Just a decade ago, the internet connectivity was limited to mainly computers and laptops at home and office. The introduction of affordable smartphones and the rapid proliferation of social media changed the way people communicated with each other. Soon, however, real-time communication started to take over industrial and household devices, ushering in a new era of Internet of Things or IoT.
Sadly, this ease of communication came at a price. The risk of data and identify theft also increased. In 2017, the number of data breaches in the United States alone amounted to 1,579 with close to 179 million records exposed.
The increasing frequency of cyber attacks has become the number one concern globally. Even if you aren’t directly affected in a cyber attack, your IoT devices may be helping the cybercriminals unknowingly. To prevent identity theft, you must keep your IoT network as secure as possible. But, IoT security is a tricky business that requires multi-layered security approach.
Here is a list of six security layers to strengthen your IoT setup.
1. Network Security
Historically, network security was the domain of well-trained experts. However, you also need to understand the basics of network security as you are the administrator of your home IoT network. The first thing you need to remember is not to rush through your IoT setup as it may lead to numerous security problems later. So, be patient. Set up and secure one device at a time.
Unfortunately, most IoT networks are wireless. Securing a wireless network can be a bit challenging as there are several different communication protocols, standards, and device capabilities. However, one of the easiest ways to protect a network is to change the default usernames and passwords of the broadband router or another wireless access point.
This access point device usually comes with an embedded server or webpage. As the administrator, you can change the username and password here to keep your network secure. You should also change the default Service Set Identifier (SSID). A default SSID often indicates a poorly configured network, increasing the chances of an attack.
The authentication process keeps unauthorized persons from gaining access to your network while allows you (the administrator) to access the sources you need. You will need to consider different factors to set up necessary authentication rules. For example, you may want to allow multiple users to access a particular device such as your microwave, Wi-Fi, or TV. They may also want to set different parameters according to their needs.
A simple authentication involves providing the users with a username and a password to access a particular device. However, you can also use advanced methods such as two-factor authentication and biometrics. In case of a two factor authentication, after entering a username and password, users receive a One-Time Password (OTP) via e-mail or SMS. Alternatively, you can also use digital signatures, Personal Identification Number (PIN), and smart card. Multilayered authentication adds extra protection. Hence, it is preferred in high-security environments.
Security of moving and stored data is also a crucial part of overall IoT security. Hackers have known to sniff the moving data to gain illicit access to IoT networks. Unfortunately, the variety of connected devices makes it difficult to find a one size fits all solution.
Most Wi-Fi home networks support encryption technologies such as WPA and WPA2 among others. However, they are not the strongest encryption algorithms out there. The key length or the number of bits in the encryption key determines the success of network encryption. Encryption keys have a predetermined lifecycle. So, they become worthless after the desired period of usage. Thus, encrypting IoT data also requires efficient encryption key lifecycle management.
Cloud is one of the primary sources of potential cyber threats looming over your IoT network. Cloud often refers to the software environment of the IoT setup connecting the smart devices and a central hub where data is analyzed and stored. In other words, it is the big data that requires protection against cyber attacks.
Most critical security components of the cloud include stored data, platform, and application integrity verification. By default, your service provider is the first line of defense against cloud based data breaches. They are supposed to provide you with a secure cloud environment. So, choose your cloud service provider carefully. Preferably someone who uses advanced security practices and controls.
5. Device Lifecycle Management
Often overlooked, device lifecycle management involves keeping all your IoT devices and systems updated regularly. The best way to ensure everything including operating systems, firmware, and application software remains up-to-date is to turn on automatic updates.
Cyber attackers continually keep changing their tactics to find new ways to invade secured IoT networks. Most device manufacturers and cloud service providers create security patches to deal with them. So, make sure the security patches are installed correctly. Follow the required security protocols when adding new devices to the network, end-of-life device decommissioning and integrating your network with a new cloud system.
6. Interface or API Protection
Usually, an application programming interface or API is used to access the devices connected to the IoT setup. API security is critical to ensure that only authorized devices, developers, and apps are communicating with each other. In other words, it maintains the integrity of the data.
You can use a comprehensive API management tool. Most tools can automate connections between an API and the applications. They can also ensure consistency if you are using different variants of API. They can improve performance by managing the memory and caching mechanism as well. Just make sure to select a tool that suits your IoT network requirements.
Over to You
The rapid growth of IoT networks has made our lives easier. But, it has also increased the risk of data and identity theft significantly. Sadly, securing an IoT setup is easier said than done owing to its complex structure with a multitude of devices. Hopefully, the six layers of security mentioned above will help you keep it secure from cyber threats. Do you have an IoT setup at home? What security measures did you implement? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.