What is Internet of Things (IoT) Security?

Written by Duncan Frazer

By Duncan Frazer, IoT Product Manager @ Soracom

Last Updated: July 25th, 2023

In our interconnected world, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become an increasingly prevalent technology. IoT devices can be found in homes, businesses, and industrial settings, from smart thermostats to industrial control systems and beyond. As IoT devices become more ubiquitous, however, ensuring their security has become a critical issue. 

IoT security refers to the various measures taken to protect IoT devices and networks from unauthorised access, cyber attacks, and other security threats. In this overview, we will explore what security IoT is, why it is important, and what measures can be taken to improve a systems’ resilience to attacks. 

Threats to IoT Security

There are numerous threats to IoT security that organisations and individuals should be aware of. One of the most significant threats is the lack of security built into IoT devices themselves. Many IoT devices are designed with minimal security features or are not updated regularly, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. 

Attackers can (and often do) exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to the device or the data it collects, compromise the device’s functionality, or use it as a sort of platform to launch further attacks on other devices or systems.

Another threat to IoT security is the lack of encryption or the use of weak encryption that does a poor job of protecting the device’s data. Many IoT devices transmit sensitive data over the internet, such as personal and financial information or confidential business data. If this data is not encrypted (or is encrypted with insufficient complexity), it can be intercepted and compromised by attackers, potentially resulting in significant financial or reputational damage.

In addition, the large number of devices in the IoT ecosystem and their interconnectivity can also pose a threat to security. A single compromised device can be used as a foothold to infiltrate an entire network, allowing attackers to gain access to other devices and systems. Furthermore, the complexity of IoT devices and systems can make it difficult to identify vulnerabilities or detect attacks, making it challenging to mitigate security risks as they come up.

Organisations and individuals must be aware of these increasing threats to IoT security and implement appropriate measures to protect their IoT devices and data. This includes regularly updating devices and software, using strong encryption, implementing access controls and firewalls, and continuously monitoring and detecting potential threats.

5 Major IoT Security Breaches 

As major industries have grown to rely upon IoT systems of increasing complexity, major breaches of security have risen in turn. Over the last several years, there have been many examples of severe breaches of IoT security. Here are a few of them: 

Mirai Botnet

In 2016, the Mirai botnet compromised hundreds of thousands of IoT devices, including cameras and routers, and used them to launch large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against internet infrastructure providers, causing significant disruptions.

WannaCry Ransomware Attack

WannaCry ransomware attack

In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack exploited a vulnerability in older versions of Windows, which spread rapidly across networks, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers, including IoT devices.

Equifax Data Breach

In 2017, Equifax, a credit reporting agency, suffered a data breach that compromised the personal information of over 140 million individuals, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses. The breach was due to a vulnerability in an IoT device that was not patched promptly.

Target Data Breach

In 2013, Target, a large retailer, suffered a data breach that compromised the personal information of over 40 million customers, including credit and debit card information. The breach was caused by a vulnerability in an IoT device used to manage the company’s heating and air conditioning system.

Jeep Cherokee Hack

Jeep Cherokee Hack

In 2015, security researchers demonstrated that they could remotely take control of a Jeep Cherokee’s brakes, transmission, and other systems using an exploit through the vehicle’s infotainment system, which was connected to the internet.

IoT Security Measures & Best Practises 

IoT devices, such as sensors, smart appliances, and medical devices, often collect and transmit sensitive information over the internet, making them a potential target for cyberattacks. Security IoT involves implementing measures to protect IoT devices from unauthorised access, theft, and data breaches.

Some common security measures used in IoT include encryption, secure authentication mechanisms, network segmentation, and secure software and firmware updates. Additionally, many organisations are also working on developing security standards and frameworks for IoT devices to ensure that they meet specific security requirements. These bespoke solutions for IoT security will likely become critical to ensuring the safety, privacy, and reliability of increasingly complex networks. 

In general, there are some IoT security measures that organisations and individuals can take to protect their IoT devices and data. Here are some common measures:

  • Implement strong passwords: Strong passwords can prevent unauthorised access to IoT devices and networks.
  • Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security to IoT devices and networks.
  • Regularly update devices and software: Regular updates can fix security vulnerabilities and improve device performance.
  • Use robust encryption: Encryption can protect sensitive data transmitted by IoT devices and networks from interception and compromise.
  • Implement network segmentation: Network segmentation can isolate IoT devices from critical systems and reduce the impact of a security breach.
  • Use stringent firewalls: Firewalls can protect IoT networks from unauthorised access and block malicious traffic.
  • Conduct regular security audits: Regular security audits can help identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in IoT devices and networks.
  • Monitor and detect potential threats: Continuous monitoring can detect potential threats and enable rapid response to mitigate security risks.
  • Follow security standards and frameworks: Following security standards and frameworks can ensure that IoT devices and systems meet specific security requirements.

Overall, implementing these security measures can help organisations and individuals protect their IoT devices and data from security threats.

Lack of Standardisation is a Major IoT Security Risk

The lack of standardisation is one of the major challenges facing IoT security. The absence of a unified set of security standards and protocols makes it challenging to develop consistent security measures across different IoT devices and networks. This, in turn, can lead to security vulnerabilities that are difficult to identify and mitigate. 

For example, if one manufacturer’s IoT device is designed with minimal security features, while another manufacturer’s device is designed with robust security features, it may be challenging to develop a comprehensive security strategy that can address both devices. 

Additionally, the lack of standardisation can make it difficult for security researchers to develop and test security solutions, which can further exacerbate security vulnerabilities. 

As a whole, the lack of standardisation can result in a patchwork of security measures that may not be sufficient to protect IoT devices and networks from emerging threats. As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, standardisation is becoming increasingly important to ensure the security and reliability of these devices.

Dealing With IoT Security at Scale 

Another major challenge with IoT applications is the sheer complexity of IoT ecosystems. As more and more devices are integrated into a network, it becomes difficult to manage and secure them all, especially in the field. 

A lack of regular security updates, limited resources in various levels, and an increasingly attack surface all contribute to the incredible difficulty of securing an IoT network atscale. 

The future of IoT security is likely to be shaped by a number of emerging trends and technologies. As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, security will become increasingly important, and new solutions will need to be developed to address evolving threats.

One area of focus will likely be the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enhance IoT security. These technologies can be used to identify and respond to potential threats in real-time, reducing the risk of data breaches and cyber attacks. Additionally, the development of new security standards and protocols will be critical to ensuring the security and interoperability of IoT devices and networks.

Another area of focus will be the development of new encryption technologies that can protect data both in transit and at rest. This will be particularly important as IoT devices become more interconnected and data is shared across multiple devices and networks. New encryption technologies will need to be scalable and easy to implement, while still providing robust protection against emerging threats.

Finally, the growing importance of privacy in the age of IoT will require new solutions to protect personal data. This will require a shift from reactive security measures to proactive privacy protection, including the development of privacy-preserving technologies that can be built into IoT devices and networks from the outset.

The future of IoT security will require a holistic approach that includes collaboration across industries, the development of new technologies and standards, and a commitment to privacy and data protection. As IoT devices become more ubiquitous, it will be essential to ensure that they are designed and implemented with security in mind, and that they can be easily updated and maintained to address emerging threats.

Keeping Your IoT Deployments Secure

When you’re deploying connected M2M devices at scale, IoT security should be your biggest priority. Soracom provides a number of innovative features for keeping your IoT network completely bulletproof at every step.

To learn more, speak with our team of IoT Security specialists today.