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How to Secure IoT Devices

Learn how you can protect your IoT devices and secure your entire ecosystem

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a huge driver accelerating the performance of businesses across industries offering a wide variety of uses to just about any market out there. This includes the industrial sector, commerce, education, automotive, consumer applications, even the military. The IoT domain shows no sign of slowing down, and it is estimated that by 2025, we will be having some 41.2 billion connected devices around the world generating immeasurable amounts of data among billions of endpoints. 

Protecting the IoT ecosystem is a critical task that needs to be addressed straight away in case you want to use connected devices in a secure manner. Whether we are talking about your business and industrial facilities or the very home you live in, security has to be your top priority. Securing your IoT devices with a multi-layered edge to cloud protection is essential for keeping your connection and your data safe, and you surely don’t want your devices and the data they store tempered with. 

As hackers come up with new attack vectors to compromise your IoT devices, we come up with new ways to make them safer and ensure their long-term health. The 2016 Mirai IoT botnet attack has brought down the servers of such companies as Netflix, Twitter, CNN, and more rendering a large portion of the Internet utterly useless. In 2019, hackers successfully attacked heart rate monitoring IoT devices that also controlled pacemakers and defibrillators at St. Jude Medical. Hackers even attacked autonomous vehicles in the past, threatening lives of the passengers and pedestrians. 

All of those and many more examples of attacks on IoT ecosystems show that timely updates to the firmware and patching are important for addressing any IoT device security threats but there’s more to that.

We came up with a simple and effective guide to arm you with the best practices to secure your IoT devices. Most importantly, this guide will give you a number of solutions for keeping your IoT landscape secure as it changes and expands in the future.

How to Protect Your IoT Infrastructure

Intersog leverages edge software and cloud services to deliver end-to-end security and privacy solutions. We offer you a quick, safe, cost-efficient, and straightforward path to simple, scalable, and continuous IoT security and privacy.

We create solutions that adhere to all the modern IoT device security standards available today and build IoT infrastructures for businesses across industries like healthcare, transportation, commerce, and other high-sensitivity domains. We back your safety up using cloud security tools and a shared responsibility model thanks to which you can focus on your business while we handle your IoT infrastructure.

But how do we protect your ecosystem? Well, it all begins with the IoT architecture design and embedding the relevant security solutions within the architecture. Protecting the data at rest and in transit is a complex process that consists of different Dos and Don’ts, so we take all of those into consideration to protect your entire ecosystem.

The Don’ts of IoT Security

Some of the Don’t here are the usual suspects like using default passwords, storing hard-coded passwords on your device, using protocols that have no encryption or have no access controls if the devices are physically connected, and just not protecting your physical devices. If you have sensitive data stored on physical devices, you must protect those devices too, and make sure nobody uses those without proper authorization. 

Using Public IPs

Let’s say you operate a system in an industrial facility and you want to expose it to the outside world for any reason like sharing the data with the stakeholders or just letting the public know about your operations. The least secure thing you could do here is to give your system a public IP address. So, you should use advanced firewall technology or use outbound connections from the system to the cloud. These methods do not give you a 100% guarantee you are not being exposed to attacks, but it drastically reduces such probability and repels the vast majority of hackers.

Ignoring Access Management

One of the main issues with IoT systems is that they rarely use access management tools. Controlling who has access to what is the key to keeping your entire infrastructure safe. Yes, you will have to invest in the development of such a control system, but that would be a smart choice to make if you don’t want to face any challenges with people at the lowest levels of your organizational structure accessing the data meant for the board of directors only.

Not Updating Your Edge Nodes

Many systems are just readily exposed to attacks simply because they are not using the relevant protection protocols and certifications. Turning off your certificate management because you don’t have time or resources or simply don’t want to update your edge devices is yet another pitfall in IoT devices and cyber security management. Yes, updating all of your devices to match the relevant certifications is a time-consuming process but if you don’t do that, you’ll find yourself in the middle of all sorts of attacks. 

Ignoring Physical Security

The physical security of servers and the edge nodes is also an issue that raises concerns, so you must pay serious attention to not let your devices get into the wrong hands. If someone just walks in and plugs an ethernet cable from your IT network to the control network, this person basically gets access to all of your data and full control over your IoT devices. That is a serious threat right there, so you need to take measures to physically protect your network from intruders.

The Dos of IoT Security

The best IoT security practices are deeply connected to cloud security, and a reliable cloud architecture offers intrinsic protection provisions that lay a solid ground for addressing the security vulnerabilities in IoT devices. Here are the 8 basic practices you should instill within your organization to ensure security for IoT devices

Shared Responsibility

Know what role you play within your organization and make sure all the employees and vendors you collaborate with understand theirs. These roles have to be clearly defined and documented and the respective data access levels assigned to each role. You should collaborate with the trusted partners and vendors who also apply relevant security practices that align with your business objectives and goals.

Identity Verification

You need to assign a proper level of authorization for each interaction. Distribute privileges and access levels among the involved parties in such a manner as to protect the sensitive data and prevent it from getting into the hands of people you don’t really trust. It does not mean somebody in your organization means to steal your data, but you better be safe than sorry.

Traceability

You can implement alerts and audit all the changes within your ecosystem in real-time. In case anybody introduces any changes to your system, you will be notified and you’d be able to either grant or deny them the permission to make those changes. This will secure the integrity of your system, and in case something would go wrong, you’d be able to trace those changes back to see who made them.

Security at all Layers

Rather than focusing on securing the outer-layer nodes or core-layer systems, it is much better to apply the in-depth defense approach at all layers. Apply relevant security solutions to edge nodes, virtual private cloud, the load balancer, the subnet, operating system, and all the separate devices. 

Prepare for Security Threats

To secure peace is to prepare for war, they say, and this couldn’t be more relevant in the case of IoT security. Create a threat management process and run risk incident simulations to see how your system reacts to the threats, how it detects and investigates the source of the threat, and how it recovers from it. 

Automated Security

The automated security mechanisms embedded into your software allow you to scale up your security with an improved cost-efficiency. As you transition from chip to cloud, you can implement all of your essential security protocols on any device without having to install any additional hardware.

Keep People Away

Creating mechanisms that minimize human involvement in data processing allows you to reduce the chance of human error and prevent most of the security threats caused by human involvement. Diminish the amount of data that has to be modified or otherwise processed by humans.

Protect Data Transit

Break down your data into sensitivity levels with such mechanisms as tokenization, encryption, and access control whenever it is appropriate. 

Additionally, you would want to follow all the common-sense security protocols such as using strong passwords, not responding to phishing emails, not giving your data to suspicious individuals, and instilling a security culture among your employees. Educate your employees on the dangers of malware and phishing so that they do not fall for it. Be reasonable with who you trust and make sure only reliable people have the access to sensitive data. 

IoT Security Framework

To ensure the efficient and secure functioning of your IoT ecosystem, we can establish a four-level security environment that protects your data both at rest and in transition. Protection at all four layers is essential for the security of an entire system and a failure to protect even one of them can lead to serious implications. The four levels are the following:

Things

Things or smart objects are the first line of defense for your system – these are sensors, edge nodes, computers, and actuators that collect the data. This could be anything from temperature monitoring sensors in your goods crates to patient monitoring systems in a medical environment. That is when the question of how to keep IoT devices secure becomes most critical as you would not have full control over who uses them. 

Basically, somebody can just steal your smart device and use it with malicious intent. If you use a vast number of edge nodes, it becomes nearly impossible to protect all of them, that is why the only solution here is to limit the data access from these devices. This can be achieved with the access control systems that limit access to the essential data using edge nodes.

Edge Network

This level is primarily concerned with the wireless and wired connection between IoT devices. The current problem is that there’s no unified security policy for how edge networks should function. Right now, there are different protocols and methodologies for approaching the security testing of IoT devices, so whatever works for one system might not be sufficient for another.

Core Network

The core network provides the connection between the data center and the devices. That is where the data is in its transfer state, and that is where it might be vulnerable to attacks. More so, the huge number of endpoints the data flows to and from creates a critical security concern.

Data Center/Cloud

This is where data is stored. It is the most secure level of the entire infrastructure but it can still be breached because of the individual endpoint vulnerability. 

Such solutions as role-based security or access control, tamper detection, data protection, and confidentiality, and IP protection are critical on each level. You need to make sure only the authorized users get access to the data, so you should implement access control. Next, you want to know whether anyone is trying to tamper with the data in real-time. You would also want to protect your data by conventional means such as encryption. And Last but not least, you want to use a secure IP.

Final Thoughts

Securing your IoT infrastructure is a complex process that involves many layers and moving parts. The best way to start addressing your security concerns is to be conscious of the choices you make. You want to use a secure connection, reliable passwords, and only give data access authorization to a handful of trusted people. Also, you should invest in a proper security infrastructure that protects your edge nodes, your network, and your data center. 

As sad as it might sound, there are people out there preying on the weaknesses of your IoT ecosystem, and some of these people might be smart enough to breach it. You need to be a couple of steps ahead of those people and make sure your infrastructure is secure and stable enough to withstand any sort of attack. That is where you’d need a reliable IoT security partner, and Intersog is exactly the kind of partner to help you establish a secure and reliable IoT infrastructure.

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Intersog has been recognized as a leading IT solutions provider in the United States and beyond. The company has been providing tech consulting, staffing and software development services for Fortune-500 companies, tech startups, and SaaS enterprises for more than fourteen years.