Interconnected, data-enabled devices are more common now than ever before. By 2027, it is predicted that there will be more than 41 billion new IoT devices. The emergence of each new device offers a fresh vulnerability point for opportunistic bad actors.
In 2022, there were over 112 million cyberattacks carried out on IoT devices worldwide. Without sufficient protection, attackers can exploit these weak points to gain access to sensitive data or restrict access to internet networks.
From smart home gadgets to larger smart systems, a multi-stage vulnerability management program is essential for securing your IoT devices. Securing an entire embedded system requires protecting individual devices as well as enacting sweeping measures to harden system security on the whole.
There are specific measures any IoT device user can take to boost the security of their entire interconnected system, protecting data integrity and privacy and increasing resilience on a network-wide scale.
Practice Digital Hygiene
It may sound basic, but practicing good digital hygiene can go a long way toward securing your IoT devices. Always adjust the factory settings on your devices, creating unique passwords that are difficult to guess. Any weakness in IoT device security can provide an attacker with the tools for lateral access. This can create an opening for system-wide penetration to more valuable network resources, which can have catastrophic consequences.
Embrace Safer Tech Tools
One simple adjustment can go a long way toward securing your entire network. Invest in a digital password manager that requires biometric or multi-factor authentication. This way, you can keep track of your own difficult-to-remember passwords while still resisting the temptation to use the same password for multiple devices or accounts.
Most importantly, be careful when signing documents online. Use digital signatures rather than e-signatures to sign contracts, forms, or invoices. Digital signatures use public key cryptographic techniques to provide a fully encrypted, legally binding signature that cannot be poached and reproduced online.
Always Use Multi-Factor Authentication
While you may already have Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) activated on your daily devices and personal accounts – smartphone, laptop, tablet, email, and online banking – securing your IoT devices with MFA is just as important. Each device should be safeguarded by a combination of verification factors.
If any bad actor is able to access your device, they won’t be able to wreak much havoc if they can’t bypass the verification requirements. MFA uses a combination of your email address, phone number, authentication code, and/or biometric analysis to create a high level of layered protection for each device.
Create a Separate Internet Network for IoT Devices
To minimize the risk factor of overloading a single internet network with every single IoT device, consider creating a separate network exclusively dedicated to your IoT devices. Each device you connect to your network presents a new inherent level of risk since it provides a possible entry point for cyber attackers.
A network with dozens of unique devices transmitting data creates an expansive surface area for possible attacks, which is harder to secure. By creating a distinct network for IoT devices, you are mitigating the possible damages incurred in the event of a successful attack. That way, even in the event of an attack, bad actors will not have access to your phone, laptop, or tablet, preventing them from possessing your most personal information.
Configure the Hardware, Install the Software, Update the Firmware
When you first receive new IoT devices, there are three key steps you should take to establish a strong cybersecurity foundation right off the bat.
Investigate The Hardware
One of the first steps to providing comprehensive coverage that will safeguard all of your IoT devices against possible cyber attacks is to reconfigure the hardware. Make sure that your internet routers are programmed to block outside traffic.
Change the factory settings on any router that your IoT devices may sync to. You can think of the internet router as the beating heart of your complex web of interconnected devices; protect the router, and you will be proactively preventing possible damages.
Install Protective Software
Then, install protective software, such as firewalls and VPNs. A strong firewall will act as a gatekeeper, assessing each connection that attempts to access the device and mitigating any potential attempts at infecting your device with a bug or virus. Set up your firewall (and router) to prevent any external access so no bad actors can access your devices from outside.
Installing a VPN prevents prying eyes from witnessing your geolocation, login credentials, and online activity, allowing you to access your devices anonymously. For maximum security, set up a VPN tunnel for your IoT devices. That way, all the data your hardware transmits is encrypted and masked from bad actors.
Keep the Firmware Up to Date
Be sure to regularly update your firmware. New cyberattack methods are being developed all the time. Consistently ensuring that your firmware is up to date means that your device will continue to be protected.
Developers continuously work to keep up with the latest IoT device security challenges and demands, so updating your device’s firmware not only improves functionality but also fixes any latent cybersecurity weak points and provides your device with the latest security patches.
Take Time to Research the Options
When shopping for a new IoT device – whether at an industrial scale or in a home context – be sure to prioritize quality and longevity over bang-for-buck. Think of it as a lasting investment; when you opt for the cheaper options, you are likely to be stuck with a device with minimal embedded security measures, which can put your entire network at risk.
Choosing the more expensive but higher-quality version from the outset can save you abundant amounts of time, money, and hassle later down the line if a cheap, low-security gadget leads to a serious cyberattack.
How Does the Manufacturer Respond to Security Issues?
As you peruse the options available, look for devices that have inherently secure designs and high-level security response protocols.
It is vital that a particular IoT device developer has a public-facing channel with updates on the latest security issues. If the manufacturer fails to publicize security updates, they most certainly will not help you with security updates and weaknesses. Look for email newsletter updates from the manufacturer that keep you posted on the latest threats to watch out for and how you can safeguard your devices against them.
Agreeing to Give Up Your Data
Understand that every manufacturer collects and stores data about your device access, usage, and personal information. When you turn on an IoT device, you are inviting the manufacturer to collect data about you. So, make sure you understand what data they are collecting and what they intend to do with it.
Understand The Differences Between Different Types of IoT-Synced Devices
Not all IoT devices connect in the same way; some sync to other devices via a Bluetooth connection, while others communicate over a Wi-Fi connection. Learning to understand the distinctions between Wi-Fi-enabled IoT devices and Bluetooth-enabled IoT devices is vital for providing comprehensive protection across entire interconnected networks and systems.
IoT devices that are Wi-Fi enabled tend to come with more in-depth security protocols compared to their Bluetooth counterparts. However, always remember to check the specific make, model, and manufacturer for a deeper understanding of just what kinds of security coverage you are going to get with any particular device.
While IoT devices can provide enhanced connectivity, convenience, and entertainment, they also present new security challenges. Shoring up your overall interconnected IoT network requires installing protections on each individual device and using a potent combination of security, such as multi-factor authentication. Likewise, it also entails security software like firewalls and VPNs, updating the firmware, and reconfiguring the router to prevent outside traffic access.
Take time to do the research as you consider purchasing another IoT device. Get familiar with the manufacturer’s policies and procedures, learn to understand which types of data the manufacturer can collect and retain, and get to know the different types of IoT devices available out there. Securing your entire IoT embedded system will allow you to use your IoT devices without fear.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire