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IoT Security

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What is IoT Security?

IoT security is concerned with safeguarding connected devices and networks in the Internet of things (IoT). As more businesses, homes, schools and hospitals become connected to the Internet, we must ensure those connections are secure.
IoT security is essential because an attack on an internet-connected device that controls critical infrastructure could have catastrophic effects; a hacker could cause damage, injury, or even death by manipulating a single component of a process or system in an industrial environment. Attackers could also access personal information if they hack into your smart refrigerator.

IoT security is essential because an attack on an internet-connected device used to control critical infrastructure could have catastrophic effects.

Increasingly, organisations require real-time access and insights into their operational environments, and as such IoT and PCS systems that were traditionally isolated, are increasingly connected to the corporate networks, or even more worryingly, the internet. With these interconnected networks, the risk to these critical systems have never been higher – a good cyber security program will ensure a good balance between business functionality, improvement and security.

IoT devices have typically been seen as benign, even helpful. But many researchers and security experts warn that Internet-connected devices could be used in cyberattacks to cause physical damage. One such attack, for example, occurred in October 2016 when hackers infected internet-connected cameras at the White House with ransomware and demanded payment from the government; if no ransom was paid within 24 hours, they threatened to release all of the data on these cameras to the public.

Another recent example is an IoT botnet called Mirai that was used against Dyn DNS server and caused widespread outages across North America last Autumn. Even if you don’t think you’re directly connected to any critical infrastructure systems (e.g., power plants or railroad tracks), your home internet connection may still allow you access to them through various connected devices in your home like thermostats or smart light bulbs—and those devices could be compromised by malware so that hackers can gain remote control over them and cause physical damage somewhere else on Earth via their actions inside your house!

Nation state actors are also increasingly targeting IoT vulnerabilities to influence geo-political plays, and as tensions continue to rise globally, Gridware is noting that these attacks are increasing. Many of these attacks will sit dormant for many years, and only activated when so required, for instance crippling an entire energy grid in winter (as we have seen in Ukraine).

Making IoT devices more secure requires a defence-in-depth strategy involving multiple protective layers.

To ensure the security of your IoT devices, you must employ a defence-in-depth strategy that involves multiple layers of protection. Defence in depth is using multiple security controls to protect an asset from attack. This can involve various physical and technical approaches, including access control and network segmentation (also known as isolation). The idea behind defence in depth is that attackers will have more trouble breaching your system if there are several layers between them and their goal; they’ll not only need to break through each layer individually but will also have to do so without being detected by any one layer before moving on to the next. Suppose any one layer detects the attack or something anomalous occurs (e.g., someone trying too many passwords). In that case, it will be easier for you or your team members to respond because there’s no chance they will be overwhelmed by simultaneous attacks on every front at once.

Create a defence-in-depth strategy by addressing these four steps:

These are some of the best practices to follow for IoT security:

Organisations should also ensure they have sufficient cybersecurity talent and a robust process for code review, vulnerability analysis, testing and patching.

IoT devices usually have little memory and limited battery power, so it’s impossible to depend on software alone to provide adequate security for them. 

Instead, organisations can use hardware security modules (HSMs) to protect their IoT devices and other cryptographic keys and credentials at the firmware level.

HSMs are physical devices that store cryptographic keys and other credentials. They’re used for managing encryption keys and strong passwords, generating new cryptographic keys on demand, digitally signing documents as an authorised signer, and performing other security operations. These operations require cryptographic functions beyond those built into an operating system or application software stack. HSMs also support multiple key management interfaces, allowing them to work with a variety of applications. This includes mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets; desktop computers; laptops; mainframes; supercomputers; and cloud computing environments like Amazon Web Services (AWS). They are also compatible with open-source platforms like the Linux Foundation Verified OpenSSL Software Stack (VSOS); Java Card applet containers such as JavaCard 2 Platform Edition v2.x or later versions. This includes JVM on Mobile Phone applets running on Java Card-enabled mobile phones. These phones run Android 5 Lollipop OS with Secure Element enabled by Samsung Pay™ MST technology. This technology supports EMV debit/credit transactions using Near Field Communication for near-proximity payment transactions. It allows payments without touching any card reader terminal in regions including Canada, the USA, Europe, Latam, South America, Africa, Asia Pacific, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.

There are many ways to improve IoT security through a multi-layer approach.

This means you use multiple protection methods, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, to create an overall defence-in-depth strategy. Some examples include:

Overall, network security testing is an essential aspect of network security that helps organisations to identify and address potential security risks. By regularly performing network security testing, organisations can ensure that their networks are secure and able to withstand a wide range of threats.

Conclusion

By taking these steps and implementing a comprehensive IoT security strategy, organisations can protect their devices from attacks and keep them running smoothly.

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FAQ

Cloud security is the technology, policies, procedures, and services that shield cloud data, applications, and infrastructure against various threats, such as cybercrime. 

Companies face many challenges and risks as they consider cloud-native security solutions to protect their data. The most significant risks include increased attack surface created by unsecured cloud ports that leave companies vulnerable to malware, zero-day vulnerabilities and other threats. Other risks include a lack of governance and compliance to new security standards, lack of monitoring visibility, rapidly changing workloads in the cloud and poor privilege and access management.

The following best practices help to lower the risk of account compromise and credential theft – managing user access on request for a limited time, monitor and record employee and user session to identify threats, provide user training and awareness with realistic simulations to lower behavioural risk, Ensure you meet security compliance standards like ACSC Essential Eight, NIST, ASO27001 and other Australian Privacy Standards.

Overall, while cloud security and on-premises IT security have many similarities, the shared responsibility model and the complexity and scale of the security challenges in the cloud usually require a more comprehensive, joint-responsibility approach and adherence to greater compliance standards.

FAQ

IoT security is concerned with safeguarding connected devices and networks in the Internet of things (IoT). As more organisations become connected to the Internet, we must ensure those connections are secure. IoT security is essential because an attack on an internet-connected device that controls critical infrastructure could have catastrophic effects; a hacker could cause damage or injury or access personal information

Securing hardwired IoT devices can be a complex process, but there are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of attacks and protect the devices and the networks they are connected to. Some common strategies include:

  • Secure the device’s physical access: Hardwired IoT devices should be placed in a secure location, and physically secured to prevent tampering or unauthorised access.
  • Secure the device’s communications: Ensure that all communications to and from the device are encrypted, including the use of secure protocols such as HTTPS, SSL or TLS. This will protect against attacks such as man-in-the-middle attacks, and ensure that any data transmitted is not intercepted by an unauthorised third party.
  • Use secure login credentials: To prevent unauthorised access, ensure that all devices have strong and unique login credentials, and that these are changed periodically.
  • Implement access control: Use access control mechanisms such as role-based access control to ensure that only authorised users can access and control the device.
  • Keep software and firmware updated
  • Implement intrusion detection and prevention (IDPS): Use intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) to detect and prevent malicious activity on the device and the network.
  • Conduct regular security assessments: Regularly conduct security assessments to identify and address any vulnerabilities in the device’s design and implementation.
  • Secure the device’s environment: securing the environment in which the device is placed such as securing the router or access point that connects the device to the network.

Create a defence-in-depth strategy following some of the best practices to follow for IoT security:

  • Identify and protect against common attack vectors.
  • Secure the network, not just the devices. While each device in your system/network setup (e.g., smartphones) needs to have its unique username/password combination for authentication purposes, it’s equally vital that any incoming traffic is properly vetted first before allowing said connection requests through into protected areas such as internal networks
  • Hardware-based security solutions are better suited to protecting critical infrastructure than software-based solutions.
  • Software-based security solutions are often cheaper and easier to implement than hardware-based ones, but they may not be as secure.

Testing the security of IoT devices is an important step in ensuring that they are protected against cyber threats. Some common techniques for testing IoT security include:

  • Penetration testing: This involves simulating a cyber attack on the device and its associated network to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker.
  • Vulnerability scanning: This involves using automated tools to scan the device and its associated network for known vulnerabilities. These tools can identify common security weaknesses such as missing software updates, weak passwords, and unsecured network services.
  • Security audits: This may include reviewing the device’s source code, network configurations, and other technical details to identify areas that need to be strengthened.
  • Physical security testing: This involves physically testing the device to ensure that it is protected against tampering, unauthorised access, and other physical threats.
  • Social engineering: This involves trying to trick people into giving away sensitive information, and can help identify whether or not users are aware of security risks
  • Network traffic analysis: This involves monitoring and analysing network traffic to identify any unusual or suspicious activity.


It’s important to remember that security testing is an ongoing process and should be repeated regularly to ensure that new vulnerabilities are identified and addressed. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to consult with experienced security professionals like Gridware, who can provide additional guidance on testing and securing IoT devices in your particular environment.

Network security testing evaluates a network’s security by simulating different attacks and vulnerabilities to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It is an essential aspect of network security that helps organisations to identify and address potential security risks before they can be exploited.

Some of the testing methods of network security include:

  1. Vulnerability assessments: A vulnerability assessment is a systematic review of a network to identify and assess vulnerabilities, such as unpatched software or weak passwords. It is a crucial first step in identifying potential security risks and can be performed using automated tools or manually.
  2. Penetration testing: Penetration testing, also known as “pen testing,” involves simulating an attack on a network to test its defences. This can be done by ethical hackers, or “white hat” hackers, who organisations hire to identify vulnerabilities and help to improve security.
  3. Network scanning: Network scanning involves using automated tools to identify devices and their open ports on a network. Scanning can be used to identify vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit.
  4. Security testing of web applications: Web applications, such as online shopping carts or login pages, can be vulnerable to attacks if they are not adequately secured. Web application security testing involves simulating different attacks to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  5. Mobile device testing: With the increasing use of mobile devices to access networks, it is crucial to ensure that these devices are secure. Mobile device testing involves evaluating mobile devices’ security and connections to networks.

Overall, network security testing is an essential aspect of network security that helps organisations to identify and address potential security risks. By regularly performing network security testing, organisations can ensure that their networks are secure and able to withstand a wide range of threats.

Several trends are likely to shape the future of network security, including:

  1. The increasing use of cloud computing: As more organisations move to cloud-based systems, network security must adapt to protect against threats that target these systems. Cloud computing may involve the use of cloud-specific security tools and strategies, as well as the integration of on-premises security measures with cloud-based systems.
  2. The growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: AI and machine learning technologies are increasingly used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of network security. Efficiency gains include using AI to analyse large amounts of data to identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate a security threat, as well as using machine learning to improve the accuracy of security tools.
  3. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing network of connected devices used in both personal and business settings. These devices present new security challenges, as they may be more vulnerable to attacks due to their limited computing power and the lack of proper security measures. As the IoT continues to grow, new security technologies are being developed to protect against threats targeting these devices.
  4. Quantum computers can perform calculations much faster than traditional computers, potentially making some current encryption methods vulnerable. As quantum computing becomes more widespread, it is likely that new encryption methods and security measures will be developed to protect against these threats.
  5. The growing use of 5G technology: 5G technology is expected to significantly increase the speed and capacity of wireless networks, which will have implications for network security. New security measures will be needed to protect against threats that may exploit the increased capabilities of 5G networks.
  6. Supply Chain Risks: As more and more data and functionality uses “the cloud”, it is critical that organisations assess the security and in particular network security of their external partners and vendors to ensure data security is applied in transit and at rest – data stored externally means you can get breached indirectly through your partners!

Overall, the future of network security is likely to be shaped by a combination of technological advances and evolving threats. As new technologies emerge and the threat landscape changes, it will be necessary for organisations to stay current on the latest security measures and best practices to protect against threats.

The best way to secure a network is to implement a multifaceted approach that combines technical measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and antivirus software, with policies and procedures that outline acceptable use, secure practices, and incident response plans. It is also important for organisations to regularly educate and train employees on best practices for network security to ensure that they are aware of the risks and know how to protect against them. Additionally, regularly performing network security testing, such as vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, can help to identify and address potential security risks. By implementing these measures and staying current on the latest security technologies and best practices, organisations can effectively secure their networks and protect against a wide range of threats. Most companies however will need to augment their network and cybersecurity skills with external expertise from IT and cybersecurity consultants, especially those, like Gridware, capable of taking a full-spectrum approach to total security strategy and protection.

About Author
Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia...

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Published January 17, 2023

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