IoT Security: What it is and Best Practices

With the Internet of Things (IoT) projected to include several million connected devices by the start of next decade, it’s critical to maintain IoT security to protect both organizations and end users’ collective data. As the number of connected IoT devices expands, so to does an organization’s network attack surface and risk of compromising confidential data.

In this article, we’ll explain why you need to secure your IoT, common IoT security challenges, and best practices for defending against threats.

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Why do you need a secure IoT?

The IoT is a distributed network of devices that are connected to an organization’s internal networks via the cloud. With its millions of devices and continuous data streams, the IoT is the ultimate resource for big data. Although the IoT may provide major benefits to any organization that leverages its capabilities, the sheer amount of information it provides, ultimately, contributes to a huge security risk.

Enter IoT security. IoT security is responsible for protecting each device in the network, as well as all available data and connected networks. For example, take an organization with a massive IoT that extends to all centralized applications, data sources, and overall infrastructure. Each endpoint device in the IoT is able to transmit or receive data to and from the organization’s IT assets. If any device is not suitably protected, it can easily be taken over and used to access the organization’s IT resources. IoT device security helps minimize—and even prevent—this scenario from happening. 

Common IoT security threats

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Because the IoT delivers access to enterprise IT resources beyond an organization’s protective firewalls, connected devices are often targeted by hackers. The most common challenges for securing an IoT network of devices include:

  • Endpoint devices: Endpoint devices in the IoT are vulnerable for many reasons. Because they’re in external settings, endpoint devices don’t have the same traditional perimeter security protection as centralized resources. Additionally, IoT devices are designed to be small and lightweight in order to quickly emit data. Oftentimes, they’re not designed with security in mind, or have the necessary hardware and processing power of infrastructure with more robust security.
  • Traditional centralized security: Depending on when they were implemented, many centralized network security options can’t detect endpoint devices in order to offer protection. 
  • Lack of IoT security standards: Although IoT standards are emerging, there aren’t uniform, solid protocols for transmission of data—which increases IoT security issues.
  • IoT novelty: The IoT is still a relatively new application of big data and distributed, mobile technologies. Organizations are still in the process of adjusting to its recency and finding ways to maximize IoT security.
  • IoT authentication: The lack of standards and newness of the IoT makes it difficult to always authenticate the devices in a network. It’s still easy for devices that aren’t part of an IoT to access and enter an organization’s internal network.

Individually, each of these IoT security threats is significant. Collectively, they have the power to turn IoT opportunities into enterprise security nightmares.   

Top 9 IoT security best practices

A number of best practices have emerged to account for these IoT security issues and protect distributed IoT networks and business data. 

  1. Security analytics: The use of real-time security analytics on the IoT’s continuously generated data is key for increasing IoT security. When used at scale, security analytics can detect anomalies in data transmissions that may indicate security threats. With platforms that can detect these anomalies in real-time, organizations have the means of acting quickly to minimize IoT security issues.
  2. Standardized encryption: It’s critical to encrypt data for IoT security. Any hacking attempts will only yield encrypted data, which is meaningless without a key. Standards such as Wi-Fi have encryption capabilities, as do other Transport Layer Security (TLS) options.
  3. Roots of trust: The Roots of Trust (RoT) are a set of computing functions that the central operating system always trusts. As far as IoT security goes, the RoT are responsible for controlling the trusted computing platform processor. As such, Roots of Trust help devices establish their identity prior to transmitting data to gateways or centralized locations.
  4. Device management: It’s important to stay on top of the management of endpoint devices in the IoT, especially in terms of updates and maintenance. Predictive analytics—including machine learning, in some instances—are useful for determining when endpoint devices are in danger of failure or need to be serviced.
  5. Digital certificates and public keys: Digital certificates can be loaded onto IoT devices and activated by a number of different public key options, providing an additional layer of security through cryptographic measures.
  6. API security: Documented REST-APIs are another means of authorizing the communication of devices in the IoT to the centralized or gateway systems. This approach also offers protection at the API layer, which is critical for edge deployments or accessing centralized cloud integration
  7. Segmenting and profiling devices: Competitive IoT platforms allow visibility across an organization’s IoT network to classify IoT devices, build risk profiles, and segment them into groups. This segmentation forms the basis of creating specific security policies for each category of device, which helps with monitoring and enforcing security policy.
  8. Automated messaging: Automated messages for security alerts or predictive maintenance are essential for creating timely action from security analytics and monitoring IoT devices. Issuing these alerts to the right people decreases response times to minimize risk.
  9. One-way devices: It’s best to ensure that the devices used in the IoT only have a single function, either to transmit or receive data. This way, there’s less chance of any hackers taking over a device and using it to access enterprise data.

 

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Securing IoT-driven data quality

With the IoT relying heavily on the cloud to host data, comprehensive cloud integration tools offer some of the best means of implementing the above best practices and ensuring data quality. 

Talend Data Fabric is a comprehensive suite of apps that maintains data governance while integrating data from your network of IoT devices.  With automated message generation, predictive maintenance, and security detection, Talend Data Fabric helps you collect, govern, transform, and share data across your IoT network.

Try Talend Data Fabric today to manage and ensure trusted data from your IoT ecosystem.

| Last Updated: August 7th, 2019