The Basic Tenets of IoT Security

July 19, 2017 Arctic Wolf Networks

The Internet of Things (IoT) is here, and anyone who tells you otherwise has their head in the sand. According to MarketsandMarkets, the IoT market is collectively worth more than $170 billion right now. By 2022, that value is expected to exceed $560 billion – and it’s not hard to see why.

Everything from data center infrastructure to automobiles to medical facilities to smart homes and beyond have been touched by the connectivity craze. As the possible business use cases for the IoT multiply, so will its value to organizations. And where there’s value, there’s vermin who would seek to exploit it through illicit means.

In a recent article that appeared in the IoT Journal, Arctic Wolf Networks founder and CEO, Brian NeSmith emphasized the importance of securing the IoT. Yes, the idea of protecting more than 8 billion connected objects may seem like a less formulaic “Mission: Impossible” sequel. But other than the volume of devices, NeSmith called it “much of the same.”

To that end, here are the basics of IoT security:

Endpoint management will be more important than ever

“First and foremost, change your device passwords.”

Network perimeters have been expanding for years, courtesy of mobile’s proliferation among consumers and business users alike. Meanwhile, cloud computing has facilitated the use of multiple endpoints by a single user. From this, we’ve already learned that better endpoint management is a basic component of modern security, starting with authentication. According to NeSmith, the same lesson applied to the IoT.

One of the easiest ways to compromise IoT devices – whether the hacker is trying to infiltrate a network or create a botnet army for a denial-of-service attack – is to hijack devices that still have default passwords. Massive DDoS attacks such as Mirai (which took out half the internet in late 2016), are enabled almost exclusively through the commandeering of such endpoints. In other words, change your device passwords.

Beyond that, NeSmith noted that the majority of machine-to-machine functions enabled by the IoT tend to be very specific. Individual sensors, for instance, are expected to behave in a consistent and somewhat predictable manner. By limiting authorized functions upfront, and then subsequently monitoring what those devices are actually doing, organizations can establish greater visibility and control of their IoT networks.


Continuous monitoring: If you’re not already doing it, you should be

Sniffing out suspicious activity in an IT ecosystem as far-reaching and expansive as the IoT isn’t necessarily a walk in the park, but the resources available to us are powerful. Machine-learning algorithms can parse massive quantities of data to help enforce existing network configurations, while helping to minimize the number of false positives. Paired with the oversight of highly skilled security engineers, organizations will have the primary ingredients for effective IoT security.

To be clear, these will not be “best practices” of IoT security. Continuous monitoring and swift incident response by trained security experts will be prerequisites for IoT security. NeSmith also cautioned against leaning too heavily on technology. He closed out his article with the following bit of wisdom:

“An overreliance on technology will result in undue complacency, which is exactly what the cybercriminals want in prospective targets.”

For more detail about how the IoT will change cybersecurity, read NeSmith’s full article here.




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