisticated in hiding the presence of botnets via various technologies including AI and machine learning to impersonate legitimate human traffic. This is why an AI-based solution like DataDome that can identify and block bots in real-time is a necessity in combating IoT botnet attacks.
3. Human Errors
Even in traditional devices, human errors are still up there as the top causes of successful cyberattacks. People are still vulnerable to phishing emails and neglect using VPNs in accessing public Wi-Fi, among other issues.
IoT, on the other hand, is a newer technology and many people still don’t know much about it and especially how to secure these IoT devices.
To tackle this issue, cybersecurity training and education specific to IoT devices are required and should be a regular thing considering how cybersecurity threats are ever-evolving.
4. Device Update Management
Still related to the human error factor above, another crucial IoT security and privacy challenge is insecure firmware or software.
No software is 100% secure, and this is why manufacturers regularly release security updates to ‘patch’ these vulnerabilities.
As a general rule of thumb, updates must be implemented as soon as they are available, and manufacturers should release updates right after new vulnerabilities are discovered.
Another issue specific to IoT devices is that during an update, the device may experience a short downtime. If the connection to the network is unencrypted, a hacker could steal sensitive information during this period.
To tackle this issue, it’s important to manage device updates strategically to avoid insecure downtime by ensuring the connection is always encrypted, and at the same time, we have to ensure all devices are updated as soon as updates are available.
5. Not Physically Secure
IoT devices are often deployed in locations far away from the server so we can’t guarantee their physical security. Hackers can potentially tamper with these devices, for example, to infect them with malware, which may compromise the whole IoT network.
To tackle this issue, it’s important to ensure the physical security of all devices, even when they are deployed remotely for long stretches of time. We have to strategically protect the area where the device is physically installed 24/7 so they can’t be tampered with by cybercriminals and thieves.
All IoT devices connected to the internet are potentially vulnerable to various cybersecurity attacks. In fact, the more variations of IoT devices we’ll see in the future, the more complex ioT cybersecurity issues we will also face.
In this article, however, we have discussed some of the top IoT privacy challenges we have faced and we will face throughout 2021, and the security solutions to tackle them. Implementing these IoT cybersecurity practices can be a solid foundation in securing your IoT devices and protecting your privacy.