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What Are the Latest IoT Security Issues and Threats?

May 23, 2024

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

An Internet of Things (IoT) security breach can affect virtual and physical systems. Imagine a hacker manipulating health care devices or a household’s smart locks — the damage could be enormous.

As IoT devices are increasing, the risk of cyberattacks and the need for strong IoT security solutions is growing. In this post, we’ll explore the factors companies should be aware of and share strategies to stay on top of these threats.

Connect, Manage and Secure
Your IoT Deployment

The Latest IoT Security Issues and Threats 

A digital cloud with a keyhole overlaid on a globe, connected by a network of lines and nodes, symbolizing worldwide security.

Emerging IoT security challenges jeopardize the sensitive data of brands and their customers. Therefore, companies must understand the new threat landscape. IoT integration enables and improves critical services. However, it also creates more gateways for malicious actors to exploit.

IoT-specific threats can leave organizations at risk when they aren’t managed with care. If you identify security issues before they can be exploited, you can avoid disasters that cost time, money and trust. Let’s examine the latest security issues and how organizations can avoid common IoT pitfalls.

Cloud and Edge Computing Cybersecurity Considerations

The advent of cloud and edge computing has contributed to the rise of beneficial changes, like working from home. Nevertheless, most organizations don’t have the technology or practices to maintain IoT network security during and after this transition. Edge computing could introduce several security vulnerabilities that create a larger attack surface for bad actors to exploit.

Data processing at the edge could accelerate data analysis and reduce latency. These results can allow edge implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models. In addition, they can provide advantages for some vertical applications. This paradigm introduces a different risk model that must be considered to mitigate threats to data.

Access Issues

Unsecured IoT devices are easily discoverable online. The shift to edge computing further complicates security, introducing new access vulnerabilities. Devices connecting to the public internet at the edge can weaken security. Protocols like VPNs can also be vulnerable to attacks if not properly secured.

Physical Tampering

Unlike traditional network infrastructure housed in secure data centers, edge devices are more accessible and susceptible to physical tampering. This vulnerability can lead to system-wide breaches. Balancing device hardening against physical attacks with cost and serviceability is crucial.

Learning Curve

Installers and operators often underestimate the security needs of IoT devices. Regular updates, strong password policies and physical security are essential practices often overlooked. Ongoing education and awareness of IoT cybersecurity are critical requirements.

Edge processing introduces potential vulnerabilities. However, it can still be a secure method for managing IoT data traffic when implemented with robust security measures. Considering security from the start of any edge initiative can maintain the integrity and safety of data processed at the edge in IoT networks.

Increasing Complexity

People are an irreplaceable asset to any business. They also represent the greatest potential weaknesses of security and privacy in IoT. Human error is the leading cause of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and data breaches across organizations. Common mistakes like falling for phishing attacks or exposing passwords give hackers an opening to exploit.

IoT environments are becoming more interconnected and multifaceted. A company’s IoT network security can be at risk from operators and other human actors unaware of the threat landscape.

Breaches can lead to losing sensitive commercial data like intellectual property and trade secrets. They also enable disruptive attacks like ransomware and distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). This results in costly downtime and restoration efforts. Businesses can implement additional physical and virtual measures and continued IoT education to protect themselves from human error impacts.

5G Challenges for IoT Security

5G logo.

Although 5G will be more efficient than 4G LTE, it will bring new IoT security challenges. 5G will further widen the cybersecurity attack surface. For IoT devices specifically, these challenges relate to:

  • Cyberattacks: The rise in IoT device usage has opened vast new attack surfaces vulnerable to exploitation. If devices aren’t created with security in mind, they may lack basic security provisions, leaving networks susceptible to damaging breaches.
  • Integration and interoperability: Compatibility issues can cause dangerous gaps or vulnerabilities. A lack of unified data standards may also hinder the visibility to understand and improve environmental security.
  • Data management: Billions of connected devices are producing exponentially more data than traditional IT infrastructure was built to handle. Scaling overwhelmed systems may lead to an oversight in data policies and protections.
  • Network congestion: Connected devices are pushing many networks to their limits regarding bandwidth and performance. Resulting latency issues cause critical gaps that impact the speed of threat detection.

Many industries need more foresight and standardization. Businesses must implement IoT security standards, especially for IoT solutions that leverage 5G.

Read more about 5G and the security landscape here: How Secure 5G Networks Are Mitigating IoT Cybersecurity Challenges.

What Can Businesses Do to Protect Their IoT Environment?

A digital padlock surrounded by ones and zeros, representing IoT security.

Securing IoT devices involves diligence. Businesses can protect themselves by implementing IoT security best practices to address the following areas:

  • Secure device management: The number of devices is growing faster than the teams that manage them. Enterprises need enhanced systems to: 
  • Automatically inventory devices
    • Enforce authentication
    • Authorize access
    • Monitor for potential problems
  • Secure update mechanisms: Ongoing patches are essential to fix vulnerabilities before bad actors exploit them and cause harm to businesses or the public.
  • Data privacy protection: As IoT expands, devices manage more sensitive data. Enforcing access limitations and encryption protects businesses and customers. Review policies and protections regularly to make necessary changes.
  • Physical security hardening measures: Many IoT devices exist in public spaces like retail floors or company facilities. In these spaces, the potential for physical tampering presents real risk. Extra hardening measures like tamper alerts and environment deviation notifications are critical.
  • Insecure IoT ecosystem interfaces: Many companies purchase devices from third parties. If any vendor in the ecosystem lacks appropriate security measures, they become a vulnerability point. Vetting all partners and contacts can reduce risk.
A view of Earth from space, showcasing a network of interconnected lines and dots representing global connectivity.

The Importance of End-to-End Encryption and Network Segmentation for Cybersecurity

IoT is becoming more commonplace in homes and workplaces. To protect data at rest and in transit, companies must employ:

Encryption of Sensitive Data at Rest

Encrypting data stored on IoT devices protects confidentiality if a device is compromised. Encryption is a crucial barrier even when other security measures fail or in the case of a physical breach.

Implement Strong Password Policies

Weak device passwords enable attackers to gain access and control easily. Enforce stronger password policies and, whenever applicable, multifactor authentication. These solutions will make it more difficult for bad actors to achieve access.

Use Secure Protocols

Moving away from vulnerable legacy systems like telnet and HTTP has become crucial. End-to-end encryption protocols like DTLS paired with certificate checks can support data security and device identity verification.

Adopt Private APN for IoT Security

Public carrier networks pose IoT security risks, from data interception to network-based attacks. Private APNs provide access point isolation and enhanced authentication for more trusted connections.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) enhances identity verification. It adds an extra layer of security so that access to systems is granted only to authorized users. 2FA requires a second form of identification beyond just a password, significantly reducing risk.

Mature Device Management with Trusted Device Identities

Device management processes can help you:

  • Inventory assets
  • Enforce security standards
  • Detect anomalies
  • Make it easier to respond to threats

This comprehensive approach to device management contributes to a more secure and resilient IoT environment.

Network Segmentation

Businesses should also utilize network segmentation or separate networks for IoT devices and guest connections to reduce IoT-related attacks. Following the principles of least privilege and defense in depth could mitigate multiple classes of cyber risks, especially in IoT ecosystems.

Implementing IoT Security by Design

A primary reason many IoT devices are vulnerable is that they aren’t secure by design. Security shouldn’t be an afterthought. A successful IoT strategy designs security measures from the start and at every level, from edge devices to the cloud.

Security by design is crucial to keep IoT deployments safe from cyberthreats. This approach should also include connectivity, communication layers and platforms. We must remember that security is as strong as the weakest link.

Vetting IoT Module Vendors

Companies must evaluate and vet IoT module vendors to protect the sensitive data flowing to and from IoT devices before implementing them. IoT modules are the cornerstone of IoT system security.

A module icon with a wireless signal.

It is paramount for businesses to know their vendor manufactures modules with the necessary protection and measures for:

  • Firmware provisioning: Allowing only trusted and authenticated code inside the modules
  • Module identity provisioning: For device identification and authentication
  • Secure manufacturingEnd-to-end security between the OEM and the manufacturing sites to manage the supply chain risk management
  • Secure manufacturer ICT processes: The adoption of cybersecurity frameworks (e.g., ISO 27001) allows the manufacturer to manage cyber risks effectively

Connect, Manage and Secure Your IoT Deployment 

Developing an IoT solution can be complicated and intimidating. With our expertise, it doesn’t have to be. As a worldwide leader in IoT enablement partnered with leaders in the field of cybersecurity, Telit Cinterion makes it easy for your enterprise to evolve. You can achieve cybersecure digital transformation and be ready to meet future challenges.

Our IoT modulesconnectivity plansplatforms and custom solutions can optimize your life cycle costs. We can help you simplify and scale your IoT solutions. 

Speak with our IoT experts to implement a cybersecurity strategy for your IoT deployment.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on 11 January 2023 and has since been updated.