The 4 Pillars of a Strong IoT Security Program

Aman Agarwal -
The 4 Pillars of a Strong IoT Security Program

The past few years have seen a sharp rise in cyber-attacks targeting vital infrastructure and security products worldwide, focusing on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices like security cameras. An IoT security program is essential to improving cybersecurity.

A recent analysis by Kaspersky, based on data from honeypots shared with Threatpost, revealed an alarming figure: over 1.5 billion IoT breaches occurred in the first half of 2021 alone. However, it’s essential to note that this number represents only recorded incidents, suggesting that the actual count could be much higher. This trend underscores the urgent need for IoT and IIoT manufacturers to take proactive steps to enhance the security of their devices and educate consumers about cybersecurity best practices. 

Here at Syook, we specialize in developing IIoT solutions tailored to asset-heavy industries, where security is paramount. Through our experience and expertise, we have identified four fundamental pillars that form the cornerstone of any effective IoT security program.

1. Availability

Resiliency stands as the first pillar of an effective IoT security program. Resiliency refers to the ability of IoT devices and systems to remain operational and secure in the face of various challenges. These include power outages, severe weather conditions, communication disruptions, and cyber-attacks.

Organizations must ask critical questions to assess the resiliency of their IoT infrastructure. Will the security system continue to function during a power outage? Can manufacturing processes be quickly restored after a cyber-attack? Marrying physical security with cybersecurity poses a significant challenge in achieving true resiliency.

To enhance resiliency, organizations can buy devices from reputable manufacturers that promptly address security flaws. Additionally, deploying devices with built-in encryption and authentication mechanisms can safeguard sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access. Proper network configuration, including segmentation to prevent external access, is also crucial for bolstering resiliency and ensuring uninterrupted operation of IoT devices.

2. Cyber Maintenance

The second pillar, cyber hygiene, emphasizes the importance of regular maintenance and management of IoT devices. Often deployed with a “set it and forget it” mentality, IoT devices can become vulnerable to cyber threats if not properly maintained. 

Organizations must establish robust cyber hygiene practices. This can include routine firmware and software updates, inventory management of IoT devices, and using strong passwords and authentication mechanisms.

Maintaining an inventory of all IoT devices enables organizations to identify vulnerabilities and track security patches. Implementing vulnerability alerts and conducting regular vulnerability scanning can further strengthen cyber hygiene by proactively identifying and addressing security weaknesses. By cultivating a culture of cybersecurity and integrating cyber hygiene practices into daily operations, organizations minimize the risk of IoT-related cyber incidents.

3. Trustworthiness

Product security serves as the third pillar, focusing on the security features inherent in IoT devices. When selecting IoT devices, organizations should prioritize products from reputable manufacturers that prioritize security and promptly address reported vulnerabilities. 

Key security features to look for include encryption to protect data in transit and at rest, strong authentication mechanisms, and support for secure network protocols. Consumer demand plays a crucial role in incentivizing manufacturers to prioritize product security. 

By researching the security features of IoT products and holding manufacturers accountable for delivering secure products, consumers can drive positive change in the IoT security landscape. Additionally, organizations should conduct thorough risk assessments when procuring new IoT devices. They should ensure that devices adhere to established security standards and best practices.

4. Proper Configuration

The final pillar, proper configuration, underscores the importance of configuring IoT devices and networks according to security best practices. Improper configuration of devices and networks represents a significant vulnerability, often exploited by cyber adversaries to launch attacks.

Organizations must adhere to industry-specific security frameworks and guidelines when configuring IoT devices, such as NIST for comprehensive security recommendations.

Proper network segmentation, access control, and authentication mechanisms are essential components of effective configuration management. By following industry standards and best practices, organizations minimize the risk of misconfigurations and ensure that IoT devices operate in a secure environment. Regular audits and vulnerability scans can further validate the effectiveness of configuration measures and identify areas for improvement.

Emerging Practices for Overcoming IoT Security Challenges

Now let’s move on to understanding and addressing these challenges which is crucial for harnessing the full potential of IoT. Below we explore the primary security issues and emerging practices that help mitigate risks, supported by statistics and facts. For more insights and guidance on IoT security, you can take a look at Gartner IoT Insights for information.

Key IoT Security Challenges

Diverse and Expanding Attack Surface

IoT devices vary widely in their functions and capabilities, from simple sensors to complex machinery. This diversity creates a broad attack surface, making it difficult to secure all entry points. According to Gartner, by 2020, IoT devices will account for more than 25% of identified enterprise attacks. However, they will represent less than 10% of IT security budgets​​. Each device added to a network increases the potential for vulnerabilities.

Resource Constraints

Many IoT devices are designed to be small and cost-effective, which often means limited processing power, memory, and storage. These constraints hinder the implementation of robust security measures, such as encryption and advanced threat detection. A study by Bain & Company revealed that 93% of executives would pay an average of 22% more for devices with better security​​. This indicates the importance of investing in more secure hardware despite resource constraints.

Lack of Standardization

The IoT ecosystem lacks uniform security standards, leading to inconsistent security practices among device manufacturers. This inconsistency makes it challenging to ensure comprehensive protection across all devices and platforms. According to a survey by Gemalto, 96% of businesses and 90% of consumers believe there is a need for IoT security regulations. Yet only 33% of organizations feel confident that their IoT devices are secure​​.

Complex Supply Chains

IoT devices often involve complex supply chains with multiple vendors and components. This complexity can obscure vulnerabilities and complicate efforts to secure the entire lifecycle of a device, from manufacturing to deployment and maintenance. Research by Deloitte highlights that 45% of companies lack visibility into their third-party vendors. This increases the risk of supply chain attacks​​.

Emerging Security Practices

To address these challenges, organizations are adopting several emerging practices that enhance IoT security:

Adopting Security by Design

Integrating security features into IoT devices from the outset is crucial. Manufacturers should prioritize security during the design and development phases. Doing so includes ensuring that devices are equipped with basic protections such as secure boot, encryption, and regular firmware updates. Gartner predicts that by 2021, regulatory compliance will drive 40% of IoT security adoption, up from less than 20% in 2019​​.

Implementing Network Segmentation

Segmenting IoT networks from other critical networks can limit the impact of a security breach. By isolating IoT devices, organizations can contain potential threats and prevent them from spreading to more sensitive areas of the network. According to Cisco, network segmentation can reduce the spread of malware by 75%​​.

Utilizing Advanced Threat Detection

Advanced threat detection systems, such as machine learning-based anomaly detection, can help identify unusual behavior in IoT devices. These systems can detect and respond to threats more quickly than traditional security measures. Research by IBM shows that organizations using AI and automation in their security measures can reduce the average time to identify and contain a breach by 27%​​.

Enhancing Device Authentication

Strong authentication mechanisms are essential to ensure that only authorized devices and users can access the network. Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) and digital certificates can significantly improve security. A survey by Verizon found that 81% of data breaches involve weak or stolen passwords, highlighting the need for stronger authentication practices​​.

Regular Security Audits and Updates

Conducting regular security audits and keeping device firmware up to date are critical practices. Audits help identify vulnerabilities, while timely updates ensure that devices are protected against the latest threats. According to the Ponemon Institute, 60% of IoT devices are vulnerable to serious attacks due to outdated software​​.

Conclusion: A Holistic Approach to IoT Security

As IoT continues to grow and evolve, so do the security challenges it presents. By understanding these challenges and adopting emerging security practices, organizations can better protect their IoT ecosystems. Embracing security by design, network segmentation, advanced threat detection, robust authentication, and regular updates are all key strategies for mitigating risks and ensuring the safe and effective use of IoT technology.

In conclusion, building a strong IoT security program requires a holistic approach grounded in key pillars: resiliency, cyber hygiene, product security, and proper configuration. 

By prioritizing these pillars and implementing robust security measures, organizations can mitigate the evolving cybersecurity risks associated with IoT devices. Collaboration between manufacturers, consumers, and cybersecurity professionals is essential to drive positive change and create a safer IoT ecosystem for all stakeholders. As the IoT landscape continues to evolve, organizations must remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their IoT infrastructure against emerging threats.

Aman Agarwal - CTO, Syook

At Syook, we believe that the Internet of Things presents companies of all sizes with the opportunity to optimize their operations and achieve enormous savings with minimum expense. Our first product, Syook InSite, gives businesses complete visibi...
At Syook, we believe that the Internet of Things presents companies of all sizes with the opportunity to optimize their operations and achieve enormous savings with minimum expense. Our first product, Syook InSite, gives businesses complete visibi...