Security Tips for IoT Owners

As more and more IoT smart devices get vulnerable to security exploits, the associated risks of malicious infiltration get higher. The Internet of Things has started to change both the home and the corporate office, as smart devices get integrated into the environment. This article gives helpful advice to IoT device owners for better protecting themselves against hostile threats.

Internet of Risks – IoT Smart Apps Vulnerable on All Fronts

The Internet of Things is one of the fastest growing technology trends in recent years. These devices feature connected sensors, electronics, and software that deliver data and information to users and remote servers via a network connection. As the core principle is applied to most of the IoT products available on the market, the security exploits in most cases operate in a limited case of proven scenarios.

The smart devices collect and send various kinds of data that could be potentially dangerous if intercepted by criminals. Examples include zones of surveillance reports by home security systems, access control logs or other potentially dangerous information that could assist the malicious users in their activities. Those are just crude examples of what may happen if the smart devices are not secured in a proper way. Internet of Things thermostats can get infected by ransomware malware code demonstrated by UK experts. Even the seemingly small sensor devices can pose a menacing threat to both the user and his network if the IoT is not designed and configured in a truly secure way.

The IoT is gaining way both into consumer homes and corporate environments, and that creates a lot of possibilities for hackers to infiltrate networks, spread malware code and even spy on unsuspecting victims. Methods of infiltration and surveillance are so advanced that in some cases even the security measures can fail to detect the threats.

This is the reason why all IoT owners must be extremely cautious with their devices. Remember, these products depend on data collection, processing, and transmission. All of these operations possess serious security risks if done in an improper way.

Home IoT Safety Tips

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Home users who are about to integrate their latest gadget – an IoT device should make sure that their security is in place. As these devices in most cases allow direct controls of various appliances may be vulnerable to malicious attacks, consumers must have adequate protection. According to expert predictions this year there will be a total of 6.4 billion IoT devices in active use which is a 30% rise since last year.

  • Check what part of your home network is accessible from the Internet. Popular internet services and software products can give insights on what ports and services are exposed to the wide public. For a quick test, you can use Shields Up.
  • Password protect all accounts and devices that you use. Use strong strings and make sure to change them often.
  • Do not use insecure internet connections when utilizing sensitive smartphone apps. This includes applications for controlling IoT devices, smart banking, online payment and other services.
  • Keep your devices well protected. If your smartphone or tablet is stolen, it would be very easy for the criminal to remote control the linked IoT devices. Make sure to use precautions measures to prevent abuse.
  • Segment your home networks into a trusted zone and a more insecure one. By doing this, you can prevent criminals from accessing the smart devices in case of a network intrusion.
  • Use a well-configured firewall setup. Most routers have basic firewall features. However, you can tighten security by changing the default options.
  • Always apply the latest security patches to be protected from all known threats. It is a good idea to have automatic updates enabled for all devices.
  • Turn off the network connection when it is not required. This is especially true for devices that have recording capabilities as security vulnerabilities may expose users to spying. Not all IoT devices require a constant network connection, so don’t use one when that is not necessary.
  • Always amend the default settings. Most IoT device ship with settings that are placed for initial configuration purposes. And in most cases the owners do not take the time to modify them, making these devices extremely vulnerable. Disable functionality that you are not going to use and always make sure to have a strong password or other security measure in place.
  • Use child protection settings features. Explain the risks of the Internet and the IoT device’s capabilities to all minors in the house. There are some attack scenarios utilizing social engineering on children and teenagers which malicious users employ to gain access to the home network.

Home users are the early adopters of IoT devices as most of these smart products are geared towards the consumer segment of Internet users. That’s why its very important to have adequate security over both the user behavior and the device itself.

Secure IoT in the Corporate Environment

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As more and more IoT are incorporated into corporate networks, the needs for better protection arise. Various industries have already entrusted IoT smart devices for monitoring and control of production systems and environment control. Company owners and security advisers share some tips on good security practices when implementing IoT in an office or production environment.

  • Enforce a Bring Your Own Device Policy – A lot of company workers often loose company devices and those usually contain private information that could contain sensitive data. And even though encryption may be used, hackers having physical access to the devices themselves may use them for authentication purposes or other criminal ways.
  • Trust Manufacturers Who Care About Security – Businesses who want to implement IoT devices on their network should carefully select the vendors and have a look on the security features that they offer. A company that provides features that protect the information and device access should be trusted. Companies should disregard devices that target home users as they typically are not capable of supporting the security policies that corporate networks use.
  • Do not fall victim for the IoT invasion – As more and more smart devices become available, companies should only consider those options who have built a solid record of reliability and support. A lot of newly funded start-ups or aspiring manufacturers may be offering rich features in their latest product however businesses must consider stability and secure as a top priority.
  • Add additional security measures – As IoT devices actively transfer various metrics, the network connections should always be secure. Network administrators may employ additional layers of security to better protect the data. Using Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) is a good option for IoT secure implementations.
  • Carry out Security Testing – Secure infrastructure is guaranteed by continuously testing the security measures against contemporary threats. Penetration testing should be carried out at regular intervals by independent experts as well as internal IT staff. IoT weaknesses can be identified in some scenarios.
  • Automate the Security Responses – Enterprise security solutions offer incident response systems and other mechanisms that offload minor tasks from security personnel. When dealing with IoT smart devices on the corporate networks such measures can be useful when analyzing traffic data and performance.
  • Utilize Cyberthreat Intelligence methods – These measures are proactive security programs that are becoming more relevant as the malicious attacks continue to develop sophisticated methodologies. Security staff should always stay informed of the latest threats and know how to identify and react to them in case of an attack.
  • Companies should partner with IoT device manufacturers and always be on alert for the latest threats in the ecosystem of the smart products. When these devices are integrated into the corporate network or are part of the production environment, they carry cyber security risks that are equivalent of a serious malicious breach.

    The IoT Is Already in Our Hospitals

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    The security analyst Chris Sherman from Forrester Research has published a report titled “Healthcare’s IoT Dilemma: Connected Medical Devices” in which he summaries the risks associated with IoT adoption in medical institutions. The information presents serious concerns that IoT present to the environment. As one of their core aims is automation, the control is weakened as the devices are purposely built to execute various tasks without human assistance.

    In many cases, the vendors are the ones responsible for patching the devices and formulating the update cycles. As the IoT devices are in direct contact with patients, critical systems or important data, delays or improper updates may lead to malicious intrusions. And when malicious actions are executed, most methods of malware removal and hacker defenses require some network isolation that could pose a disruption to important activities.
    The report indicates that medical devices are vulnerable to several different attack scenarios: Denial of service (DOS), patient data theft, manipulation of therapy and destruction of assets. At the current moment, the DOS attacks are the most common and severe attacks carried out by criminals.

    Forrester Research has outlined several tips that can help medical institutions in protecting themselves against potential IoT attacks. These advisories rely on risk-based security frameworks.

    1. Organize Networks Devices Based on Risk Levels

    Integrating an IoT device onto a network makes in a part of the internal ecosystem. Using default passwords and bad security policies makes them vulnerable to exposure by sites such as Shodan. Five key attributes are showcased that contribute to the risk rating of medical devices: impact to patient security, network connectivity capabilities, data security options, the likelihood of attacks and manufacturer security response. Medical IoT should follow industry-standard guidelines and protocols for best security practices.

    2. Use a clinical risk management system

    There are defined standards that are used when incorporating medical devices in IT networks. Using a security-aware framework helps to determine the risk levels of all online devices, alleviates risk levels and helps to prevent incurred damage.

    3. All personnel should use good security practices

    This is the core concept in information security. However, the core principles apply to the use of smart devices as well. Still, a significant number of attacks against medical institutions are due to social engineering and phishing hacker attacks.

    4. Allow only devices with security controls

    Medical IoT devices should only be implemented in live settings only after adequate security controls are applied. Not all IoT smart products have good security controls, so staff should ensure that all devices meet the strict security requirements.
    As the medical institutions are a critical type of corporate environment, they should be analyzed and judged by penetration tests and threat modeling reports. The IT staff should have road maps for logging of suspicious data and vulnerability reporting.

    5. Follow the Zero Trust Network Principle

    This procedure helps to protect critical systems and helps to reduce malicious attacks, as well as reducing damage impact. Effective security measures are impossible to maintain due to the growing malicious threats. In recent times the zero trust networking rules have been effective in safeguarding both information and device security. Administrators should segment the devices on the internal network based on their risk, inspect traffic data and always ensure strong protection policies when authenticating users.

    These measures can be used to protect sensitive industries that require careful security planning, especially when working with IoT devices from different vendors.

Author : Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.


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