What is IoT Security?
IoT security refers to the measures and solutions in place to safeguard connected devices, data and all the components of an IoT ecosystem.
Threats and bad actors continue to evolve to find new ways to breach data security, disrupt reputations and cause financial loss. Security in IoT involves implementing various strategies, technologies, and best practices to protect IoT devices, networks and data from unauthorized access and potential threats. This includes strong authentication, encryption, secure firmware updates and robust network security, among other measures.
Why is IoT Security Important?
An IoT security solution is absolutely essential to doing business in today’s connected world. Without security, your business can be vulnerable to hacks and data breaches that make private information public and exploited, threatening the well-being and reputation of your company, your customers and business partners.
Since IoT devices are often built with limited security features and can be vulnerable to cyberattacks, it's crucial to implement the proper security measures. With the right solution, you can block hackers and their abhorrent practices to minimize risks and assure business continuity.
Industrial IoT (IIoT) security refers to the protection of industrial IoT systems, which consist of interconnected devices, software, data and networks designed to operate in industrial settings, such as the manufacturing, energy, transportation and utility sectors.
IIoT systems are often larger and more complex than consumer IoT systems with more devices, networks and data, meaning industrial IoT security challenges are more demanding. For example, for industrial IoT systems used in critical infrastructure and industrial processes, failures or security breaches can lead to significant consequences, such as production losses, environmental damage or even loss of life. Therefore, industrial IoT security requires specialized security solutions.
Industrial IoT is changing the way products are manufactured, shipped, and maintained, thanks to an exponential growth in production data. Keeping that data secure is critical to developing successful IIoT solutions.
IoT Security Issues
According to a report by Beecham Research, a leading technology research and analysis firm that specializes in IoT, nearly three-quarters of IoT projects won't be considered successful. One reason: IoT security.
While the report found that many IoT users fail to take even the most basic security precautions, such as changing default or vendor-supplied passwords, users with comprehensive security measures in place still experience a wide range of IoT security issues.
Common challenges of securing IoT devices, networks and data include...
- Software vulnerabilities – IoT devices often contain outdated or unpatched software, which can leave them exposed to potential security risks. In addition, IoT devices that aren’t receiving regular security updates or lack built-in security features, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, are vulnerable to known security flaws and exploits, exposing them to potential attacks and unauthorized access.
- Securing large attack surface – Research published by Transforma Insights revealed that the number of active IoT devices globally is expected to reach 24.1 billion in 2030, creating a vast attack surface for cybercriminals to exploit. Organizations need to ensure security efforts scale with their growing IoT system and keep informed on the latest trends in security threats.
- Lack of standardization – If an IoT ecosystem lacks unified security standards, ensuring consistent security across various devices and platforms becomes a massive, chaotic challenge.
- Insufficient security awareness – Many users lack awareness of the potential security risks associated with IoT devices and fail to take necessary precautions, which can lead to poor security practices, such as the use of weak passwords or failure to catch and secure vulnerabilities.
- Insecure data transfer and storage – IoT devices that transmit sensitive data over unsecured networks or store data in unencrypted formats make it vulnerable to interception and tampering by malicious actors.
- Physical security threats – IoT devices can be physically tampered with or stolen, allowing attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or disrupt the functionality of the device.
IoT Security Best Practices?
When developing your future of IoT security, start by following these three essential IoT security best practices:
- Think security from the start
The increasing pace of technological advancements has brought the issue of security to the forefront. This is especially true in the case of IoT devices, which have been subject to a number of hacking horror stories in recent years, with incidents ranging from children's toys to cars. However, these incidents do not necessarily reflect a weakness in IoT technology but rather a failure in the development and management processes of certain products.
For businesses, it is imperative to safeguard not only their own data, but also the data collected from customers and partners. A security breach can lead to data loss, system downtime and other detrimental consequences. Security needs to be a key design principle for all IoT assets, and these security measures should be continuously prioritized during the development and management of IoT devices and systems.
- Rely on experts
Don’t entrust your security to someone who is learning on the job. Whether you choose to recruit or bring in external expertise, ensure that security is a fundamental aspect of all IoT-related activities and ingrained in every IoT decision. By utilizing true professionals with expertise in IoT security and an understanding of what the future of IoT security holds, you can trust their help in navigating the complex world of your system’s security, from taking basic precautions to implementing advanced measures.
- Understand security is a moving target
Security is not only in the code, but also in the attitude towards risk. It's crucial to acknowledge the existence of threats and malicious actors, as they continuously evolve and seek new ways to cause harm and disruption. Both vendors and enterprises must accept that an attack can occur at any time.
It is important to understand that IoT security is an ongoing process and never a finished job. It requires constant efforts to keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape. When you are looking for an IoT platform, be certain it comes with stringent security built in from the start—security measures that are robust, certified, governed and under constant scrutiny.
How to Secure IoT Devices
Securing IoT devices involves implementing best practices and security measures to protect them from potential threats and vulnerabilities. Here are some basic steps to help secure IoT devices:
- Change default credentials to unique and strong ones to prevent unauthorized access.
- Regularly update firmware and software by installing security patches and updates to fix known vulnerabilities and improve security.
- Use strong encryption methods for data transmission and storage to protect the information being sent between devices and prevent eavesdropping.
- Secure your network by implementing strong network security measures, such as enabling a firewall and separating IoT devices on their own network if possible.
- Regularly monitor the activity and performance of your IoT devices to detect any unusual behavior that could indicate a security breach.
- Perform regular security audits to identify potential vulnerabilities and address them promptly.
- Use strong authentication and authorization methods to protect access to your IoT devices, applications and more.
- Provide education on IoT security risks and best practices.
What are IoT Security Solutions?
Managing the security of IoT devices can be challenging, especially when working with a large number of them. This is where an IoT security solution comes in.
An IoT platform simplifies IoT security while enhancing the existing quality and level of security. For example, an IoT platform can add thousands of new devices while ensuring that each and every one meets minimum security standards. An IoT platform also helps to keep data safe by implementing segmentation and encryption, preventing unauthorized access to IoT data.
Benefits of IoT Security Solutions
Effective IoT security offers several benefits when it comes to protecting and managing the vast network of interconnected devices. Here are some key benefits:
IoT security solutions ensure that sensitive data transmitted between devices and networks is encrypted, safeguarded from unauthorized access and protected from potential data breaches.
By securing IoT devices, these solutions protect user privacy by preventing unauthorized monitoring, data theft and device tracking.
IoT security solutions safeguard devices from hacking, malware and unauthorized access, ensuring the proper functioning and longevity of the devices.
Security solutions can help to secure the entire IoT network by detecting and mitigating threats, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which can disrupt and damage the entire network.
Enhanced system reliability
By safeguarding devices and networks, IoT security solutions help ensure that the entire IoT system runs smoothly and reliably, minimizing the risk of downtime or failures.
Improved customer trust
A secure IoT environment demonstrates to customers that their data privacy and device safety are taken seriously, leading to increased customer trust and loyalty.
IoT security solutions help organizations identify and mitigate potential security risks and threats, reducing the likelihood of costly security incidents and minimizing their impact.
A robust IoT security solution can be scaled to accommodate the growth of an organization's IoT environment, ensuring that security measures remain effective as the number of connected devices increases.
By preventing security breaches, data loss and network downtime, IoT security solutions can help organizations save money in the long run by avoiding costly remediation efforts and damage to their reputation. In addition, IoT security solutions simplify the security process, saving organizations from spending time and resources to manually implement security processes and measures.
IoT Security Key Considerations
An IoT security platform can make managing the security of IoT devices much easier. When choosing an IoT platform, ask:
- Is the platform certified for compliance with ISO 27001, ISO 27017 and ISO 27018?
- Is the platform’s architecture designed to protect physical, network, application and access control?
- Is security intrinsic to the platform’s software development process?
- Has the platform been graded by SSL Labs? If so, what was the grade?
- Will you be able to secure data between tenants or groups on your IoT solution?
- Is communication secure with the platform’s APIs?
- How are servers, storage and network devices physically secured?
IoT Security Platform Use Cases
An industry-leading IoT security platform, such as Cumulocity IoT, can deliver even more. With carrier-grade features, such as secure multi-tenancy, scalability, high availability and encryption, security is ensured for virtually any IoT use case, from smart, connected products to industrial IoT (IIoT) and from tracking vehicles to tracking crowd movement.
Learn below what a robust IoT platform can do for IoT security below, including how Cumulocity levels up each IoT security use case:
There is no direct access to the internal code and functions of Cumulocity IoT. All interactions take place through a set of secure public-facing APIs, which expose every function of the platform in a way that can be used with your own applications or devices. This approach means Cumulocity IoT supports a whole host of security standards and protocols that ensure communication with its APIs are secure and data cannot be compromised while stored or in transit between the cloud, devices and the local network.
Physical security includes unauthorized access to IoT devices, for example, to redirect or manipulate data from devices, read credentials from devices or change a device’s configuration.
Software AG works with customers to provide best practice and guidance on protecting devices, and the Cumulocity IoT platform architecture also monitors for and reports secure incidents, such as activation of tamper devices, which may indicate an attempt to subjugate a device.
Cumulocity IoT includes an end-to-end implementation of HTTPS from devices to applications. A customer’s specific ports and services from their infrastructure are not exposed to the public Internet. Additionally, all communication with Cumulocity IoT requires individual authentication and authorization, whether a device, application or user.
IoT platforms follow standard practices for application-level hardening, such as making sure only properly upgraded operating systems and web servers are in use.
Best practices make Cumulocity IoT secure by design. For example, all Cumulocity IoT functionality is coherently implemented with the same set of publicly documented, stateless REST APIs. This means that none of the popular “session stealing” techniques will work with Cumulocity IoT.
Cumulocity IoT does not use a SQL database for IoT data storage and is itself not based on a scripting language. This means that so-called “injection attacks” will not work with Cumulocity IoT.
Devices are treated like any client application connecting to the platform via HTTP or MQTT secured by TLS; this negates popular device attacks. In addition, devices are individually connected with Cumulocity IoT’s device registration feature. This means that if a device is stolen or tampered with, it can be individually disconnected from Cumulocity IoT.
IoT platforms use a standard authentication and authorization process based on realms, users, user groups and authorities.
The Cumulocity IoT platform creates a new realm for each tenant to store the users of that tenant. This realm is fully isolated from other tenants, and administrators are appointed that assign permissions through their own administration application. Permissions and roles for devices and groups of devices can also be created at very granular levels and custom configurations defined to meet an organization’s unique requirements.
Cumulocity IoT has native multi-tenancy, which means a single instance of Cumulocity can securely serve multiple enterprises, without placing any data at risk of compromise. This is achieved this by separating data on at least two levels. Data can be physically separated across different tenants for security, but also within a tenant using the role-based access controls. As an example, an industrial machine manufacturer would have its data fully isolated from its competitors but also offer 100% separation of the customers (factories) that use its machines. All data on Cumulocity IoT is isolated and protected, ensuring the privacy of all tenants and their customers.
Extensible security model
The security model in Cumulocity IoT can be extended by third parties, such as those in our IoT ecosystem, with proven integration capabilities for technologies, including full public key infrastructure or intrusion detection and prevention solutions.
Certified hosting partners
The cloud version of Cumulocity IoT is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), architected to be one of the most flexible and secure cloud computing environments available today. AWS is certified according to ISO 27001, PCI DSS and many other accreditation bodies.
Handling a security event
When a security event occurs, whether at an application level or on the network, an IoT platform enables applications and agents to write audit logs, which are persistently stored and cannot be externally modified after being written.
Cumulocity IoT also writes its own audit records related to login and device control operations. Administrators are also alerted to security events as they occur so remedial action can be taken.
Security philosophy & commitment
Security is built into the Cumulocity IoT software development process, woven into every line of code. Everything we do related to security is driven by a security program based on the OpenSAMM (Open Software Assurance Maturity Model), a vendor-neutral framework. This model helps define and measure all security-related activities for the development, verification and deployment stages of Cumulocity IoT, ensuring exhaustive governance and continuous improvement. Software AG works closely with security researchers and third-party vendors to understand emerging threats and how to mitigate them.