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IoT Cyber Security: Trends, Challenges and Solutions

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14th Sep, 2023
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    IoT Cyber Security: Trends, Challenges and Solutions

    IoT cyber security is a technology segment devoted to protecting linked devices and networks in the Internet of things (IoT). IoT entails connecting a system of interconnected computing devices, mechanical and digital machinery, items, animals, and/or people to the Internet. Each "thing" is given a unique identifier and the capacity to transport data autonomously across a network. Allowing devices to connect to the Internet exposes them to several major risks if not adequately secured. 

    What is IoT Cyber Security? 

    The Internet of Things (IoT) connects various objects and devices via the internet to communicate with similarly connected devices or machines. With an internet connection, consumers can now purchase a wide range of products, from automobiles to refrigerators. By extending networking capabilities to all aspects of our lives, we can become more efficient, save time and money, and have access to our digital lives whenever we need it.

    Cybersecurity professionals frequently refer to this fact as increasing the attack surface that hackers can exploit. Security professionals are aware of this and work to manage the resulting security risks. To know more about it, check out our best Cyber security Certification programs.

    Why is IoT (Internet of Things) Security Required? 

    Securing IoT devices is difficult for a variety of reasons. As manufacturers and innovators are pressed to release new products, security is frequently given a lower priority than time-to-market metrics. Many businesses are also unaware of the vulnerabilities that IoT presents and are frequently more concerned with the cost savings and convenience that IoT provides.  

    Gartner predicts that by 2020, IoT will be used in more than 25% of enterprise attacks. For industrial IoT (I IoT) systems, the stakes are especially high. Connected IoT sensors and devices can significantly increase operational risks in everything from national power generation and distribution infrastructures to global manufacturing operations. 

    In addition to securing individual IoT devices, organizations must also ensure the security of their IoT networks. Strong user authentication and access control mechanisms can help to ensure that only authorized users have access to the IoT framework. 

    The Internet of Things can provide significant benefits to businesses (IoT). However, more IoT devices and a more complex IoT ecosystem mean more security vulnerabilities from the edge to the cloud. Unfortunately, many businesses continue to put off implementing an IoT cybersecurity strategy and fail to recognize IoT security risks until it is too late.  

    And COVID-19 has only heightened the dangers. Developing a thorough understanding of IoT cybersecurity issues and implementing a risk-mitigation strategy will help protect your business and boost confidence in digital transformation processes. 

    How Do IoT Attacks Occur? 

    The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has published a detailed draught list of IoT attack surface areas, or areas in IoT systems and applications where threats and vulnerabilities may exist, as part of its Internet of Things Project.  

    The following is a summary of the IoT attack surface areas:  

    1. Devices

    Devices can be the primary means of launching attacks. Memory, firmware, physical interface, web interface, and network services are all areas where vulnerabilities can occur. Attackers can also exploit insecure default settings, obsolete components, and insecure update mechanisms, among other things. 

    2. Channels of communication

    Attacks on IoT devices can originate in the communication channels that connect IoT components. Protocols used in IoT systems may have security flaws that have a ripple effect on the entire system. IoT systems are also vulnerable to well-known network attacks such as DoS and spoofing.

    3. Software and applications

    Vulnerabilities in web applications and related software for the Internet of Things devices can compromise systems. Web applications, for example, can be used to steal user credentials or to distribute malicious firmware updates. 

    Examples of IoT Cyber Security Breaches 

    1. Stuxnet

    Stuxnet is a sophisticated computer worm designed to detect specific nuclear machinery. Stuxnet is a computer worm that destroys real-world devices rather than hacking them to cause software damage. In order to infect the Windows PCs in the Natanz facility, Stuxnet exploited no fewer than four zero-day bugs a Windows Shortcut flaw, a bug in the print spooler, and two escalations of privilege vulnerabilities along with a zero-day flaw in the Siemens PLCs and an old hole already used in the Conficker attack. The sheer number of vulnerabilities exploited is unusual,  as typically zero-days are quickly patched in the wake of an attack and so a hacker won't want to reveal so many in a single attack.

    2. Mirai

    Mirai searches the Internet for IoT devices that use the ARC processor. This CPU runs a simplified version of the Linux operating system. Mirai can infect a device if the default username and password are not changed. 

    IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a fancy word for smart gadgets that can connect to the Internet. These gadgets can be baby monitors, automobiles, network routers, agricultural devices, medical devices, environmental monitoring devices, home appliances, DVRs, CC cameras, headsets, or smoke detectors. 

    To bring Dyn down, the Mirai botnet hacked 100,000 IoT devices.

    3. Breach of Casino Data

    In April 2021, Tasmanian casino operator Federal Group discovered themselves in the thick of a cyberattack as their pokies machines (also known as slot machines) and hotel booking systems began to malfunction. At the time of the hack, the casino group was unsure whether credit card information saved in the hotel booking system had also been compromised, and they have yet to share that information publicly. 

    Terry Aulich, international privacy and security specialist remarked that he was "very disappointed" with the company's cyber defenses and cautioned other Tasmanian firms to learn from Federal Group's shortcomings. In the eight months preceding the hack, guests at Federal Group's two casinos spent up to $53.7 million on slot machines. 

    4. Jeep Exploitation

    Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two security researchers, performed something incredible. 

    They hacked a Jeep while it was driving along a major highway at 70 mph, tampering with its entertainment system, engine, and brakes. 

    And they didn't do it in the rear seat; they did it from the comfort of a sofa in Miller's basement 10 miles away.

    5. Implantable Medical Device

    Let's face it: the more vulnerable a medical gadget is, the more likely it is to be hacked. Medtronic made waves in March 2019 when it revealed a security issue in certain of its implantable devices. 

    Following the identification of a "major cyber security hole" by the Department of Homeland Security, one of its cardiac devices received a vulnerability rating of 9.3 (out of 10) points. 

    Medtronic's cardiac devices communicate wirelessly. The weaknesses in the system may allow unauthorized individuals to gain access. This means that unauthorized users could alter the device's settings or at-home monitoring systems. 

    Due to the possibility of assaults, the FDA recalled 465,000 implantable pacemakers manufactured by St. Jude Medical a few years ago. Patients who had the implants did not have them removed; instead, Abbott (the parent company of St. Jude Medical) delivered a software upgrade in August 2017. The update adds improved patient security. Attacks could result in hackers draining the device's battery life or altering a patient's heartbeat. Both of these attacks have the potential to be lethal. 

    Although no such attack has been documented, the threat is genuine.

    How to Safeguard IoT Devices and Networks Against Cyber Attacks 

    1. Strong Passwords

    Before connecting to the network, devices connected to the Internet of Things should be secured. To do so, use strong passwords, keep these devices' security software up to date, and encrypt and authenticate the device.

    2. Change Default Passwords

    Many IoT devices come with default passwords, which cybercriminals are likely to know. It implies that you should change your default passwords to prevent unauthorized access to your Internet of Things devices.

    3. Create Guest Networks

    It is critical to secure network connections and Wi-Fi with strong passwords. It is also necessary to create guest networks to prevent hackers from gaining access to the connection and ensure the security of your IoT devices. 

    4. Examine the Default Settings

    Many IoT devices include default privacy and security settings. To avoid uncertainty and cyberattacks, you should consider checking and changing them. Some default settings may be advantageous to the device manufacturer. 

    5. Maintain Device Updates

    Just like mobile updates, Internet of Things device manufacturers may send you updates to update and install new security software. You can also check their websites for updates and IoT protection. 

    Check out our best Cyber Security certification programs to learn about which certifications you should pursue to begin or advance your information security career.  

    How Can IoT Cybersecurity be Improved? 

    In developing an IoT cybersecurity strategy, blockchain technology should be considered as a core approach. This is because blockchain is a decentralized storage space that houses information in a digital format that is accessible in a transparent manner. This is due to the fact that blockchain has many entry points rather than a single point of contact. Because each node is essentially any electronic device that maintains a copy of the blockchain, an attack on one or more of the nodes has no effect on the other nodes. By default, blockchain protects against data tampering by restricting access to IoT devices, allowing compromised devices in the network ecosystem to be shut down. 

    There are four steps that can be taken to improve IoT cybersecurity. 

    • When evaluating, selecting, and installing IoT devices, cybersecurity is a top priority from the start. Device security is not an afterthought and should never be added after the fact. 
    • Patches to cybersecurity software and firmware do reduce cyber risks. Consider investing only in IoT devices that can run the software and will accept software updates on a regular basis. 
    • Be proactive in terms of IoT device security. Freeware is rarely officially maintained in the cloud, at the edge, or on the device. The cost of attempting to recover from a cyberattack is greatly outweighed by securing the IoT device and network in advance to prevent the attack from occurring in the first place.
    • Don't be afraid to seek professional assistance. Cybersecurity is an ever-changing target. Hackers always seem to be one step ahead of the competition. As a result, cybersecurity has become a skill that many organizations lack.
    • Smart cybersecurity practices are difficult to envision and implement. They do, however, necessitate a continuous commitment to be fully effective. As a result, a proactive and systemic approach to cybersecurity will pay off in the short and long term. 

    IoT Security Issues and Solutions 
    IoT vulnerabilities protection

    1. Issue: Password security flaws

    • Hard-coded and embedded credentials pose a risk to IT systems and are equally dangerous to IoT devices.  
    • Guessable or hard-coded credentials provide an opportunity for hackers to attack the device directly.  
    • With default passwords, the attacker may already know the machine's password!  
    • The Mirai malware is an example of such a recent IoT attack.  
    • Mirai infected IoT devices ranging from routers to video cameras and video recorders by successfully logging in with a list of 61 commonly used hard-coded default usernames and passwords.  
    • The malware spawned a massive botnet. It "enslaved" 400,000 interconnected devices.  
    • Mirai-infected devices (which became "zombies") were used to launch the world's first 1Tbps Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack on servers at the heart of internet services in September 2016.  
    • It brought Amazon Web Services and its clients, including GitHub, Netflix, Twitter, and Airbnb, to a halt

    Solution: 

    Change the default password of your IoT device as soon as you receive it. Hackers use hash key decryption software with a database of common passwords and hash keys. It is strongly advised to restrict logins to a single IP address. This severely restricts cross-border access.  

    Let's move on to the second challenge.

    2. Issue: Absence of consistent updates and fixes, as well as a faulty update mechanism

    • IoT products are designed with usability and connectivity in mind. 
    • They may be secure at the time of purchase, but they become vulnerable when hackers discover new security flaws or bugs.  
    • IoT devices become vulnerable over time if they are not fixed with regular updates.  
    • Let us discuss this IoT security issue with Satori.  
    • Satori is malware that behaves and spreads similarly to Mirai.  
    • Satori transmits a worm, allowing infection to spread from device to device with no human intervention.  
    • First, it does not spread solely through credential guessing but has been discovered to target known vulnerabilities in specific Wi-Fi router ranges.  
    • Second, Satori has been found infecting smart processor architectures that had previously been ignored by IoT malware, SuperH, and ARC.

    Solution:  

    Any third-party software or hardware that is to be included in the supply chain should be thoroughly scanned by OT managers and other security experts. At all times, secure and encrypted channels should be used for frequent updates and secure update mechanism processes. Before uploading updates to the IoT device network, their integrity and source should be verified. Enterprises can address IoT security issues by avoiding insecure device operating system customization.

    3. Issue: Interfaces that are insecure

    • Data is processed and communicated by all IoT devices. Apps, services, and protocols are required for communication, and many IoT device vulnerabilities stem from insecure interfaces. 
    • They are associated with the web, application API, cloud, and mobile interfaces and have the potential to compromise the device and its data. 
    • Common problems include a lack of/or insufficient device authentication and authorization and weak or no encryption. 
    • Solutions include:  
    • Device identification. It is used to restrict access to a connected device and the data it generates to only authorized people and applications who can demonstrate knowledge of the secret. 
    • Certificates digital. They allow a digital entity (IoT device, computer, etc.) to securely transfer data to authorized parties. X509 certificates are common certificate formats that a reputable Certificate Authority typically signs. They enable us to identify and verify each IoT device uniquely.  
    • Don't fall behind.  

    Solution:  

    Strict device authentication and authorization procedures capable of safeguarding mobile and cloud interfaces should be implemented to reduce the risk of a breach in a company. Businesses should ensure that every IoT device connected to their network has an X.509 standard certificate. Any IoT device on the network may be identified, authenticated, or authorized using this by the OT manager. The device can be unplugged from the network if anything suspicious is found. This drastically lessens IoT security issues. Practical identity technologies can aid in differentiating between malicious and trustworthy people.

    4. Issue: Inadequate data security (communication and storage)

    • Insecure communications and data storage are the most common causes of data security concerns in IoT applications. 
    • One of the major issues for IoT privacy and security is that compromised devices can be used to access sensitive data.  
    • Darktrace researchers revealed in 2017 that they had discovered a sophisticated attack on an unnamed casino.  

    Solution:  

    Cryptography is a powerful tool for dealing with data security issues.  

    To ensure confidentiality and privacy, businesses should use strong data encryption. This is useful during a data breach or a cyber-attack.  

    It is critical to incorporate Federated Machine Learning (which is still in the development stage). In FML, the remains local while machine learning occurs at the edge. Only analytics are sent to the cloud. This can significantly reduce many IoT security challenges. 

    5. Issue: Inadequate IoT device management

    • Over 5 million IoT, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things), and unmanaged connected devices in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and life sciences were examined in a study published in July 2020. 
    • It reveals an astounding number of vulnerabilities and risks across a diverse set of connected objects.  
    • They include shadow IoT (devices without IT's knowledge), compliance violations, and recalled (defective and risky) medical devices from the US Food and Drug Administration. 
    • The report reveals concerning facts and trends:  
    • Approximately 15% of the devices were unknown or unauthorized.  
    • Between 5% and 19% were running unsupported legacy operating systems.  
    • To gain visibility, 49% of IT teams guessed or tinkered with their existing Internet of Things security solutions.  
    • 51% had no idea what kinds of smart objects were active in their network. 
    • VLAN violations were found in 75% of deployments.  
    • More than ten FDA-recalled devices were used in 86% of healthcare deployments.  
    • Amazon Alexa and Echo devices were integrated into 95% of healthcare networks but hold on; there's more.  
    • Social media platforms were discovered to be running Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography machines. 

    Threats to IoT   

    1. A Tesla was even linked to the hospital network at one location.   
    2. These dangerous connections endanger organizations.  
    3. Ransomware gangs target healthcare more than any other industry in the United States. It is now, by far, the most common root cause of healthcare breaches in the country.   
    • Recent ransomware attacks resulted in the following outcomes:  
    • operation disruption, 
    • customer data and safety were jeopardized,  
    • financial losses, loss of information  
    • reputational harm  
    • Now for the good news.  
    • Implementing IoT security platforms can significantly reduce these vulnerabilities and IoT security threats.   

    Solution: 

    Enterprises should hire a dedicated Operation Technology (OT) Manager who is knowledgeable and experienced in network management. Legacy devices should be removed from the network or upgraded to other devices' security firmware. It is best if businesses micromanage the network by segmenting it into distinct segments. All IoT devices and networks should have constant and periodic security checks on vulnerabilities, firmware updates, alerting, and reporting.  

    6. Issue: The Internet of Things Skill Gap

    • Training and upskilling programs must be implemented. 
    • Additional informative workshops, hands-on newsletters and bulletins, and "Hacker Fridays," where team members can attempt to hack a specific smart device, can make a significant difference. 
    • The more knowledgeable and prepared your team members are about IoT, the more powerful your IoT will be. 

    Solution: 

    Adapting to changing needs puts a company under pressure on all fronts. Is your company prepared to adapt to such a shift? This is an issue that must be addressed and will necessitate a long-term strategy. How will you close the skill gap?

    • Retraining and Upskilling - With an abundance of resources, businesses can sponsor employee retraining and upskilling in emerging technologies. This should be viewed as an essential component of an enterprise's IT budget. According to reports, this approach improved employee retention and loyalty among IT behemoths.
    • Recruitment Strategy - Rather than attempting to meet today's needs, businesses should focus on recruiting for an unknown tomorrow. 
    • Building a future pipeline -Tomorrow's needs, whether for the company or the customers, should be understood today. Developing a pipeline of cybersecurity professionals, those who can take on IoT security challenges, and, most importantly, those who can bring organizational changes in IoT connectivity should be pursued and integrated into the organization. 

    Best IoT Cyber Security Tools 

    1. M2MLabs Mainspring

    M2MLabs Mainspring is an open-source application framework for developing machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. These applications include remote IoT security monitoring, fleet management, and smart grid. Among the features are flexible device modeling, configuration, communication between devices and applications, data validation and normalization, long-term data storage, and retrieval functions.  

    2. Flutter

    Flutter is a programmable processor core for electronics projects designed for hobbyists, students, and engineers. Flutter's main selling point is its long range. This Arduino-based board features a wireless transmitter with over a half-mile range. Furthermore, no router is required; flutter boards can communicate with one another directly. It has 256-bit AES encryption and is simple to use.

    3. Eclipse IoT Project

    You've probably heard of the Lua programming language. Eclipse offers a wide range of IoT projects. This includes application frameworks and services, as well as open-source implementations of IoT protocols and tools that are Lua-compatible.

    4. Kinoma

    Kinoma, a Marvell Semiconductor product, is a hardware prototyping platform that includes three open-source projects. Kimona Create is a do-it-yourself prototyping kit for electronic devices. Kimona Studio is a working development environment.  

    5. Node-RED

    Node-Red is a visual tool for interconnecting hardware devices, APIs, and online services in novel and interesting ways. Node-RED, which is built on Node.js, describes itself as "a visual tool for wiring the Internet of Things," allowing developers to connect devices, services, and APIs using a browser-based flow editor. It can run on the Raspberry Pi, and there are over 60,000 modules available to expand its capabilities.

    Best IoT Security Technologies 
    IoT security technologies
    Source

    According to Forrester's research, the following are the most popular IoT security technologies.  

    1. Need for Security in IoT Networks

    IoT network security is more difficult than traditional network security because communication protocols, IoT security standards, and device capabilities are more diverse, posing significant issues and increasing complexity. It entails securing the network connection that connects the IoT devices to the Internet's back-end systems. 

    2. IoT identification

    It allows users to authenticate Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including managing multiple users for a single device and utilizing various authentication procedures, from several static passwords to more secure mechanisms like two-factor authentication, digital certificates, and biometrics. Many IoT authentication scenarios are M2M-based and do not include human involvement, in contrast to conventional enterprise networks where authentication is carried out by a human entering a credential. Baimos Technologies, Covisint, Entrust Datacard, and Gemalto are some examples of vendors.

    3. Encryption of IoT Devices

    Protecting data integrity, avoiding data sniffing by hackers, and encrypting data while it is in transit and at rest between IoT edge devices and back-end systems. Standard encryption methods and protocols are inaccessible due to a number of IoT hardware profiles and devices.  

    4. Analytics for IoT Security

    This technology collects, aggregates, monitors, and normalizes data from IoT devices and provides actionable reporting and alerting on suspicious activity or activity that violates established policies. 

    5. API Security for IoT

    Using documented REST-based APIs, we can authenticate and authorize data movement between IoT devices, back-end systems, and applications. API security ensures the integrity of data transiting between edge devices and back-end systems, as well as the detection of potential threats and attacks against APIs. Akana, Apigee/Google, Axway, CA Technologies, Mashery/TIBCO, MuleSoft, and others are examples of vendors. 

    Common IoT Vertical Markets 

    Agriculture, farming, energy, enterprise, finance, healthcare, industrial, retail, and transportation are among the top IoT verticals. A plethora of sensors produces a wealth of new information about device status, location, behavior, usage, service configuration, and performance in such verticals. The chapter then introduces a new business model primarily driven by the new information. It illustrates the new business benefits to companies that manufacture, support, and service IoT products, particularly in terms of customer satisfaction. The key requirements for delivering "Anything as a Service" in IoT are presented, followed by a specific use case.

    IoT Cyber Security in the Future 

    • There is no denying that IoT security is complex, but experts in the field are well-versed in the best practices for efficient risk assessment and mitigation. 
    • Expert collaboration makes IoT deployments easier. 
    • There is no doubt that this method improves security. 

    1. From the ground up, IoT cybersecurity

    • According to Steffen Sorrell, a Principal Analyst at Juniper Research, cybersecurity in IoT is critical. 
    • Building security from the ground up and focusing on the fundamentals is the first stage for businesses.  
    • This entails assessing the risks that the devices and networks are exposed to.  
    • For smaller businesses or those unfamiliar with security best practices, bringing in third-party expertise to assess risk and provide the best solution is the best way forward. 

    2. Managing IoT security concerns effectively

    Ensuring that the three security pillars' goals are met is a matter of proper security by design. 

    The three-security pillars are: 

    • Confidentiality 
    • Integrity 
    • Availability 

    Companies can prevent unauthorized access to data, devices, and software by implementing security options such as encryption as soon as possible, with expert knowledge mobilized. As a result, these controls contribute to data integrity and service availability.

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    Conclusion

    IoT cyber security is a massive challenge for organizations implementing this technology; security must be prioritized. Organizations that have their IoT security in place will be able to refocus on the primary goals of IoT, optimizing processes, improving quality of service, lowering costs, and improving the customer experience. 

    For the foreseeable future, IoT and ICS/OT devices will be present in our lives. It is up to cybersecurity professionals to ensure that these devices continue to assist us in conducting business and living our lives rather than becoming a nuisance. 

    But first, a friendly reminder. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Is cybersecurity a component of the Internet of Things?

    IoT security can be defined as a cybersecurity strategy and protection mechanism that protects against cyberattacks that specifically target physical IoT devices connected to the network. 

    2How is IoT affecting cyber-security?

    According to a Cisco infographic, more things are now connected to the Internet than people. It goes on to say that 25 billion devices are expected to be connected by 2015, with 50 billion by 2020.

    3What are the different types of IoT security?
    • Any solution you choose should have, at the very least, the following security capabilities: 
    • Onboarding security (bootstrap server)  
    • Device identification  
    • Device certification  
    • Encryption of data  
    • Management plan for strong keys or certificates at all levels  
    • Remote firmware/software updates over the air (quickly apply security fixes)  
    • APIs that are both internally and externally secured (platform side) 
    4What are the advantages of Internet of Things security?

    The benefits of secure IoT include protection against IoT threats, the creation of new business opportunities, and the provision of trust, integrity, and control. It safeguards critical assets such as devices, identities, data, decisions, commands, and actions.

    Profile

    Kashif Ansari

    Author

    Kashif Ansari is a Cyber Security Researcher and founder of Zadar Cyber Security Response Centre. He has had experience as a security analyst of 5+ years and found many bugs in bugcrowd and hackerone platform. Kashif is a specialist in content development and brings a unique blend of creativity and knowledge to his clients in the cyber space.

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