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With Innovation Comes Risk: The Dark Side of IoT

Welcome to the new world of the Internet of Things (IoT), where the physical and digital worlds collide. It is reported that the world IoT population will outnumber the human population by as many as 80 billion connected devices, as early as 2025. 

IoT consists of a wide range of things — a smart lamp post, a connected car, a robot on the assembly line of a factory floor, or an oil-pipeline pressure gauge. It might even be a wearable device on livestock to monitor their health. With the acceleration of IoT, you might be wondering what it means for your business.

Firstly, it often means a lot of innovative ideas that cut costs, increase productivity, and improve overall efficiency. However, with this comes one problem — security. Security becomes a much larger challenge with the diversity of these devices, their different capabilities, and the many locations and ways they can be deployed.

IoT Risks

There are numerous security issues when it comes to IoT — here is a list narrowed down to the top five.

  1. Lack of Updates: Many IoT devices are not equipped with a management platform to track, monitor, or alert when the firmware is out of date or when a security patch is needed. Devices that were once secure become completely vulnerable with the evolution of technology, making them prone to cyberattacks and data breaches.
  1. Ransomware: Imagine a hacker gaining control of your office’s smart thermostat and raising or lowering the temperature to extreme heat and cold until their ransom has been paid. Well, researchers have already proved that to be a likely scenario. Even more terrifying —  hackers controlling real-time data analytics, holding data (like your employee’s personal information) hostage until the ransom is paid.
  1. Weak Authentication Protocols: Most IoT devices lack password intricacy, adequate default credentials, encryption, two-factor authentication, or even reliable password recovery. These security vulnerabilities can often lead to hackers gaining easy access to devices and corporate networks.
  1. Unsafe Communication: Another of the biggest IoT security challenges is that many of the devices don’t encrypt messages when sending over the network. Organizations need to ensure that communication between devices and cloud services is secure and encrypted.

  2. Unnecessary Operating System (OS) processes: many security experts have discovered unnecessary OS processes and services running on IoT devices that serve no practical purpose other than exposing the device to unnecessary risk. For instance, some devices need to broadcast a Wi-Fi network and run an HTTP server (to accept credentials to the network) — but it’s not required after the device is configured.

The Solution

Make sure you are only purchasing IoT devices released by responsible manufacturers. Ensure that when vulnerabilities are discovered, your device will have security updates, and can be patched regularly with the latest updates. Mobile application controls and malware protection should be built into the network to cover any device, anywhere, by using real-time threat intelligence across the board. If you’re considering a tool that doesn’t receive updates or patches, be sure you understand the potential impact on your business in the event of an attack.

To take your IoT security a step further, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great solution to secure data being sent and received by the variety of devices that form the “Internet of Things.” By applying a VPN across your IoT networks, you can make those networks far more robust and secure. And any Internet-connected device can use a VPN to be a part of a private network. Devices can range from wearables to specialized industrial sensors or other operational tools.

OpenVPN Access Server can be utilized as your IoT security solution, allowing you to create your own IoT private network to conduct and establish secure IoT communications and prevent attacks that seek to alter or eavesdrop on your data. You can do all this while also ensuring that only authorized IoT devices can become part of your private network.

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