The Internet of Things (IoT) is reshaping our world. As sectors ranging from healthcare to manufacturing integrate IoT technology into their operations, we can expect more than 75 billion active IoT devices by 2025.
However, this rapid expansion comes with its set of concerns. Many devices are quickly introduced to the market without adequate security considerations, primarily due to competitive pressures. This hastiness can leave gaps for cybercriminals to exploit. Tragically, up to 93% of company networks are vulnerable to cyber threats.
These two notable incidents in 2020 show that malware can intrude on an IoT device and spread to OT systems:
- In April, a water-pumping station in central Israel was targeted in an attack aimed at raising the chlorine levels in drinking water to hazardous levels. This was executed using code believed to be developed by a nation-state.
- In May, an essential company in the UK’s electricity grid was subjected to a ransomware attack, affecting its operations for over a day. Fortunately, the attack did not impact the electricity supply.
Moreover, while many IoT devices have revolutionized physical security operations with features such as 24-hour surveillance cameras or remote-controlled maintenance access, they can unintentionally serve as gateways for cyberattacks. It’s ironic that systems designed primarily for physical safety can become a cybercriminal’s entry point. Devices that are outdated or have yet to be maintained can be particularly vulnerable, offering minimal protection against cyber threats.
To combat these challenges, it’s essential to adopt a proactive stance by implementing a strategic 6-step measure to bolster the protection of IoT devices in critical infrastructure networks.
1. Integrate Security from the Outset
Starting from the foundational level, incorporating security from the beginning of device design is pivotal for long-term resilience against threats:
- Design IoT devices with security as a core component. Opt for the most recent and secure operating systems.
- Integrate hardware-based security features to bolster the protection and integrity of each device.
- Evaluate security features during the device design phase, minimizing the chances of post-production vulnerabilities.
- Ensure firmware levels are hardened against threats, with proactive measures against potential attacks.
2. Robust Device & Network Authentication
In a world where unauthorized access can lead to significant breaches, robust device and network authentication play a critical role:
- Utilize a zero-trust model, emphasizing the “never trust, always verify” principle for every network access request.
- Deploy multi-factor authentication methods, like biometrics or temporary codes, to reinforce device access security.
- Regularly update and strengthen authentication protocols, factoring in the evolving threat landscape.
- Ensure that even edge devices within the IoT network have stringent authentication measures.
3. Enhanced Network Strategies
The vastness of IoT networks requires advanced strategies that prioritize segmentation and fortification against potential breaches:
- Deploy micro-segmentation for a granular approach to security, allowing detailed isolation of users, applications, or devices across the infrastructure.
- Implement network segmentation to create isolated sub-networks, providing an additional layer of security and minimizing the risk of wide-scale breaches.
- Continuously evaluate the network’s architecture for potential weak spots and fortify accordingly.
- Ensure endpoints are clearly defined, secured, and regularly monitored for unusual activities.
4. Holistic Monitoring & Updates
The dynamism of IoT environments calls for real-time monitoring and adaptive update strategies to stay ahead of emerging threats:
- Use state-of-the-art monitoring systems that offer real-time insights, including device health, data flow irregularities, and potential unauthorized access.
- Develop and maintain a responsive update and vulnerability management strategy, ensuring swift patches for discovered vulnerabilities.
- Implement automated mechanisms for addressing device or system vulnerabilities, reducing manual intervention.
- Encourage a proactive approach to threat detection, leveraging AI and machine learning for predictive threat analysis.
5. Employee Engagement and Training
Employees are both the first line of defense and potential weak links in security; ongoing training and awareness are essential:
- Continually train staff on the latest IoT security protocols, emphasizing real-world scenarios and potential threats.
- Encourage a culture of security consciousness, where every member understands their pivotal role in the security ecosystem.
- Implement regular security drills, ensuring staff can react promptly and effectively to potential threats.
- Encourage open communication channels for employees to report suspicious activities or potential vulnerabilities they spot.
6. Transparency and Collaboration
By promoting transparency and inter-industry collaboration, businesses can ensure a unified front against evolving cyber threats:
- Promote transparency by maintaining detailed logs and records of all device activities, making it easier to trace any security anomalies.
- Understand the entire supply chain and any associated vulnerabilities, ensuring all third-party integrations meet the set security standards.
- Engage in cross-industry collaborations, fostering a community approach to sharing insights about vulnerabilities, threats, and best practices.
- Periodically review and assess risk assessments, factoring in both internal and third-party vendor risks.
Essential Security for Expanding IoT Networks
As the potential of IoT systems unfolds, the landscape is filled with both excitement and caution. The promise of advanced IoT capabilities comes hand in hand with a host of new challenges in terms of security. As these technologies advance, the frequency and sophistication of potential cyber threats also increase.
- Recognize these threats
- Plan ahead with strong security methods
By anchoring operation strategies in solid security measures today, companies will stand a better chance against the evolving challenges of tomorrow.
However, while fortifying defenses, business leaders must also balance robust security with operational adaptability. Starting with foundational measures such as:
- Comprehensive employee training
- Stringent personal verification systems
As these foundational measures are set, they can serve as a bedrock to layer more sophisticated protective strategies, ensuring both growth and security in the expanding world of IoT.