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How to Secure an IoT Environment

Since last summer’s DefCon and Black Hat shows in Las Vegas, most of us have been aware of the security threats faced by the Internet of Things (IoT). Detailed presentations at the conferences displayed how vulnerable devices are and how they could be compromised. From smart safes and cars to thermostats, just about anything can be hacked these days. As a result, it is extremely crucial to take appropriate steps to secure the IoT environment.

The idea of hacking internet enabled devices is nothing new, but the spectrum of physical objects that are connected to the network has significantly changed. What started out as a novelty is rapidly becoming a reality. Starting with smart homes, IoT has expanded into business (sensors to target customers), civil service (traffic monitoring systems), and healthcare (smart medical implants). On an industrial scale, IoT can also be found in automation systems that are utilized at power plants.

According to Siemens, within the next five years almost 26 billion objects will be connected via the internet. Further, these smart devices are expected to generate approximately 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. In the past, with the internet age and the mobile revolution, security was often overlooked while developing these technologies. As a result, it’s imperative to identify these vulnerabilities early during development, implementation, and maintenance.

So, IoT has quickly become a normal part of life, but what should we do to implement and maintain desired security?

First, it’s important to recognize that security breaches go beyond basic privacy as multiple products can be a potential gateway to enter large corporate networks. If this happens, there is a wide range of problems that can crop up like the following:

  • DNS attacks
  • Privacy breaches
  • Hijacking of systems (possibly even bodily harm)
  • Malware infections
  • Theft of sensitive information
Are you looking to build an IoT solution and in need of professional advisory on technologies and platforms, security and monetization?

So What Can You Do?

When you start focusing on securing the IoT environment for your company, first of all you will need to fully understand what you have got yourself into. If you are going to get into the IoT side of technology, then learn how it operates. Further, it’s also important to understand what data is being collected. Once that’s identified, you have to also understand why it’s being collected and where it’s being stored. So from the get go, make sure that security is at the forefront of the development process and not an afterthought.

If you ignore security during the development and implementation cycles, the doors will be wide open to security breaches, lawsuits, remediation costs, and recalls (all of which can be avoided or diminished if security was part of the development process).

Common Issues with IoT Devices

It’s also vital to recognize common problems with IoT devices and find solutions for them right from the beginning. Even the most security-conscious sectors and individuals are at risk of overlooking some of the following challenges:

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  • Deficient authentication or authorization
  • Privacy concerns
  • Poor physical security
  • Vulnerable web interface
  • Unprotected network services
  • Insecure mobile interface
  • Inadequate transport encryption
  • Insecure cloud interface
  • Inadequate security configuration
  • Deficient firmware or software

10 Ways to Secure an IoT Ecosystem

It doesn’t take a tremendous effort to build a secure IoT environment, but it will be an ongoing process where security concerns will need to be regularly addressed and evaluated. When you start developing IoT technology through implementation and maintenance, follow these ten simple rules to keep the IoT ecosystem secure.

  1. Develop security protocols from the beginning
  2. Identify and evaluate specific threats that may be faced by your app
  3. Always ensure that connections are authenticated and authorized
  4. Ensure that data transfers are secure
  5. Evaluate user experience and identify ways to make it easier for the end user to maintain security
  6. Build a fortress to keep personal data safe
  7. Preplan for a breach and be ready to react
  8. Educate staff, customers, and partners about the steps you have taken to keep data secure and private and how they should handle IoT security going forward
  9. If you work with vendors, hold them accountable
  10. Test and test again, don’t guess

The final rule about testing cannot be stressed enough as it’s testing that brings weaknesses in the system to light. Further, regular testing is required as your IoT device will be interacting with other devices on the network and that may create new avenues for hacking.

Long story short, if you are always security conscious and constantly putting into practice, you are on the right track. However, no matter how much effort you put into making products secure, there still might be a breach. But the continuous effort to maintain security can help minimize the damage caused by a security breach.

What steps have you taken to keep your IoT products secure? Do you have anything else to add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.