Top strategies for securing Internet of Things networks

The modern world is driven by interconnected technology. Within that framework, the Internet of Things allows for accessibility, convenience, expediency, and ease of use.

We are living in a world where everything from our refrigerators to our watches are “smart” devices embedded with up-to-date technology. However, with advancements and innovations comes concern about how secure these networks may be. As IoT networks expand, strategies will need to be put into place to secure those networks and make IoT use going forward safe and effective.

IoT Security Landscape: Understanding the Risks

As we increase our reliance on IoT, we may let down our guard and trust that developers of the devices that we use day in and day out are taking all necessary precautions to make those devices safe, but examples have emerged to prove that this is not always the case. Cybercriminals have become adept at hacking into devices such as baby monitors, and data leaks have been reported along with other common security threats such as software vulnerabilities and malware.

According to the latest State of IoT report, the number of global IoT connections grew 16 percent in 2022 and is slated to grow another 16 percent in 2023. The technology stands to increase in use, so it is imperative that security issues are addressed now before the issues grow too large to manage effectively.

Best Practices and Solutions

There are existing best practices for securing IoT endpoints, and these solutions need to be widely adopted to keep IoT as secure as possible. Without attention paid to data leaks, businesses can suffer from financial and reputation liabilities, as their operations can easily be interrupted by unchecked IoT vulnerabilities.

Additionally, businesses providing IoT solutions want to maintain trust among consumers. If they are consistently falling short of security expectations, that trust will easily erode.

IoT technology is often implemented with three goals in mind: confidentiality, integrity and availability—referred to as the “CIA Triad.” To meet these goals, best practices must be implemented with regard to securing networks.

Some of the best practices that should be put into play among businesses, as well as private consumers of IoT products, involve common sense steps that should be followed when working with any technology network:

  • Password security must be a priority consideration, as many IoT devices will come with default passwords that should be changed before they are operated by the end user.
  • IoT devices should also be updated regularly and have automated updates enabled to ensure that protections that are built into the network are up-to-date and operational.
  • When using any technology, whether at work or home, one should ensure that they are on a secure Wi-Fi network, since connecting to unsecured networks can leave one open to attacks and viruses.
  • It also helps to limit what your smart devices can access, as many IoT devices will request access to personal data, such as personal contact lists. Consider whether this is necessary for this particular device to function. A general best practice is to keep permissions to a minimum.
  • Lastly, devices should be protected using available programs such as firewalls.

Regulatory and Compliance Considerations

With best practices applied, the question of security may then turn to larger oversights and regulations. With our increasingly connected world, it stands to reason that regulatory bodies would consider their role within the world of the IoT, but current regulations surrounding IoT are not well-defined.

Because smart technology is still considered rather novel, the regulatory and compliance sector has been playing catch-up. Most guidance has been handed down by the National Institute of Standards & Technology and cannot be considered hard and fast regulation, but simply suggestions.

Regulatory bodies must hone in on what aspects of IoT need guidelines. Factors such as what data is collected, how it is collected, and where that data is stored are good starting points for regulatory consideration. Although there are already laws in place about what types of data are legal to collect, recent legislation has expanded on the idea to include smart devices. Calls for strong privacy regulations have led to higher scrutiny of smart home devices, what devices include a microphone or video capabilities, and what those devices are hearing.

New mandates have outlined how data can be used, as well as the use of disclosures regarding why data is being collected by a particular device in the first place. Legislators are also working to give consumers and businesses better control over their IoT devices, including mandating more transparency from developers.

As the expansion of IoT continues, there will be a need for better, more standardized regulations and compliance industry-wide. This will ensure that innovation can continue unfettered by vulnerabilities and distrust among users.

Future-Proofing IoT Security

The future certainly holds more growth for IoT. As more people become acclimated to smart technology, they will inevitably begin to demand better oversight over the industry to keep their data secure.

Providers have already discovered that edge node and fog node technologies enable users to control and monitor traffic to and from a device. With greater data monitoring deployed, users can feel more secure trusting their data—from their latest workout stats to their bank account balance—to IoT devices.

Endpoint security is also radically important, as insecure endpoints can leave devices open to attacks. Endpoint security can give visibility to possible vulnerabilities that can be secured within a network, helping to ward off attacks and data breaches.

In the future, users will also have a part to play in IoT security. Through prudent password use, updates, and network security, they can rest assured that the devices that they use day to day are not leaving them open to having information stolen or leaked.

IoT will continue to influence how we live our lives and build various industries. With an eye on the importance of IoT security, we can ensure that the future of IoT holds nothing but success and positive growth.

Eric Sugar is president of ProServeIT.