Top IoT security concerns and ways to address them

Securing your home, workplace, or country is a complicated business. The larger the area that you need to protect, the more exposed it is to security breaches. IoT security can be tricky. After all, the greater the number of connected devices the greater the risk of exposure to advanced and persistent threats (APT).

IoT security concerns

Ericsson's Head of IoT Security

Ericsson's Head of IoT Security

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By 2023, the number of connected devices is forecast to reach 20 billion. This increase in volume is a growing challenge for service providers tasked with trying to keep their networks secure, as well as for enterprises and critical infrastructure entities deploying and managing devices. After all, nobody wants to fall victim to a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) botnet attack.

With this in mind, it becomes clear why it is paramount that security becomes a top-of-mind concern for all stakeholders in the IoT. This includes everyone from the service providers who need to meet service level agreements (SLAs) for secure uptime to the organizations managing the deployed devices. Also included are the device manufacturers themselves, whose role and responsibilities in IoT security were thrust to the forefront by the Mirai botnet in 2016.

The Mirai botnet exploited a vulnerability in IoT devices to launch a DDoS attack against a critical DNS server that disrupted a number of the internet’s biggest websites, including PayPal, Spotify and Twitter.

Clearly, IoT security concerns many stakeholders. Learn more about Ericsson’s view on IoT security IoT security here.

Below are four concerns I’ve noticed customers have on the top of their mind when devising their IoT strategies as well as some suggestions how to reinforce end-to-end network and IoT operation security.

Identity and access management

Identity and access management (IAM) is normally associated with the human component of network and company resources. It’s not just end-users who require this, it also extends to devices and applications, both of which need network and resource access. The legitimacy of their connection requests and what they may have access to needs to be verified.

Devices left exposed in remote locations can easily be hacked and used to infiltrate an organization. Should this occur, the potential damage that it could cause must be closely controlled and limited, especially for control systems and critical infrastructure, such as power plants and hydroelectric dams, for example.

Data integrity

Another area drawing customer concerns is data integrity. Data is the life blood of IoT operations and it’s critical its integrity is robust. All parties involved must ensure their data has not been manipulated or tampered with while at-rest, in-transit or in-use.

Privacy and confidentiality is another area related to data integrity. Personal data, as well as any generated by an IoT device must be protected, regardless whether it is in-transit or at-rest. Organizations should encrypt their data to ensure it arrives unaltered, where it’s needed.

IoT From how to right now

No IoT ecosystem or network will ever be 100 percent secure

Service providers and enterprises must accept one fact: no IoT service will ever be fully secure. These operations are simply too complex; therefore, they are often full of vulnerabilities. Of course, this does not relieve any stakeholder from their responsibilities of ensuring the right levels of security. After all, every CISO knows, it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll be attacked but “when.”

In the end, enterprises and other users must be able to trust their network connection. This means not only building an infrastructure that is as secure as possible, but one that’s also resilient and robust enough to withstand a security incident. Reliability is important. They must find ways to offer uninterrupted operation and functionality, even if a part of the network is under attack.

Automation and management tools for IoT security

No human is capable of manually managing the sheer volume of connected devices on any IoT network. The continuous addition of devices and network re-configurations means there will be a constant introduction of new vulnerabilities and attack points. This means that processes and device management become automated and at the same time adaptive to new threats thereby ensuring the right levels of security is maintained.

IoT networks will always continue to evolve. Stakeholders, devices, applications and other technologies will come and go over the lifecycle of an ecosystem. Tools that provide end-to-end security visibility and overarching management of all entities are imperative.

The strategies and items to consider when creating an IoT service differs greatly depending on the nature of the application, such as mining, agriculture or manufacturing. Each use-case scenario adds its own set of complexities that must be taken into consideration when constructing, maintaining and securing any network designed to support an organization’s IoT operations.

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