The A to Z of IoT Security

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic among businesses looking for new productivity-boosting and time-saving opportunities. And according to a study by Gartner, more than half of major businesses will utilise IoT by 2020.

For those who don’t know, IoT refers to ‘smart devices’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity which enable them to collect data and automate certain tasks. Some examples include sensors that track the location of your shipments; and security cameras controlled from any internet-connected device.

However, these gadgets also put your company at risk; due to the sad reality that all internet connected devices can be hacked.

The rise of IoT attacks

The weaknesses inherent to IoT devices were made abundantly clear in October 2016; when cybercriminals infected hundreds of thousands of IoT devices with malware. The malware, also known as Mirai, allowed hackers to gain remote access to surveillance cameras and use them to flood one of the internet’s largest internet traffic hubs with service requests, causing websites like Netflix, Amazon, and PayPal to go down.

Despite the severity of the attack; surprisingly little progress has been made to prevent another global IoT attack. A recent report found that since the Mirai incident, IoT attacks grew by 280%.

Earlier this year, security experts discovered Persirai, a Mirai-like malware that targets more than 1,000 IP camera models and forces them to execute malicious tasks. Given the success of these attacks, aspiring hackers will likely develop more potent variants in the future.

What’s even more worrying is that IoT manufacturers are rushing to market their IoT devices to meet growing demands, leaving security as an afterthought and making it easier for hackers to break in.

How to protect yourself

There are currently no specialised antivirus software options for IoT devices. However you should take a few security measures.

Set strong passwords

Mirai was incredibly successful in compromising IoT devices because it took advantage of the fact that a significant portion of people did not change the factory default usernames and passwords of their device.

In fact, a security survey shows that at least 15% of IoT users leave their passwords unchanged.

If you’ve installed smart sensors or equipment, open your IoT router settings and create unique passwords for each device. It’s a good idea for your password to include numbers and symbols, but ultimately a longer password is more difficult to hack.

Create a network just for IoT devices

To minimise the impact of IoT attacks, you should keep your IoT on a network separate from your main data network. This setup secures mission-critical data and applications.

Disable UPnP

Most smart devices have Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) features that allow them to easily connect with other computers on the same network. However, this also makes it easy for hackers to find and gain access to your devices. For this reason, it’s better to completely disable the feature unless you’re 100% sure your network is secure.

Use network protection tools

Since most IoT attacks are delivered via local networks; you should bolster your defences with intrusion prevention systems (IPSs). IPSs looks for unusual traffic entering or exiting your networks to guard against hackers trying to sneak malware and Mirai-like denial-of-service attacks.

Never connect to unsecure networks

While being able to manage your gadgets from your mobile device is certainly convenient; avoid connecting to untrusted networks to interact with IoT devices. Public WiFi networks like the ones in cafes and airports tend to have weak passwords and security. This puts your smartphone and the connected IoT device at risk. So if you ever need to manage your IoT appliances on the go, always use a trusted WiFi network or 4G connection.

Update IoT firmware

Despite some notable failures, many device manufacturers take IoT security very seriously. Check product websites for updates to device software; to close security vulnerabilities.

Shut it down

Even when a device sits idle, it remains connected to the internet and therefore vulnerable to attacks. So if you don’t want hackers taking control of your devices while you’re sleeping; simply unplug your devices when you’re not using them.

Are you ready for IoT?

IoT is still in its infancy, which means it still has a long way to go in terms of security. Our advice: Install only devices that boost, efficiency, productivity, AND security. At Empower IT, we make sure to provide you with progressive security solutions and services so you can enjoy the benefits of IoT without the risks. Call us today to learn more about what we can do for your smart gadgets and your computer systems.