At one time, computers were the only devices connected to the internet. Not long after, smartphones connected through cellphone carriers. Wi-Fi enabled tablets and smartphones followed suit. Video game systems came with the capability to allow their users to play other players online, video streaming devices arose, and now people can control the lights or thermostats in their homes through mobile applications. The internet quickly became an Internet of Things (IoT). With it came IoT security challenges due to these devices being connected to the internet.

Nowadays, it isn’t just the consumer facing security challenges. Those in the industrial world face them as well because of their reliance on the internet for machines to talk to each other. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) incorporates big data with sensor data, machine learning, and much more. Manufacturers achieve better efficiency, more environmentally friendly practices, and improved quality control.

Unfortunately, hackers around the world look for security vulnerabilities that will allow them to obtain certain types of data from or control of machines for nefarious uses, including as sources for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The lack of attention to cybersecurity for IoT devices did not shut out these vulnerabilities from the start.

Ongoing IoT Security Challenges

Maintaining IoT security is an ongoing process. Hackers are constantly developing new methods for intrusion, and uses for the data they can access or platform that they hijack. As a result, manufacturers of IoT devices and the software running on them must continually monitor hacking events and close newly discovered vulnerabilities, in addition to providing more traditional bug fixes. The ongoing IoT security challenges are immense.

As a result, ongoing updates to IoT device software and firmware are produced. However, these updates often are not installed on all fielded devices. While it is common for computer users to upgrade their software, many have nor formed similar habits to upgrade their IoT devices, or the IoT devices are not enabled to automatically update themselves. When IIoT devices are hacked, there may be extensive consequences from losses of money, disruption in the operation of critical infrastructure, theft of private data, and even compromised safety.

Even when a vulnerability is identified, it can take the device manufacturer time to fix the problem. This provides hackers additional time to exploit IoT device security holes.

IoT Security Solutions

Ongoing IoT device security consists of the use of best practices as well as rapid response to attacks and newly identified vulnerabilities. Best practices include the use of unique usernames and long passwords, encryption with long encryption keys, authentication of software images, configuration of the operati ng system for restrictive user policies, monitoring of device operation for anomalies, and more. Responses include quick identification of anomalous operation or access, root cause analysis, development of workaround and solutions, and deployment of firmware updates.

Fast responses to newly discovered vulnerabilities, proactive security procedures, and continued device updates all help overcome some IoT security challenges. With planning and continued diligence, devices connected to the Internet of Things can be secure and perform their intended functions.