Especially Now – Weak IoT Can Bring Down Your IT

07 - March 2020

From fitness trackers to home security sensors, smart thermostats, intelligent streetlights, smart meters, and many more, IoT devices have become a commodity that influences the way we do business and live our lives. According to IDC, by 2025 41.6 billion “connected things” will be in use worldwide, ranging from smart home devices to drones to manufacturing equipment.

But, we are not the only ones benefiting from having IoT devices in our environment. So are cybercriminals, threat actors, and anyone who wants to wreak technological havoc. They can also harvest the data coming across the IoT devices for nefarious purposes.

The more devices become ubiquitous within an organization, the higher the risk. Securing IoT networks from attack is essential but is full of significant challenges. Many modern IoT devices lack the power and sophistication required to support traditional security measures. Individual sensors, for example, don’t have GUIs, making them even harder to secure.

Furthermore, most IoT devices can be managed and updated remotely without any physical access due to wireless connections such as Bluetooth, WiFi, LORA and cellular communication. Hackers can easily access IoT devices using these channels.

The strongest IoT network is only as strong as its weakest link. A single point of failure can enable multiple points of attack.  As everything is now an interconnected network, IoT devices can be used as the gateway to any IT devices and vice versa – a ransomware attack on an IT system can easily end up in the IoT network.

Attacks Leveraging IoT Weakness

IoT devices have provided a windfall to cybercriminals.

Botnets:  Cybercriminals used to have to pay a lot on the Dark Web to rent cyberattack tools because the resources to implement them were expensive. It took hard work to create a botnet, which could only access tens of thousands of devices per minute. Thanks to IoT, that same botnet can encompass tens of millions of devices, lowering the cost and increasing the efficacy to the point where you will probably either be a victim of an attack or your device will be used in attempts to create victims.

Man-in-the-middle: An attacker can breach, interrupt, or spoof communications with the main application server.

Data & identity theft: Data generated by appliances can be exploited for fraudulent transactions and identity theft. IT passwords passing through the same connected network can also be lifted. Threat actors can use the devices as a way into central servers where millions of records are stored.

Device hijacking: An attacker can hijack and effectively assume control of security cameras and gain access to the camera’s data feed or even fake the data feed. These attacks are quite difficult to detect because the attacker does not change the basic functionality of the device. Moreover, it only takes one device to potentially re-infect all smart devices in the home.

For example, an attacker who initially compromises a thermostat can theoretically gain access to an entire network and remotely unlock a door or change the keypad PIN code to restrict entry.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): An attacker can remotely infect and connect to a vast number of control panels (main system gateways) and initiate a unified DDoS attack to overwhelm and disable the main application server or other targets outside the system network.

The Cost of Attacks

The cost of these security threats is significant, including reputational damage, eroding customer confidence, safety issues, and more. The average cost of a security breach, according to latest reports, is $3.86 million. On top of that, fines and penalties abound. Violating HIPAA regulations can cost $50K each; a PCI DCC security breach violation can cost $100K; and GDPR security breaches may cost up to €10 million or 2% of the company’s global annual turnover.

Protect IT with Strong IoT Security

Current IoT cybersecurity defenses are insufficient. Today’s systems should support the following cyber security capabilities:

  • Keeping your IT safe or redundant, with diversion and distribution of the attack surface
  • User separation & redundancy – Permissions, user management, logs, application, communication, etc.
  • Secure distribution to ensure service continuity
  • Communications hardening – SSL-encrypted communication with no single channel for communication
  • Smart recovery – Seamless factory reset and restore last known good configuration
  • Malicious activity discovery – Network and application elements

Using a distributed system, such as a modified blockchain mesh to implement these features keeps costs down, addresses many of the IoT vulnerability issues such as lack of memory, battery, and storage resources; no user interfaces; and ease of remote access. In addition, creating a focused firewall on each device ensures that only authorized information can pass through the network.

IoT IS the weakest link in any network configuration. Currently your entire enterprise IT is vulnerable due to your IoT devices, so securing IoT is imperative to protect your IT networks. Keeping your IoT solution unsafe is just opening the backdoor to the bad guys…