Security as a Foundation for IoT
While almost every modern electronic device connects to the cloud, they are often not designed with security in mind. The Internet of Things (IoT) is an exciting environment with use cases ranging from self-driving cars, to surveillance cameras, to heavy machinery, to smart garbage cans. Despite the amazing opportunity of IoT, none of the potential gains will be realized if the devices, communications and data are not secured. Security must be a pivotal piece of the design of any IoT implementation and must be thought of as a foundation of the overall solution.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a growing system of billions of devices that connect through wireless networks to the internet and each other. IoT can be found in consumer products, commercial and industrial devices and even used in the military. Primary examples include:
Home use (e.g. smart baby monitor)
Business use (e.g. internet connected HVAC unit)
Industrial IoT (IIoT)
Manufacturing use (e.g. systems controlling robots at a factory)
Specific to energy, water/sewer or other utilities (e.g. smart electric meters)
Military IoT (IoMT)
Specific to military use (e.g. unmanned warfare)
Types of Vulnerabilities
IoT device vulnerabilities are particularly concerning. because a compromise could have a detrimental outcome outside of the digital environment. For example, an attacker could access an HVAC system and overheat it. Below are the types of vulnerabilities to keep an eye on.
Physical vulnerabilities including:
● Weak, guessable or hardcoded passwords
● Insecure network services
● Lack of hardening, device management and/or privacy protection
● Unused ports both physical (e.g. uArt or RS232) and virtual (superfluous services)
Firmware vulnerabilities including:
● Conventional vulnerabilities like programming errors
● Stored security keys
Common Network Attack Vectors
Networking in IoT is a very complex, tangled web of mesh networks, where devices connect to other devices that connect to other devices. There are many combinations of potential connections, and an attack can target communications between any of the following:
How to Protect Your Data
Data is abundant in IoT devices so it is important to consider even more protections:
● Clever log and network monitoring is needed as many IoT endpoints do not keep logs and network communications are often unrestricted. Any design plan for an IoT solution should define logging practices and profile network communications to more easily detect deviations from standard endpoint profiles.
● As always, it is key to consider CIA for data (confidentiality, integrity, availability)
• C: Only those with permission can read the data (protects against data theft)
• I: Only those with permission can modify the data (protects against data modification)
• A: Those with permission can always access the data (protects against data loss)
● Special protections around precision and accuracy of data are needed because Real Time decisions are being made based on the data. In a widely known example, Boeing 737 Max experienced an unbounded loss of data accuracy. With limited plans in place to address this loss of accuracy, the result was tragic.
● Privacy and human rights will play a big role in IoT Security but it remains to be seen how as the amount of potential IoT data dwarfs the personal data available on the internet, protecting that data, will be front and center.
The internet of things is an incredible platform for innovation. However, IoT will continue to open opportunities for new online threats. As with any new technology, strong security is essential. A standardized approach is needed based on established principles to ensure it is as secure as possible.
We recommend establishing tools and programs in alignment with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework2 . It is also key to have prevention, detection and response plans in place such as those Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service provides. Most importantly, having a disaster response plan is key, and not just for “hacks” but also for business situations where malfunctioning IoT or inaccurate data would cause damage like the Boeing Max 8 case. At Pondurance, we recommend having 24 x 7 security monitoring in place to detect unwanted behavior and reduce the likelihood of an incident. Our Managed Detection and Response (MDR) experts are available to help you build that plan or review your current plan. Learn more about MDR in our eBook: 5 Things to Consider When Choosing an MDR Vendor
Pondurance delivers world-class managed detection and response services to industries facing today’s most pressing and dynamic cybersecurity challenges including ransomware, complex compliance requirements and digital transformation accelerated by a distributed workforce.
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