How IoT Poses an Increasing Threat to Network Security

IoT has revolutionised the way we interact with technology, connecting various devices and enabling seamless communication. But whilst it offers tremendous benefits to organisations as a whole as well as individuals, it also introduces significant challenges, particularly in the realm of network security. Networks need to be designed with the internet of things in mind.

The interconnected nature of IoT devices creates a vast attack surface, making network security a paramount concern. In this article, we will explore how network security is impacted by the rapidly increasing sphere of IoT.

Exponential increase in breach points

One of the primary challenges posed by IoT is the sheer number of interconnected devices. Traditional network security measures designed for a limited number of endpoints struggle to cope with the scale and complexity introduced by IoT. With billions of devices connected to the internet, each potentially acting as a potential entry point for attackers, the risk of unauthorised access and data breaches increases exponentially. Network administrators must grapple with the task of securing a multitude of devices, each with its unique security vulnerabilities.

Insufficient device protection

Often, IoT devices often have limited computing power and memory, making it difficult to implement robust security measures. Many IoT devices are built with cost-efficiency in mind, resulting in manufacturers prioritising functionality over security. This leads to the presence of default usernames and passwords, lack of regular firmware updates, and insufficient encryption protocols. Attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to devices or launch large-scale attacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Varied security protocols increasing IT management time

Another significant concern in IoT network security is the lack of standardised protocols and communication frameworks. IoT devices employ a wide range of communication protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and more. This diversity makes it challenging to implement consistent security measures across different devices, as each protocol has its specific security considerations. Network administrators face the daunting task of ensuring compatibility and security across numerous protocols, often requiring specialised knowledge and expertise.

Edge interconnectivity complicates traffic monitoring

Furthermore, the proliferation of IoT devices increases the complexity of network monitoring and threat detection. With a multitude of devices constantly exchanging data, it becomes harder to distinguish legitimate traffic from malicious activities. Traditional security solutions, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, may struggle to detect threats originating from IoT devices due to their unconventional communication patterns. Advanced security tools leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are becoming crucial for identifying anomalous behaviour and detecting potential attacks in IoT networks.

Increased risk of data protection infractions

Privacy and data protection also become critical concerns in the context of IoT network security. IoT devices often collect and transmit vast amounts of sensitive data, ranging from personal information to industrial secrets. The interconnected nature of IoT poses a risk of unauthorised data access, interception, or manipulation. Securing data both in transit and at rest becomes paramount, requiring robust encryption, access controls, and secure data storage practices.

This much is clear; security fit for today’s diverse and in demand networks requires an additional consideration for IoT and edge connectivity.

So what can organisations do?

  • Network segmentation through VLANs
  • Strong access controls such as 2FA and rigorously planned device management
  • The strongest encryption protocols (e.g. TLS, SSL) between IoT and backend
  • Regular firmware and software updates, automated if possible
  • Selecting communication protocols and standards that consider IoT, such as MQTT, CoAP or HTTPS
  • Monitoring solutions such as Cisco Umbrella
  • Physical security from smart CCTV, sensors
  • Selecting best-in-class products from vendors and manufacturers with an established focus on the latest security features
  • Regular threat modelling and risk assessment, again automated if possible
  • Employee awareness and training

If you’d like help either designing a new network capable of securely supporting IoT, or addressing security concerns with an existing network, we’re always happy to help. Just get in touch with our team.