Top 9 IoT Related Security Threats

Businesses worldwide are leveraging IoT for benefits such as seamless collaboration, access to comprehensive data and the ability to make stronger business decisions based on data-derived insights. Experts estimate the total number of installed IoT-connected devices worldwide will amount to 30.9 billion by 2025!

Top 9 IoT Related Security Threats Businesses Face

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly changing the technology landscape as we know it. The Internet of things describes the network of physical objects — a.k.a. "things" — that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.

Businesses worldwide are leveraging IoT for benefits such as seamless collaboration, access to comprehensive data and the ability to make stronger business decisions based on data-derived insights. Experts estimate the total number of installed IoT-connected devices worldwide will amount to 30.9 billion by 2025!

However, as we know, all that glitters is not gold. Due to the exponential growth of the number of IoT devices, the increasing amount of sensitive data these devices handle and their ability to function with minimal human intervention, the doors are left wide open to high-level cybersecurity risks. IT professionals consider about 60% of IoT devices to be vulnerable to medium or high-severity attacks.

Essentially, the IoT environment is made up of numerous interconnected devices constructed with unique sensors that collect, process, share, act on and store data. This introduces a growing risk for IoT users since hackers could exploit just a single device in the environment and potentially gain access to your business’ entire network and wreak havoc.

9 IoT-Related Risks to Your IT, Network and Data Protection

Nefarious cybercriminals can target and use IoT devices to exploit vulnerabilities in your IT network as well as the four components of an IoT device—the hardware, connectivity, software and interface. Here’s a list of nine IoT-related security vulnerabilities that you must try to mitigate immediately:

1. Lack of Proper Security Controls Within Most IoT Devices

Even though several flaws regularly emerge in an IoT device’s software, most IoT devices lack the capability to be patched with the latest security updates. As a result, the devices are indefinitely exposed to evolving security risks. Without necessary security updates, holes that emerge within software for hackers to exploit remain unpatched, leaving your devices indefinitely exposed to risk.

Many Operational Technology (OT) systems lack filtering chokepoints, such as firewalls or router ACLs, which render standard network remediation tactics ineffective and inefficient when it comes to preventing the spread of things like malware. In fact, it could actually trigger critical infrastructure disruptions or failures. Most IoT devices even lack the basic encryption systems to secure data in transit and at rest. In fact, over 95% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted.

2. Threat to Protection of Sensitive Data

The sensors on IoT devices collect (and potentially store and share) copious amounts of sensitive data without your knowledge or actual consent. For example, an IoT device can collect data on what you say, do or buy from inside your home or office. One doesn’t need to be an expert to imagine how devastating it would be if any of this data was compromised through spyware, malware or eavesdropping.

3. Threat to Workplace Security

The rapid surge in the number of IoT devices and applications within today’s work ecosystem has posed a massive security challenge for a business’ IT team. Decentralized networks that involve the increased utilization of segmented “home” networks, have added multiple potential attack vectors.

The 2021 Data Exposure Report prepared by the Ponemon Institute stated that home networks are 71% less secure than office networks. No surprise. The more devices used by employees on their home networks, the greater the risk of a security breach.

4. Absence of Regulations or Standards for IoT

Currently, there are no regulatory requirements or standards for the manufacturing of IoT devices, either globally or industry-specific, in regards to security and data protection controls. This means businesses are left on their own to mitigate IoT-related risks with little to no guidance.

5. Vulnerable Default Passwords

Cybercriminals find it easy to exploit hard-coded and embedded credentials to enter a business network. When an entire string of IoT devices share the same credentials (such as username: admin and password: admin), it serves as an open invitation for hackers.

6. Impossibility of Implementing a Single Security Policy

IoT environments are complex due to the diverse types of data collected by the devices and the differing computing powers of each device. This complexity makes it kind of impossible to implement a “one size fits all” security policy or solution to tackle the digital security risks spread across the whole environment.

7. Inability to Train Every User on IoT Security

Regular security awareness training has proven to be effective in greatly reducing the likelihood and impact of cyberattacks. However, businesses are unable to leverage this tool to educate users on IoT functionality and its risks due to the lack of broad universal knowledge and awareness about IoT at the user level, therefore making a standardized training system a hard task.

8. Life-Threatening Risks to Data Integrity

If the data collected by medical IoT devices (such as pacemakers and continuous insulin regulators) is compromised or lost, it can turn into a life-threatening risk for patients. Any business in the healthcare industry using medical IoT devices must prevent this risk from jeopardizing data integrity, control and security.

9. Innate Vulnerability to Cyberattacks

A cybercriminal can exploit an unsecured IoT device without even breaking a sweat. About 72% of organizations experienced an increase in endpoint and IoT security incidents last year and 56% of organizations expect a compromise via an endpoint or IoT-originated attack within the next 12 months. Not exciting numbers if you’re a device holder. Here’s a list of the most common routes a hacker might take to exploit your business:

• Botnet Attacks: During a botnet attack, hackers exploit botnets, a collection of internet-connected devices infected by malware, to carry out acts such as credential leaks, unauthorized access, data theft and DDoS attacks.

• Denial-of-Service/Distributed Denial-of-Service (DoS and DDoS): During DoS or DDoS attacks, hackers can flood your business’ systems with multiple data requests, causing them to slow down, crash or even totally shut down.

• Malware: Malware attacks on your business’ IoT environment can prove fatal. The entire network of IoT devices can be hijacked and turned into botnets that act following the hacker’s commands.

• Passive wiretapping/Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks: Such attacks involve an unauthorized entity breaking into your business’ network and behaving as an insider, which puts your business’ invaluable data in severe danger.

• Structured Query Language injection (SQL injection): A technique that can destroy the database, SQL injection involves injecting a malicious code in SQL statements.

• Wardriving attacks: To carry out a wardriving attack, a hacker drives around and uses technology to identify unsecure wireless networks (in this case, the network IoT devices are connected to).

• Zero-Day Exploits: A zero-day vulnerability is an undetected vulnerability in software or hardware that can cause serious problems if a hacker exploits it.

Strategies and Best Practices for Mitigating IoT Risks

The above-mentioned risks shouldn’t completely discourage you from leveraging IoT technology in your business. You can reap the valuable benefits of this technology with proper information and implementation of the best security practices and strategies for your business, which will help you tackle and avoid IoT-based risks. Some steps in the right direction include thorough risk assessments (with respect to IoT), automated and routine security patch update management, security policy management for both internal and third-party systems, and more.

To learn more about IoT-related security risks and ways to mitigate them, let’s hop on a quick consultation call. You do not have to navigate this rocky road all by yourself. Let us help you build a resilient defense against IoT-related risks. Contact us today to learn more!

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