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5 IoT Security Issues That May Leave You Vulnerable

By: Blair Felter on October 1, 2019

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are fundamentally changing the way people access services and utilize internet infrastructure. Whether these devices are located in the workplace, the home, or on their person, people are using them to make their lives easier and more productive. Unfortunately, IoT devices raise many questions regarding security and data privacy. There are a number of IoT security issues that organizations need to keep in mind when deploying these devices to make sure their IT systems remain protected.

5 IoT Security Issues That May Leave You Vulnerable

Unsecured Devices

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing IoT devices and edge computing frameworks is that they greatly expand the surface area of a network, creating more potential attack vectors in the process. Many security experts have warned that even a single unsecured device connected to a network could serve as a point of entry for an active hacking attempt or an indirect attack using malware of some form. Another IoT security concern for unsecured devices involves their ability to move from one network to another. Take, for instance, a smartphone or laptop that connects to a public WiFi network in a cafe and then later connects to the IT systems at the workplace. Exposure to other networks provides multiple opportunities for devices to be compromised in some way.

Too Much Trust

Implementing a “zero trust” philosophy when it comes to IoT networks is an essential step to securing IT systems and internet infrastructure. Traditional networking architecture takes for granted that any device or user who gains access to a network is authorized to be there. This makes it possible for unauthorized users to move laterally through a system once they breach the outer firewalls. This is particularly dangerous where IoT devices are involved, because many of them are unsecured and easier to use as a gateway into IT systems. A zero trust security philosophy implements much stronger authentication controls by starting with the assumption that anything in the network could potentially be compromised and then requiring stricter verification for any access request. This prevents lateral movement because even if an IoT device is compromised, the attacker will have a harder time moving to different parts of the network.

Poor Network Visibility

The proliferation of IoT devices is taking place so quickly that many organizations aren’t even able to keep up with all of the devices coming and going in their network. While traditional IT security systems focus on documenting every device and connection, the mobility and sheer number of IoT devices make it difficult to map out those relationships clearly. It’s difficult to guard against IIoT security issues, for instance, when that policy has to not only account for every device and sensor in the factory, but also every personal device and every device involved in the broader logistical network that may stretch around the world.

Software Vulnerabilities

Any network involving IoT devices includes a variety of overlapping software systems and applications. Every one of those systems has its own features and vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited. They could also create errors when they come into contact with each other, resulting in system downtime or compromising data. Keeping software up to date with patches and updates can be difficult, especially when every new device that joins the network could introduce a new set of vulnerabilities. Many IoT devices use open source software that can be easily manipulated by hackers seeking to gain access to IT systems, so it’s important for those systems to account for as many known software threats as possible.

Knowledge Gap

While all of the technical vulnerabilities of IoT devices are important to note, it should also be remembered that all of them can be made worse when users are unaware of them. Since one of the great appeals of IoT devices is their convenience, people often don’t stop to think about how something as simple as connecting their tablet to the office WiFi could pose a security risk. Even if an organization doesn’t make extensive use of IoT devices, its employees likely will be using them in their own homes. Making sure they understand why doing things like connecting a work computer to their home stereo over Bluetooth could potentially compromise data is a vital step in building a strong security policy that guards against data breaches.

The IoT revolution is already well underway, but many organizations are still struggling to implement the security policies needed to protect themselves from the risks associated with these smart devices. By identifying specific vulnerabilities that pose a threat to their networks and educating employees on practicing good habits when it comes to their connected devices, companies can take the first steps toward creating systems that are highly resilient and reduce the risks of data breaches and unauthorized access.

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