Internet of Things (IoT) delivers substantial benefits to end users. However, it also brings unprecedented security challenges. A part of the central security issue is that connected devices share implicit trust. This shared trust between connected devices means that the devices automatically transmit their data to each other immediately upon recognition without first running any malware detection tests. The worst-case scenarios of these IoT security dangers result in physical harm or even the loss of life.
The first IoT security attacks began in 2016, and more are anticipated. Here’s a rundown of the attacks, expectations for future attacks, and what safety measures IT professionals can use to increase IoT’s protection.
The 2016 IoT Botnet Attacks
In 2016, the first wave of IoT security attacks brought down the Internet. The Mirai Botnet hacked into some Internet of Things devices — in this case mainly routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras — and transformed the devices into botnets. The centrally-controlled IoT botnets flooded Dyn’s, a Domain Name Services (DNS) provider, traffic causing a disruptive bottleneck that blocked Internet access for millions of users worldwide.
The Mirai malware code is easily accessible and adaptable, which makes it harder to prevent its effects. Hackers modify the code to create unique strains of the malware with its own novel Internet interruption tactics while dodging security solutions used in previous iterations of the malware.
Most of the attacks in 2016 took place in China and in the United States, according to Symantec’s research.
Current and Future IoT Security Threats
IoT security threats and attacks will rise as the IoT devices become more commonplace. The security threat is high enough for Gartner to estimate “spending on IoT security is expected to reach $547 million in 2018.” In the same report, Gartner predicts that 25 percent of attacks in enterprises will involve IoT.
Ericsson’s white paper on IoT security warns of potential industrial espionage and surveillance by noting that “the magnitude of data could make it possible to determine company processes through the use of analytics. Even if traffic is encrypted, meaningful patterns may be revealed through the analysis of that traffic.” Some countries already worry about the espionage threat. Germany recently banned an IoT doll that was caught listening and recording conversations.
Other scenarios include accessing or controlling a person’s home or office. For instance, in Finland, a DDoS attack on a building’s heating system left residents without heat.
IoT Security: How to Prevent and Thwart Attacks
An international group of IT professionals met as the IoT Security Foundation (IoTSF) to brainstorm solutions for IoT security attacks. They also compose best practice guidelines for IoT security. In these guidelines they advise managers, developers, engineers, and supply chain managers to first complete a risk assessment to determine their security priorities. The diagram above depicts the risk assessment process.
From the IoT manufacturing perspective, Ericsson calls for supervision of the device’s lifecycle from the manufacturing phase to its end of service. Instilling security checkpoints within each step of the lifecycle improves the device’s chances of thwarting outside attacks.
Industrial Internet Consortium recommends for an incident response plan to be in place as it is likely that attackers might leave traces of their presence before the incident happens. Hackers oftentimes leave tracks when they study the network’s infrastructure to find its weak points. When a noticeable track is identified, its recommended you reach out to IT personnel to monitor and to enhance defense for the suspected endpoints to prevent the attack. If attacked, the consortium advises updating security policies on suspected compromised devices, modifying security control, blocking and/or turning off services and reverting changes.