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The State of Internet of Things (IoT) Security

The Internet of Things (IoT) allows organizations worldwide to be more flexible, innovative, and interconnected, but it also introduces unprecedented risks and vulnerabilities to IT environments.

In 2023, the number of connected devices in the world grew to 15.14 billion, with another 2 billion expected to come online in 2024. The volume of these devices increases the need for organizations to secure the IoT to protect their critical assets, data, staff, customers, and reputation.

What is the IoT?

The IoT refers to a network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances, and other objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and network connectivity, allowing them to collect and share data. These devices can range from simple smart home devices, like thermostats and wearables, to complex industrial machinery and transportation systems. Through the IoT, these smart devices communicate with each other, creating a vast network of interconnected technologies.

As IoT becomes more commonplace across businesses, it’s important to be aware of the benefits and challenges IoT can present, including:

Benefits:

  • The IoT enables automation and optimization of various processes, improving efficiency in industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics.
  • IoT devices generate vast amounts of data, providing valuable insights for informed decision-making, predictive analytics, and business intelligence.
  • The IoT facilitates remote monitoring and control of devices and systems, enhancing operational control and reducing the need for physical presence.

Challenges:

  • The increased number of connected devices expands the attack surface, leading to potential data breaches, unauthorized access, and manipulation of connected systems.
  • As the number of IoT devices increases, scalability becomes a challenge. Managing and keeping track of a vast network of connected devices can be complex.
  • Compliance with various regulations and standards, particularly concerning data protection and security, can be challenging for IoT deployments.

 

IoT Security in 2024

The IoT is here to stay and will only continue to increase and integrate into business workflows. Below are some of my predictions of what to expect from IoT devices this year:

Shadow IoT: shadow IoT refers to any connected device that is unknown to corporate IT. The number of shadow IoT devices will undoubtedly multiply in 2024. As a result, IT teams will lack visibility into their organizations’ full attack surfaces.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT: as AI becomes more popular with both enterprises and cybercriminals, we can expect to see AI weaponization tactics used against IoT devices. Inserting malicious AI-generated code into IoT technologies is one example. Security professionals will need to be aware of any potential threats hard-coded into IoT devices that need to be patched.

IoT Vulnerabilities: the increase in IoT devices, such as security cameras, printers, and thermostats, within organizations require security teams to take a holistic approach to IoT security. Given how damaging a cyber attack can be from the root of an IoT device, examining connected devices for weaknesses (i.e., weak passwords, outdated components, and improper device management) and building a plan to address those vulnerabilities is crucial to securing the overall IT environment.

Securing the IoT

Securing IoT devices is crucial to mitigate the risk of cyber threats and protect both individual users and organizations. The solutions below are critical to the foundation and success of any organization’s IoT security program:

  • Update Software: Regularly update the software and firmware of IoT devices. Manufacturers frequently release updates to address vulnerabilities, enhance features, and improve security.
  • Network Segmentation: Segment your network to isolate IoT devices from critical systems. This limits the impact of a potential breach and prevents lateral movement within the network.
  • Disable Unnecessary Features: Disable any unnecessary services on IoT technologies and only enable functionalities that are essential for the device’s intended purpose.
  • Monitor Network Traffic: Implement network monitoring tools to detect unusual or suspicious traffic patterns. Anomalies in data flows may indicate a security incident.
  • IoT Inventory: To reduce shadow IoT, maintain an inventory of all IoT devices connected to your network. Regularly scan and assess the network to identify new or unauthorized devices.

As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, ensuring the security of these technologies becomes paramount. A proactive and collaborative approach, including robust security measures, standardized policies | procedures specific to IoT, and ongoing awareness, is necessary for businesses to harness the full potential of IoT while safeguarding against evolving cyber threats.