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Securing IoT Devices: Challenges and Solutions

  • 30 Jan 2024
  • 7 min read

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The popularity of IoT devices has shown a notable increase in the past and is likely to grow in the upcoming time. According to Gartner, the number of IoT-enabled devices will soar to 25 billion by 2025. With statistics like that, it’s important to understand what IoT refers to and how it has become integral to business operations.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become integral to business operations. IoT refers to physical devices, applications, and systems that gather and transfer data over a network from any location. In the business context, smartphones, laptops, cameras, printers, USB drives, and industrial equipment fall under the umbrella of IoT devices.

Professionals use IoT devices in various industries, such as logistics, healthcare, education, supply chain management, finance, manufacturing, hospitality, and telecommunication. They offer a range of benefits, like lowering operational costs, identifying business insights, improving productivity, and customer service.

In the ever-expanding ecosystem of internet-enabled devices, ensuring IoT security is challenging. Several IoT-related threats and vulnerabilities affect the overall organizational security posture. Meanwhile, hackers scan networks for devices with vulnerabilities that they can exploit to access the business network. As a result, businesses must secure IoT devices to keep their assets and data safe and running smoothly.

The Significance of Securing IoT Devices Among Businesses

The IoT proliferation has expanded the attack surface, especially for businesses, with 54% of the surveyed organizations claiming to have experienced cyber attacks targeting IoT devices, in a research conducted by Checkpoint.

The cybercriminals know these devices are the weakest entities within the network. They infiltrate the corporate network by exploiting vulnerabilities or getting unauthorized device access. Once inside, they compromise other devices and steal data that cripples a business network. The infamous Mirai botnet attack is a prime example of hackers exploiting IoT devices for their benefit. This is why maintaining IoT device security among business professionals is paramount. Here are other reasons why you should prioritize securing IoT devices within your business:

  • Data Integrity:

    IoT devices collect and share critical business data, raising data breaches and theft risks. Protecting these devices prevents data leaks and keeps data private and secure.

  • Business Continuity:

    IoT security breaches can cause devices to malfunction and lose data, impacting business operations. Securing these devices ensures business continuity and avoids financial or reputational damage.

  • Prevent Cyber Attacks:

    Maintaining IoT security is vital to prevent cyber-attacks and their consequences.

  • Compliance Regulation:

    Most businesses follow rules like GDPR and HIPAA to ensure customer data privacy and security. Failing to protect IoT devices makes them liable for penalties and fines for non-compliance.

As IoT devices provide a vast attack surface to cybercrooks, businesses must understand the impacts of unprotected devices and try to secure them all.

The Common IoT Security Threats Landscapecover 4 (10)


The ever-evolving security landscape exposes IoT devices to various security threats. Among the many, the most common IoT security issues are as follows:

Absence of Physical and Network Security

One of the most critical security risks that IoT devices experience is the absence of physical security. These devices are often left unattended and fall an easy target of malicious actors. They replace the IoT devices with the exploited ones under their control to tamper with data. For example, hackers can infiltrate USB flash drives with malware and steal data from infected computers.

Moreover, many devices are not secure by default. They often lack basic security features like access control, authentication, and encryption. A report finds that over 90% of data transmitted over IoT devices in corporate networks were unencrypted. Cybercriminals use this loophole to gain unauthorized access to devices and compromise business data that they leak online or sell on the dark web.

Third-Party Vulnerabilities

Many IoT devices and applications use third-party manufacturers' hardware and software components. Each component may have vulnerabilities not addressed when installed in a business network. The threat actors can exploit these vulnerabilities to control the IoT device. This happened when hundreds and millions of IoT devices were harmed by third-party component bugs, as shown in Ripple20 vulnerabilities.

Weak Passwords

Using default and weak passwords poses a significant threat to organizational cybersecurity. Employees not following password management practices on IoT devices allow hackers to enter the business network and misuse data. This is exactly what happened when a Russian government hacking group targeted popular IoT devices like printers, VOIP phones, and video decoders. Likewise, Silex- an IoT malware bricked thousands of IoT devices using default credentials.

Ransomware Attacks

The rapid growth of IoT devices increases the risk of ransomware attacks. In such a scenario, a hacker infects a device with malware that looks for an access point to enter the network. The attacker then exfiltrates the data and threatens to delete or leak it until they get money. Businesses suffering from ransomware IoT attacks experience significant financial, data, and operational loss.

One example of a ransomware IoT attack is when hackers attacked a 4-star hotel in Austria. They locked down the hotel's computer systems, which prevented guests from entering their rooms, and demanded a ransom of thousands of Bitcoins.

Besides this, the diversity in IoT technology further amplifies the risk of ransomware attacks. Researchers have found a new ransomware trend called Ransomware for IoT (R4IoT), where the attacker aims to control the IoT device and impact operational technology (OT).

Botnet Attacks

Misconfiguration of IoT devices and poor security protocols have made them more prone to botnet attacks. A botnet is a network of compromised machines, systems, or smart devices that aims to gain access to IoT devices, resulting in data leaks or operational downtime. To launch this attack, the hackers detect a weakness within the IoT device and infect it with malware. They then link the devices to remote servers and compromise multiple applications with a single command.

Cybercriminals can perform botnet attacks by using several cyber attack methods. The most common attack vectors include installing Trojan Horses, viruses, and DDoS attacks. Attackers in the Mirai botnet attack used the DDoS attack method on major websites using millions of hacked devices.

Advanced Challenges of Securing IoT Devices

The rapid adoption of a remote working culture brings convenience and flexibility to employees. However, it also introduces a multitude of challenges to secure IoT devices. Managing IoT sprawl contributes to the most critical challenge towards IoT security. Business leaders add millions of devices to build their IoT network, but they are not the only ones who connect to the corporate network. Remote employees add a staggering number of devices that expand the attack surface. As the number of endpoint devices increases, it becomes difficult for the security teams to monitor each device and detect any malicious activities.

IoT sprawl also results in shadow IoT devices, which refer to devices in use within an organization without IT’s knowledge. Remote workers often use personal devices like smartphones, wireless printers, or home Wi-Fi networks to access corporate networks to complete their jobs smoothly. Though it sounds convenient, they don’t understand the risks they often experience.

Shadow IoT devices are insecure and lack standard security as designed by the company. Simply put, it provides initial access to the corporate network from where hackers laterally move and spread malware or launch different cyber attacks. In a North American casino, the facilities management people installed a connected fish tank without informing the IT department. The malicious actors exploited a weakness to access the casino's internal network and stole 10 gigabytes of data.

Moreover, legacy devices often pose another significant threat to IoT security. These devices have completed their lifecycle or do not receive any latest security updates from the manufacturer. As a result, the security vulnerabilities remain unfixed and fall easy prey to hackers. In addition, these devices come with other issues like limited authentication, inadequate encryption, and outdated protocols, making them lack security and an easy target for cybercriminals.

How Implementing the Zero-Trust Framework Bolsters IoT Securitycover 5 (3)


Securing IoT devices is not the sole responsibility of users. All related stakeholders- the CIO and CISO are responsible for protecting IoT devices. The best option enterprises have today is adopting advanced security architecture like the zero-trust framework.

Rooted in the core principle of "never trust and verify everyone," zero trust requires every device and user to authenticate their identity to access the network. It also enables security administrators to constantly verify the nature of IoT devices before granting access.

Zero-trust framework effectively manages vulnerabilities and user access; therefore, its adoption is accelerating. A study that surveyed 2,0841 IT and IT security practitioners in North America, France, Australia, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom found that 51% of the respondents claimed to have adopted zero-trust security strategies. A well-tuned zero-trust approach is among the most effective strategies to maintain IoT security as it:

  • Reduces attack surface and prevents cyber attacks.
  • Ensures physical, device, and network security.
  • Offers granular access control over the entire IoT network.
  • Complies with industry-specific regulatory standards.

Zero-trust is an end-to-end integrated approach based on three basic principles:

  • Microsegmentation
  • Least privilege
  • Continuous monitoring

Segmenting and Isolating IoT Network

Microsegmentation is a fundamental part of the zero-trust framework that improves IoT security. It creates different segments for IoT devices, each operating as an independent and secure network, preventing attackers from moving across the network laterally. This means if hackers compromise one device, they won't move to other devices to infect them. In addition, with continuous monitoring and strict access control, microsegmentation ensures that only authorized devices and users can connect with the IoT network. This also helps reduce the attack surface and risk of unauthorized access, preventing potential data breaches.

Least Privilege Access

Zero-trust security framework adheres to the principle of least privilege. It limits the access rights of any device and user and permits only the minimum privilege necessary to perform their specific functions. By limiting the access right, the damage caused by a compromised device is also reduced. The security approach enforces strict access control that allows authorized users and devices to connect to the network. This creates an additional layer of defense and minimizes the exposure to cyber threats, boosting overall IoT security.

Continuous Monitoring

The zero trust approach assumes that the network has been infiltrated and requires businesses to monitor the data entry points continuously. It involves real-time tracking of IoT devices and analyzing their behavior to minimize the risk of a breach. A slight deviation from the normal behavior triggers alerts and detects potential threats. Once detected, the security teams can respond to them timely and maintain a secure IoT environment.

Despite the benefits, adopting the zero-trust framework brings significant obstacles and challenges. A successful transition to zero-trust architecture requires immense planning and a thorough understanding of your network.

Other Best Practices to Ensure IoT Device Security

Addressing IoT security challenges requires businesses to adopt proactive security measures. Here are some effective measures to enhance IoT security:

  • Use advanced tools like Network Detection and Response (NDR) to monitor the network traffic. These tools allow organizations to view baseline activities and detect anomalies that can cause harm.
  • Regularly review the physical security of devices and update the software to the latest version. This keeps the device safe from new threats and makes it harder for hackers to exploit them.
  • Encrypt the network by using a reliable business VPN. It encrypts the data traffic by creating a secure connection between the device and the network. This prevents third parties from intercepting your communication and provides secure remote access to business data.
  • Create password policies for employees that guide them to use and create strong passwords for their devices and accounts.
  • Establish clear policies for remote workers, so it's easy to manage IoT sprawl and shadow IoT devices and have greater visibility within the network.
  • Ensure that employees using IoT devices follow specific security standards. Also, they must replace the devices once they are no longer secure or can be updatable.
  • Bridge the employee skill gap with training and awareness sessions to educate them about the latest IoT threats so they can prevent, detect, and respond to threats promptly.

By practicing these measures, enterprises can improve IoT security and mitigate the risk of cyber attacks.

Final Words

Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed how businesses operate by offering several useful benefits; however, with benefits, it has also introduced them to a wide range of threats. Hackers find IoT devices an easy target due to weak passwords, third-party vulnerabilities, and cyber attack risk. In addition, the remote work culture gives rise to IoT sprawl, which makes it more challenging to ensure security.

Protecting IoT devices is the need of the hour for businesses across every industry. They require a holistic approach to deal with the problems and protect their assets. Implementing a zero-trust framework is one great way to use a multi-layered approach to secure the IoT environment. Besides this, following basic cybersecurity measures like patching the software, using a business VPN, and focusing on employee education further enhances IoT security.