IoT Application Security: The Risks and Solutions

IoT Application Security: The Risks and Solutions

By Marc Kavinsky, Editor at IoT Business News.

In a relatively short period of time, the Internet of Things has transformed the world. While most people will focus on their computers and smartphones when considering internet-enabled devices, the IoT covers many business and home appliances – including televisions, refrigerators, and AC units.

More and more new devices are connecting to the internet on a daily basis. Research suggests there are more than 30 billion such devices online right now. IoT applications obviously boast a wide range of benefits, and their potential to grow is exciting for everything from the medical sector to video games.

Yet while it’s easy to appreciate the advantages of technology evolving, it is also important to realize the development of IoT applications also presents a fresh collection of challenges. Without addressing these correctly, those applications will not work effectively – and could even result in serious repercussions for users.

One of the biggest challenges is application security.

The security risks

If a device is IoT-enabled, this means it features sensors that receive and transmit data. These sensors are, in essence, actuators, as they control the device physically. When it comes to IoT firmware, this tends to incorporate a small operating system able to manage the communication (PAN, Cellular, LPWAN…) and the IoT edge applications running onto the device. The result: data is both sent and received via a private or public network dircetly or via a router.

Sadly, all of the components mentioned above are vulnerable to malicious attacks. As they effectively provide the surface for the attack, one of these components can be selected by a hacker who will then introduce it to malware – which can compromise the entire system.

Below are some examples of the attacks a hacker can launch onto an IoT system:

  • Distributed DOS: A denial of service (DOS) happens when the IoT application cannot handle the level of traffic that is sent its way. This leads to the target host going down, resulting in it not being functional or responsive. When a device is online, it is a lot easier for attacks to come from several different sources, and this means a hacker can bring a system down with ease.
  • Takeover the system: When the IoT application has poor levels of authorization and authentication due to weak encryptions and password protection, it opens the door for hackers. They can gain access to the system, control it, and ultimately take over.
  • Spam attack: If no security is in place, it is easy for malware attacks to be sent to the IoT application via IP addresses.
  • Injection attack: It’s not just IoT applications that are susceptible to injection attacks, but all web applications. The process involves adding an extra request to one which already exists, resulting in the system being compromised.

These attacks are highly serious, obviously, but they can all be avoided with the right preventative measures. Speaking of which…

The security solutions

Those previously mentioned attacks have the potential to not only seriously damage the system but even compromise the entire IoT network. As a result, it’s essential for the application security to be at the top of its game.

To secure applications, here some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay up-to-date: When patches are released for an IoT application, it’s important these are enabled and installed as soon as possible. This ensures the system remains up-to-date and doesn’t leave gaps for hackers to exploit.
  • Secure devices: To protect the IoT system from any unnecessary damage, make sure to utilize firewalls, lightweight encryptions, and hardening. Also, disable device backdoor channels.
  • Authorization: It is imperative password protection is used for IoT applications. Passwords also have to be strong, as they could be susceptible to brute force attacks.
  • Secure communication: TLS and other security protocols need to be incorporated when communication is done between devices.
  • Secure control applications: When using other applications to access IoT applications, it’s essential they are completely secure. This stops the client IoT system from falling into a compromised position.
  • Data integrity: For any secure system, data protection is required. During the storage and transmission of sensitive data, it must be encrypted to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access.
  • Monitor the situation: There’s no time to rest with these security efforts. Running regular scans is a necessity, as is keeping audit logs for any attack entries.

Simply put, application security must be focused on any IoT device. If a hack were to happen, it could lead to serious real-life repercussions. By managing and monitoring the security system, that type of situation can be avoided.

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