IoT devices are popular for their convenience, mobility, and data tracking and transfer features. But this equipment is often susceptible to security threats you need to know about.
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to bring new devices into a range of settings, from hospitals to smart homes. According to Fortune Business Insights, the IoT market is set to reach $1,463.9 billion by 2027.
The prevalence of the IoT is all about convenience. These devices, many of which are mobile, provide users ease of access, faster data transfer, better data tracking capabilities, and more. They allow businesses to expedite operational tasks and increase efficiency. But organizations need to be prepared for the security risks that this new equipment produces.
What makes IoT devices vulnerable?
The primary reasons IoT devices are more vulnerable to security threats include the following:
- They often don’t have the level of built-in security methods that other internet-connected devices have.
- As more people are using IoT equipment, users often don’t understand that their smart devices are exposed and don’t take the necessary steps to protect them.
- The minimal hardware doesn’t allow for strong security protection.
- They utilize a range of different technologies for transmitting information, making it more challenging to set standard protection protocols.
- Most IoT device traffic is unencrypted (98%, according to 2020 research from Palo Alto Networks).
IoT security threats
Exposure of confidential information
Because of those alarming statistics on missing encryption, attackers can easily access sensitive information and exploit that data on the dark web.
Attackers commonly hack IoT equipment to gain entry into more extensive networks and systems. The same research from Palo Alto Networks found that IoT devices are most often used as leverage to gain wider network access, known as lateral movement. These vulnerable access points are used as “stepping stones” to get into the more valuable systems and networks of a large organization.
Using multiple IoT devices in DDoS attacks (botnets)
Hackers can also exploit IoT devices to create a group of them (known as a botnet) that conducts distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks occur when criminals try to overwhelm a network to divert regular internet traffic. While these attacks are not necessarily a new security threat, the vulnerability of IoT equipment means that hackers have more opportunities to hack into more devices, strengthening their efforts.
An example of how serious this can be is the Mirai botnet malware attack. According to McAfee, millions of devices were infected by the Mirai botnet in late 2016, creating an “army” them.
Lack of manufacturer communication or security updates
As ZD Net points out, many manufacturers of IoT devices can’t be contacted by users if they notice a problem or vulnerability. This makes it more challenging for these companies to put protections in place to combat issues. In addition, manufacturers will often cease providing support for their IoT offerings without notifying a product user. This limits the user’s ability to find other security methods, as they won’t be aware of when they’ll stop receiving security updates.
IoT device manufacturers often employ weak password protection methods. Their passwords are not strong enough, the user can't change them, or companies don't implement best practices for password security, including requiring a unique password that cannot be reverted to a universal manufacturer setting.
In a ransomware attack, hackers encrypt sensitive data via malware, refusing to decrypt the information or threatening to publish it until they get what they want. The IoT has intensified these risks. Smart thermostats have been one common avenue of attack. A criminal may turn up the temperature after hacking a thermostat, demanding a ransom to revert to a safe setting.
These new security threats are directly related to the increase in the use of IoT devices worldwide. Your network management team must have the visibility to know what types of equipment are entering and exiting your network boundary— Mobile Eye® increases visibility, giving you the resources to know what's occurring in your network that can help to determine the security procedures in place to protect the system.
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