IoT: Internet of Things vs. Internet of Threats

Ieva Šeibelytė

May 30, 2022


Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing industry. It is forecasted that in 2025 there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet every minute. Nowadays, modern businesses utilize IoT technologies such as remote healthcare medical devices, agricultural drones, intelligent production lines, and financial modeling systems to reduce costs, increase productivity, and perform economic forecasts. But users often forget about these technologies' security aspects, making them an easy target for cybercriminals. Therefore, in this blog, we will discuss how to secure your IoT devices and protect yourself from potential cyber-attacks.

close up of hand with smartphone hovering over laptop

What are IoT devices?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical items implanted with sensors, software, and other technologies that act on the collected data via machine learning. They are devices created to adapt to users’ daily needs and improve daily repetitive tasks. It can be anything from intelligent kids' toys or smart home appliances to healthcare devices, vehicles, etc.

However, businesses use IoT technology on a larger scale, starting with smart office systems that include smart locks, remote security cameras, and climate control, and ending with complex solutions, such as digital financial modeling, AI-based management solutions, intelligent factory systems, autonomous agriculture, etc.

How IoT is transforming businesses

Research shows that companies who utilized IoT devices for a year noticed these positive trends: improved productivity, reduced labor, increased worker safety, etc.

Here are a few examples of how IoT improves business solutions:

  1. They help you manage and track your inventory by providing various remote control choices.

  2. They are becoming smarter with every connection to the device - the more they track, the more they learn about the patterns, and by doing so, they optimize the user’s experience.

  3. They innovate businesses with the help of predictive maintenance. For example, these devices will help monitor your harvest if you work in agriculture.

  4. They reduce waste by improving power management and water consumption, making businesses more eco-friendly.

  5. They reduce human labor by automating repetitive tasks and helping to allocate workforce resources to more complex tasks.

  6. They automatically schedule and control various production tasks, increasing productivity.

  7. They assist in maintenance. For example, IoT devices measure temperature, humidity, and other indicators to achieve necessary storage conditions.

  8. They can even prevent diseases or health issues by tracking necessary health data, such as blood sugar levels, and reminding about insulin injections.

The hidden dangers of IoT

The advantages are outstanding, but many IoT devices still don't meet the minimum cybersecurity standards. If not secured, they’re sensitive to cyberattacks, such as an incident with a hijacked Tesla when the attackers gained access to car control while it was driving.

The number of cyberattacks on IoT devices is growing at alarming rates. In the first half of 2021, it was twice as high as the total number of attacks in 2020. Here are the most frequent types of threats carried out against IoT devices:

  • DoS (denial-of-service) attacks are carried out to take down company online assets and steal their sensitive data.

  • Brute-force password attacks lead to criminals gaining access to a particular device.

  • Firmware hijacking is used to access a device when software is downloaded from an illegitimate source.

  • Eavesdropping attack occurs when a hacker intercepts, deletes or changes data sent between two devices.

Top causes making IoT devices insecure

A recent study addressed the most common IoT security issues: lack of personal information privacy, unprotected software, insecure web, weak passwords, and lack of encryption. In general, many people and businesses don't prioritize security simply because they are unaware of why they need it. Unlike laptops and other types of consumer electronic hardware, many of these devices don’t have built-in security that provides regular security updates.

Another issue is that people don't change the initial default settings and leave them as they were after setting up IoT devices at their home or office. Many off-brand IoT producers manufacture devices with fewer resources and cheaper components that usually are insecure, creating an ever-increasing threat to the device owners.

How to secure your business IoTs

The main problem for businesses is that they have too many devices and don’t usually supervise them. That creates security gaps in your cybersecurity and opens the doors for eager cybercriminals. So, here are 10 steps for how you can secure your business IoT devices:

  1. Understand the current IoT assets. Run an internal audit to determine how many and what kind of IoT devices you have and who has the access.

  2. Monitor ALL the devices. Keep an eye on all of your devices to protect them from being infected - utilize a tech solution to automate this process.

  3. Apply a tracking system. Implement an identity and access management (IAM) solution that will allow you to track which IoT devices are active and when they go online and offline.

  4. Build an internal security system. Block any potential threat by using network access control (NCA) technologies that authenticate and authorize network users to access your company’s information.

  5. Remove all data from old devices. Pay attention to the devices that aren’t in use anymore, as they may store important information. After removing all data, consider returning them to manufacturers for recycling.

  6. Choose reliable suppliers. Pay attention to the manufacturer of your IoT devices, because it’s very important to know whether the device comes with built-in security and how you should update it from reliable sources in the future.

  7. Keep the devices up-to-date. Various software updates bring bug fixes and security patches, so it's essential to be updated regularly.

  8. Make unlockable passwords. Build strong password combinations consisting of various symbols, letters, and numbers to make them hard to crack. Also, creating a master password would do the trick if the devices are connected to a phone, tablet, or computer.

  9. Guarantee IoT security. Ensure that you are using port security, invest in a network intrusion detection system, disable port forwarding, and use security solutions like VPN and firewalls.

  10. Secure the Wi-Fi. Last but not least, ensure the Wi-Fi router’s safety - strengthen the router firewall, deactivate WPS, and enable the WPA2 protocol. And, as always, use a strong password for it!