Digitally connected devices and apps encroach on every aspect of our lives, whether it’s our homes, offices, cars, or even our bodies. All objects become intelligent so that they can exploit the advantages of connecting to the Internet. The era of the Internet of Things (IoT) is booming at an ever-increasing pace.
According to ABI research, there are over 40 billion devices connected to wireless networks in 2020. There is a huge amount of data transferred over the network to and from these devices. While business IT systems reside in the cloud, much of the IoT infrastructure resides at the edge. The number of devices and workloads at the edge is orders of magnitude greater than anything we might find in data centers and they are highly distributed in nature.
Whereas previously the threat surface was limited to the company’s IT configuration alone, in a modern world it has become much larger. Before we talk about security measures in IoT, let’s take a look at a few threat vectors that surround it.
Common Threat Vectors for IoT
A threat vector is a path or medium through which a cybercriminal can gain access to your core systems running on a network. With so many devices connected in the IoT, the most common threat vectors are:
No physical boundaries
IoT devices transcend the traditional network perimeter and exist in the open. Traditional security approaches to restrict access to devices are no longer applicable. These devices can be moved to any new location as needed and can be configured to access the network.
Weakly configured Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth configurations in the IoT pose a major threat of data leakage. Weak encryption methods can allow attackers to steal credentials while transmitting data over the network. Additionally, most of the time, passwords are not uniquely set for each device, leaving space for unauthorized access to the entire network if only one device is compromised.
Physical possession of the device
This is perhaps the worst of all threat vectors where attackers physically gain access to devices and workloads. With this type of access, attackers can easily gain access to internal components of devices and their content, but with tools such as Bus Pirate, Shikra or Logic Analyzers, they can also read all communications circulating on the network. In physical possession of an IoT device, an attacker can extract cryptographic secrets, modify its programming or replace it with another device under its control.
IoT vs. IT
While IoT devices are present on Edge, the IT infrastructure relies on the cloud. A compromise on IoT security can lead attackers to gain access to the main computer network through any of the IoT threat vectors mentioned above. Few real incidents are mentioned below.
Targeting the data breach through CVC
Target, one of America’s 10 largest retail companies, reported hackers stole 40 million credit card numbers in one of the biggest data breaches in history. The hackers stole the credentials of the third-party HVAC provider, entered the HVAC system, and then gained access to the company’s network.
Subway point of sale hacking
Several point-of-sale security vulnerabilities have been reported. One of them is the $ 10 million violation of the Subway outlet where at least 150 franchises have been targeted. Another similar breach occurred at Barnes & Noble, where credit card readers from 63 stores were compromised.
Another famous case of system breach was reported through the SamSam ransomware which attacked the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Port of San Diego, USA in 2018, abruptly shutting down their services.
While IoT regulations are in place in many places, they are not enough to mitigate the risks of attacks. California has a “reasonable level of security” of regulations when it comes to curbing attacks. Likewise, the UK has unique password policies in place, companies must provide clear vulnerability disclosure contact and regular security updates for IoT devices connected to the IT infrastructure of the UK. ‘State. While these codes of practice have been well received by many security commentators, there isn’t much clarity on who would enforce these policies. Officials added that they are working to understand how these regulations can be enforced through existing UK agencies.
Attackers evolve at a much faster pace in their strategies as these regulations are implemented annually or, at most, semi-annually. It is difficult to maintain security against attackers simply by relying on regulatory policies.
What companies should do
While the above regulations are in place, companies should implement their own security measures for IoT devices.
To start with, they need to have a clear identification of IoT devices. Each of these devices must have its unique identity which can be well managed. This is of absolute importance and forms the basis of much of the security measures that are relied on later.
Next, software should also be secured through metrics such as firmware, signed code, firmware compliance, or workload compliance. All of these metrics need to be built on top of the identity layer.
And finally, businesses need to have the highest compliance layer that decides which versions of software should be running, or what level of firmware should be running on devices.
So to sum up, for a complete security solution for IoT devices, identity management should be at the heart of everything, followed by firmware and software management and finally any kind of compliance should be built on top of it.
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