Lock it down: Securing and protecting your IoT network

The Internet of Things (IoT) is by far one of the most important developments of our contemporary world. IoT contains the enormous potential to revolutionize how we live and can change the world for better. From controlling simple household electronics to managing the machinery in huge factories, IoT has made a huge impact in the last few years. IoT has the potential to connect all the electronics in the world under a single roof for better management and accessibility. It has been widely adopted in various fields including IT, production lines, banking, health care, the automobile industry, and more. There are currently billions of applications, use cases, and devices powered by IoT. But because of its wide usage, IoT network security has become a concern of utmost importance.

iot devices
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Even the slightest misconfiguration or poor security practices can serve as a point of entry for cyberattacks, security breaches, and data theft. Since IoT is a network of connected devices, even a single compromised device holds the potential to take down the entire network. IoT-related security attacks and breaches have already happened and are sure to happen again if proper security measures aren’t taken.

Here are some of the measures to enhance the security of your IoT network.

Know your IoT network

The first step to take to better security is to know and discover what you have and what needs to be secured. While it may seem one of the foundational and self-evident steps, many organizations tend to overlook this. Having a proper inventory of what’s on your IoT network and updating it regularly is key to security in any IoT network.

An IoT network generally consists of several devices and any of these devices can be used as a medium to disrupt an entire IoT network. While most companies and organizations have strong firewalls and security solutions in place, knowing what to secure is also very crucial. Having a proper inventory and knowledge about the IoT network, the devices involved in it, and the rights given to each of these devices is very important to have a safe and secure IoT network. Organizations need to focus on getting these basics right to counter the growing cyber-risks in IoT.

Split the responsibility

One of the major issues with IoT security is that companies often end up with security vulnerabilities because they have too much to manage. Organizations that have their own IoT network typically buy or hire equipment and services from various service or device providers. And since IoT is all about all these devices working together in a network, this hodgepodge of equipment can open up several holes that can be used to take down the system.

Most IoT security breaches can be curbed by properly securing all these endpoints. And for any organization, managing all the available endpoints in an IoT network can be a very complex and tricky process. Therefore, it is advisable to split the responsibilities and hold the vendor accountable for its own IoT equipment. This reduces the security overhead for organizations and gives them enough time and resources to have a strong and secure network across the entire IoT network. If organizations cannot get the vendor to be accountable for the devices or services in the IoT network, they can hire security services from third-party vendors to ensure the IoT network’s safety.

Establishing one-way connections

Establishing one-way connections is like implementing the “principle of least privilege” in an IoT network. If the endpoints in an IoT network have more privileges, attackers can leverage them for cyberattacks. With the number of devices being a part of the IoT increases, the surface area for the attackers to attack is also rising. Therefore, companies should limit the abilities of these IoT devices for security reasons.

Often, IoT devices are configured in a way that they can initiate network connections by themselves. Although this provides much flexibility and applicational advantages, it can also lead to several security issues. By enforcing the practice that all IoT devices are able to stay connected or initiate connections only using network firewalls and access lists will ensure better security.

Moreover, by enabling this one-way connection principle, IoT devices will never be able to initiate connections or connect to the internal network. This secures the IoT network and also restricts cybercriminals from taking down the whole IoT network through the means of an IoT endpoint.

IoT network security architecture

Most of the commonly used surveillance devices such as CCTV cameras, thermostats, and few other sensors do not support the wireless network security standards such as WPA2 or WPA3. This makes them easy prey for cybercriminals.

Upgrading all these devices can be a severe cost burden to companies, so they should consider redesigning their network security architecture. Instead of integrating these weak links into the primary network, companies need to design a secondary network that has no connections with the primary network. This isolates these devices from the entire IoT network while getting the most out of them.

IOT networks
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When designing a network security architecture, it is essential to understand the possible threats and their implications. It is also important to start building or designing a security architecture with a threat model to be safe and secure. Threat modeling can help organizations focus on essential areas such as device and network security, privacy, and access control. In IoT, all the devices are connected to a network and all these connected devices have a significant number of potential interaction surfaces and patterns.

Communication security

One of the most important aspects of IoT security is securing communication. All data or information that is stored and is on the move needs to be encrypted to avert data sniffing by intruders. Implementing a strong encryption standard to encrypt the data can prevent several IoT-related security attacks. Other essential techniques such as machine-to-machine authentication, multilevel authentication for APIs and devices, and cloud security are crucial when it comes to securing communications in IoT.

All these techniques can prove crucial in securing your IoT network. For any organization to get the most out of an IoT network, adding devices to the network plays a crucial role. While the chances of a security breach increase with the growing number of devices you connect to an IoT network, proper security measures, and monitoring can prevent possible disasters.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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