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Top 12 IoT Security Issues that Developers Need to Address

Monday, April 17, 2023


Why Should Developers Be Concerned About Their Security of IoT Designs?

Internet of things (IoT) devices and connected systems are inherently susceptible to security breaches. According to IoT World Today, the number of IoT security breaches is on the rise. Apparently, IoT cyberattacks more than doubled year-on-year during the first portion of 2021. From January to June of 2021, there were approximately 1.51 billion breaches of IoT devices as opposed to 639 million in 2020.

5 Reasons Why Connected Systems Are Susceptible to Cyberattacks

IoT security is a critical concern that developers must address to protect both their users and their own interests. Developers should be concerned about IoT security for several reasons:

  1. The sheer scale of IoT devices: With the proliferation of IoT devices in homes, workplaces, and public spaces, the number of potential security vulnerabilities increases. Developers must ensure that the software and firmware running on these devices are secure and can withstand attacks.
  2. Lack of standardization: There is no standardization for IoT security, which means that different devices may have different security protocols, making it difficult for developers to create secure and interoperable software.
  3. The potential for catastrophic consequences: IoT devices can control critical infrastructure such as energy grids, transportation systems, and healthcare devices. If these devices are hacked, the consequences can be catastrophic.
  4. Personal data privacy: IoT devices can collect sensitive personal data, including health data, financial data, and location data. Developers must ensure that this data is protected from unauthorized access and use.
  5. Liability and reputation risks: If an IoT device is hacked and causes damage or harm to a person or organization, the developer may be held liable. In addition, a security breach can damage a developer's reputation and result in financial losses.
Figure 1: Common IoT device design security concerns.
Source: Microsoft

Top 12 IoT Security Concerns

Microsoft’s 2021 paper, IoT Signals, outlines the top 12 IoT security issues (Figure 1) that developers should address in their designs:

1. Ensuring data privacy:

IoT developers can take several steps to ensure data privacy in their products:
  • Developers should consider privacy as a core design principle and ensure that their devices are designed with privacy in mind from the beginning.
  • IoT developers should ensure that all communication between IoT devices and other systems is secure. This can be achieved by using encryption protocols, such as SSL/TLS, to secure communication channels and prevent unauthorized access to data.
  • Integrating strong authentication methods ensures that only authorized users or devices can access data. This can be achieved by implementing multi-factor authentication or biometric authentication.
  • Developers should only collect and store data that is necessary for the operation of the IoT device. They should avoid collecting unnecessary data that could potentially be used for nefarious purposes.
  • Data should be stored securely, whether it is stored locally or in the cloud.

2. Ensuring Network Level Security

Some of the most effective ways to ensure network-level security for IoT devices are:

  • Using secure communication protocols.
  • Implementing device authentication procedures.
  • Secure firmware updates.
  • Network segmentation.
  • Regular security audits.
  • Physical security.

3. Security Endpoints for Each IoT Device

Designs that integrate security endpoints for each IoT device ensure increased:

  • Protection against cyber attacks.
  • Data privacy and confidentiality.
  • Regulation compliance.
  • Reputation management. A security breach can damage a company's reputation and erode customer trust.
  • Cost savings.

4. Tracking and Managing Each IoT Device

Developers should track and manage every IoT device in a connected system for several reasons:

  • Developers need to track and manage every IoT device in a connected system to ensure that they are operating correctly and performing as expected. They also need to monitor the devices for updates and maintenance needs to avoid downtime and ensure optimal performance.
  • Troubleshooting issues as they arrive.
  • System performance optimization.
  • Data collection and analysis.

5. Making Sure All Existing Software is Updated

Keeping software up to date is crucial for protecting IoT devices from security vulnerabilities. Software updates often include security patches and fixes that address known vulnerabilities and protect the devices from cyber attacks. Additionally, software updates also include bug fixes that improve device performance and stability. Developers can identify and fix bugs, improving the overall functionality of the device.

6. Updating Firmware and Other Software on Devices

Like software updates, firmware updates address known vulnerabilities and enhance security in IoT devices. Firmware updates also often include new features that can enhance the functionality of the device. IoT developers can add new features to their devices through firmware updates, providing users with a better experience.

7. Performing Hardware/Software Tests and Device Evaluation

IoT developers should focus on performing hardware/software testing and evaluation to ensure that devices meet required quality standards. Testing helps identify defects in hardware and software, improving the device's overall quality. In turn, enhanced quality connotes improved user experience. By testing devices with real users, developers can identify usability issues and make improvements.

8. Updating Encryption Protocols

Encryption protocols are critical for protecting IoT devices from security threats. Updating encryption protocols can further protect devices from new threats. Updating encryption protocols can also improve the longevity of IoT devices. As technology evolves, older encryption protocols may become obsolete, leaving devices vulnerable to security threats. Updating encryption protocols can help future-proof devices and protect them from new threats.

9. Comprehensive Training Programs for Employees Involved in an IoT Environment

While IoT developers aren’t ultimately responsible for workplace training involved in implementing their solutions, they are responsible for the usability and accessibility of their equipment. IoT devices are often designed to be easy to use and integrate into a workplace environment. Training can help users understand how to use the devices properly and optimize their performance, leading to a better user experience.

10. Securely Provisioning Devices

Securely provisioning IoT devices is essential for security, identity and access management, compliance, data privacy, and firmware and software updates. IoT developers should ensure that their devices are provisioned securely to reduce the risk of security threats and protect the privacy of individuals and organizations.

11. Shifting from Device-Level to Identity-Level Control

Identity-level control allows for better security measures, such as two-factor authentication and access control lists, that can help prevent unauthorized access to IoT devices and networks. Additionally, device-level control can be difficult to manage as the number of devices in a network increases. Identity-level control provides a more scalable solution by allowing administrators to manage access to a group of devices based on the identities of the users who need access.

12. Changing Default Passwords/Credentials

Changing passwords and credentials is a critical aspect of IoT security, as it helps to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to IoT devices and networks. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Protection against credential stuffing attacks.
  • Reduction in the risk of password and credential leaks.
  • Prevention of unauthorized access.

Interested in enhancing your IoT design’s level of security? Our team of Applications Engineers are experts in IoT, IIoT, and connected systems and are available to assist you in integrating next generation security innovations in your IoT design. Consultation is free and available throughout your design cycle. Contact Symmetry Electronics today!



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