The “Internet of Things,” or IoT, is a network of internet-connected devices able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. More simply, these are everyday items that can connect to the internet to share data like your heart rate, the temperature in your fridge, or whether you forgot to lock the front door. With IoT devices, data can be transferred over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
According to Juniper Research, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to reach 46 billion by 2021. Cybercriminals relentlessly develop new malware and viruses, which means that reinforcing IoT device security has never been more important. Although it may seem harmless, an IoT device connected to your network that isn't properly secured can become a backdoor for cybercriminals to bypass your network security protocols.
The appeal of IoT devices lies in their simplicity. Unfortunately, that is also their biggest drawback. Common IoT security issues include:
- Out-of-date software - many IoT creators don’t patch or update the software on their devices. If this is the case, you won’t be able to prevent hackers from compromising devices without assistance from the creator.
- Unencrypted connections - some IoT devices lack basic encryption technology that protects data traveling to the central server. This potentially exposes the user's personal information that hackers use to do harm.
- Insecure user interface - Like any device you log into, many IoT devices have a "I forgot my password" link. You can counter this by configuring your device to lock out users with multiple failed login attempts, thus preventing hackers from running programs that guess thousands of passwords per second.
Common IoT device attacks
Depending on the vulnerability the hacker chooses to exploit, there are numerous ways an IoT device can be hacked.
- Malware attacks - malware isn't just for PCs and smartphones; IoT devices have also been added to the list of targets. "Smart" devices with interactive screens, like TVs, are most susceptible because users may accidentally click on unsolicited links and download malware-infected apps.
- Sniffing - Sniffers target and intercept internet traffic that goes in and out of a smart device. The preferred targets are Wi-Fi routers because they contain traffic data that can then be used to control other connected devices.
- IoT spoofing - this attack works by tricking routers into seeing a malicious device as a trusted one. If you have a smart thermostat, hackers could use special programming to replicate that trusted connection from another device and deliver malware.
- Botnet enslaving - because IoT devices are easier to hack and harder to diagnose once compromised, they are prime targets for botnets. With an army of compromised IoT devices under one person's control, botnets can open thousands of connections to a single source at the same time, overloading its capacity and shutting it down.
Strengthening your IoT security
It’s not as complicated as it may seem. Start by changing default passwords and usernames. Make sure that a password has at least 10 characters with one capital letter, one number and one special character such as an asterisk (*) or an ampersand (&).
Also, make sure you have a different password for each device; if one gets hacked, you can still rely on other devices. Finally, make sure to download the latest updates when they are available to improve device functionality and patch security vulnerabilities.
While most smart devices communicate with a central server, internet network or smartphone, the data exchanged is rarely encrypted. This might be due to the hardware limitations of smaller, budget-friendly devices. Whenever possible, enable the option to encrypt the data it sends and receives. Another option is to create a second network exclusively for IoT devices. Keeping IoT devices on a different network reduces the chance for malware to infect your devices.
Not only do businesses need the right technology resources to outpace stiff competition, they must ensure that vital business data is well-protected 24/7. With Complete Technology as your partner, we’ll offer proactive and personalized IT services and support that meet your organization’s needs. Get in touch with our team today.