7 Internet of Things Threats and Risks to Be Aware of

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Aug 4, 2021

The internet of things (IoT) is a highly developed space that is home to a vast amount of sensitive data, making it a very attractive target for cybercriminals. Threats and risks continue to evolve as hackers come up with new ways to breach unsecured systems -- posing a threat to the ecosystem itself. Let’s take a look at the leading threats and risks to the IoT and the associated vulnerabilities that must be secured.

What is the internet of things (IoT)?

The internet of things (IoT) is a network of intertwined devices, software, sensors, and other ‘things’ which enable the world to be connected throughout physical space. This can include business software, smart home devices, care monitoring systems, mobile phones, or driverless trucks, and can be as small as a thumb drive to the size of a train. All of these things communicate with each other without the need for human interaction. This spider web of connectivity is fascinating but poses serious danger to information security.

Exploring the IoT attack surface

A business’s attack surface is the sum of vulnerabilities that are currently present on their network, both physical and digital. This can be vulnerabilities from within their endpoint devices (computers, tablets) or from the software and hardware used to conduct business. While each device is typically protected through a security software, they are still apt to a series of added threats and vulnerabilities through their connection to the IoT. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a broad consensus of the current threats and vulnerabilities within the surfaces, which we have condensed into 3 main categories to outline.

Devices

Devices inevitably have vulnerabilities embedded within their memory systems, physical and web interface, network services, and firmware. This allows hackers to easily exploit systems within the devices' outdated components and insecure default settings with update mechanisms. When managing vulnerabilities throughout your network’s devices, continuous monitoring is essential.

Communication channels

Attacks can originate from the channels that connect IoT devices. This presents serious threats to the security of the entire system and creates a potential for spoofing and Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks. These threats and attacks lay the foundation for an unstable network surface.

Applications and software

Each application and software presents risk and many web applications and APIs do not protect sensitive data adequately. This data can be anything from financial intelligence to healthcare information. A breach of these types of information can result in identity theft, credit card fraud, and exposure of confidential information all because a web application isn’t properly secured or patched on a consistent basis.

7 IoT threats and vulnerabilities to be aware of

As long as the IoT continues to expand, the number of threats will continue to increase. Being able to identify and understand the different types of threats and vulnerabilities associated with the internet of things can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach at your organization. Let’s explore the top IoT concerns:

1. Lack of physical hardening

The lack of physical hardening has always been a concern for devices within the internet of things. Since most IoT devices are remotely deployed, there is no way to properly secure devices that are constantly exposed to the broader physical attack surface. Devices without a secure location and the inability for continual surveillance allow potential attackers to gain valuable information about their network’s capabilities which can assist in future remote attacks or gaining control over the device. For example, hackers can facilitate the removal of a memory card to read its contents and access private data and information that may allow them to access other systems.

2. Insecure data storage and transfer

As more people utilize cloud-based communications and data storage, the cross-communication between smart devices and the IoT network increases. However, any time data is transferred, received, or stored through these networks, the potential for a breach or compromised data also increases. This is due to the lack of encryption and access controls before data is entered into the IoT ecosystem. For this reason, it is important to ensure the secure transfer and storage of data through robust network security management tools like firewalls and network access controls.

3. Lack of visibility and device management

Many IoT devices remain unmonitored, untracked, and improperly managed. As devices connect and disconnect from the IoT network, trying to monitor them can grow to be very difficult. Lack of visibility into device status can prevent organizations from detecting or even responding to potential threats. These risks can become life-threatening when we take a look into the healthcare sector. IoT pacemakers and defibrillators have the potential to be tampered with if not secured properly and hackers can purposefully deplete batteries or administer incorrect pacing and shocks. Organizations need to implement device management systems to properly monitor IoT devices so all avenues for potential breaches are accounted for.

4. Botnets

Botnets are a series of internet-connected devices that are created to steal data, compromise networks, or send spam. Botnets contain malware that allows the attacker to access the IoT device and its connection to infiltrate an organization's network, becoming one of the top threats for businesses. They are most prominent in appliances that were not initially manufactured securely (smart fridges, for example). These devices are continuously morphing and adapting. Therefore, monitoring their changes and threat practices is necessary to avoid attacks.

5. Weak passcodes

Although intricate passcodes can prove to be secure for most IoT devices, one weak passcode is all it takes to open the gateway to your organization's network. Inconsistent management of passcodes throughout the workplace enables hackers to compromise your entire business network. If just one employee does not adhere to advanced password management policies, the potential for a password-oriented attack increases. Practicing good password hygiene is essential to ensure your business is covering all bases within standard security practices.

6. Insecure ecosystem interfaces

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are software intermediaries that allow two applications to talk to each other. With the connection of the two servers, APIs can introduce a new entrance for attackers to access a business's IoT devices and breach a network’s router, web interface, server, etc. It is crucial to understand the intricacies and security policies of each device in the ecosystem before connecting them to ensure complete network security.

7. AI-based attacks

While AI attacks have been around since 2007, the threats they present within IoT are becoming increasingly more prominent. Hackers now can build AI-powered tools that are faster, easier to scale, and more efficient than humans, to carry out their attacks. This poses a serious threat within the IoT ecosystem. While the tactics and elements of traditional IoT threats presented by cyber attackers will look the same, the magnitude, automation, and customization of AI-powered attacks will make them increasingly hard to battle.

How SecurityScorecard’s Sentinel can help

Fighting and monitoring threats against your business is necessary for business continuity and security; however, the process is extremely complex and time-consuming. A recent release within SecurityScorecard empowers users to see, act, and report on IoT risk within your organization. SecurityScorecard’s Sentinel is the next-generation scanning engine that supports SecurityScorecard’s on-demand ratings and allows businesses to manage and report cybersecurity risk more efficiently, while also maintaining government mandates, company risk management standards, and awareness of ever-changing cybersecurity threats. Organizations need modern and intricate security ratings and assessment platforms to address the threats of today and predict the needs of tomorrow. SecurityScorecards Sentinel does just that. We invite you to explore more of Sentinel's offerings and request a demo to see how it can work for your business.

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