What is IoT Security? 6 Ways to Protect Your Devices

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Aug 30, 2021

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a growing concern for today’s digitally-focused businesses. Every connected device you own can add another security concern to your list. If it collects and stores personal information and data, you’ve just added another attractive target for criminals to access your network. In fact, 57% of IoT devices are vulnerable to medium or high-severity attacks. This alarming statistic highlights the need for robust IoT security plans that ensure the safety of networks and mitigate potential threats presented by IoT connected devices.

Let’s take a closer look at what IoT security entails and explore several methods you can leverage to protect your connected systems and devices.

What is Internet of Things (IoT) security?

From watches to smart thermostats and appliances, nearly every technological device can connect to the internet and other devices as they stand today. Internet of Things security refers to a wide range of techniques, strategies, tools, and measures that aim to protect internet-connected and network-based devices from being compromised and combat potential cyberattacks.

A look at the IoT threat landscape

According to a Forrester study, 67% of organizations have experienced a security incident that is related to unmanaged or insecure IoT devices. Without a doubt, IoT devices have become enticing targets for cybercriminals due to their internet-supported connectivity and relative ease of compromise. While there are countless benefits to this form of accessibility, it also provides an opportunity for hackers to access these devices remotely.

In particular, organizations are facing cybersecurity threats that arise from their networks’ widespread use of different IoT devices. For instance, when an employee connects their personal device, such as a smartphone, to the organization’s network, it increases the risk of a security breach. Cybercriminals try to locate any vulnerable IoT devices and use them to access the corporate system to which they’re connected. This allows them to gain privileged access to networks and facilitate targeted cyberattacks.

6 ways to protect your connected systems and devices

Here are six ways you can protect your IoT-connected devices from cyberattacks.

Maintain good password hygiene

Poor password hygiene continues to fuel attacks on IoT connected devices. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain strong password hygiene to secure your IoT endpoints. Once an IoT device is connected to a network, it's important to reset its preset password with a more complex one. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the new password is difficult to guess, unique to each device, and contains a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s important to also remind employees to adhere to the organization’s password policies.

Don’t enable universal plug and play feature

It is a good practice to turn off the universal plug-and-play (UPnP) feature on your internet-connected devices. The UPnP feature enables different devices to automatically find one another and connect, without the need to configure each device separately. However, UPnP protocols utilize local networks for connecting and consequently are vulnerable to outside access. In the case of a cyberattack, hackers can gain access to multiple devices simultaneously.

Patch and update systems regularly

Unlike most IT systems, IoT devices aren’t designed to regularly patch security flaws through regular updates. When setting up a new IoT device, it’s recommended to visit the vendor’s website and download any new security patches to protect from vulnerabilities. To ensure devices are regularly patched with the latest updates, work with IoT device vendors to establish a recurrent patch management and system upgrade strategy.

Improve API security

With the way IoT platforms work, API security is the best form of protection against attacks. Application programming interfaces (API) are the foundation of technology, and organizations use them to connect services and transmit data through several channels. An IoT device connects to a remote API which helps to create a secure connection on an open network. Despite the benefits of APIs, a poorly designed or broken one can be a catalyst of serious data breaches. Hackers can engineer APIs to return sensitive information back to them or break API protocols to access transmitted data. Improving API security will help to protect both inbound and outbound IoT data cohesively.

Provide employee training

A routine and comprehensive data security training should be a requirement for any organization. It’s crucial to educate employees on the security risks and vulnerabilities associated with using their IoT devices to access the company’s network and systems. Without a solid understanding of the importance of cybersecurity, employees will remain negligent and lax when accessing the company’s information, creating countless opportunities for data breaches and other exploitations.

Monitor and keep track of connected devices

It’s advantageous to continuously monitor and track the increasing number of IoT-connected devices. Organizations should always be aware of what’s on their network and actively monitor who is connecting to their systems. Additionally, organizations should establish a tiered security architecture and implement connection protocols to flag and remove non-authorized devices.

How SecurityScorecard’s Sentinel can help

As the adoption of IoT devices continues to rise, our environment will become filled with more and more smart products that are enticing targets for hackers. With SecurityScorecard’s Sentinel, organizations can detect, act, and report on IoT risks within their networks. As the prevalence of smart products grows, it’s important that organizations invest in innovative security ratings and assessment platforms to stay proactive in ensuring that their systems and networks are always protected. Sentinel, a next-generation scanning engine, powers SecurityScorecard’s on-demand ratings and enables businesses to get actionable insights faster and mitigate threats at a quicker rate.

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