An IoT device is essentially any network-connected physical asset that isn't a computer. While enterprise IT teams protect standard IT devices with traditional network security technology and protocols, the security risks associated with IoT devices are less well-known, and securing IoT is an unaddressed challenge in many organizations. Standard cybersecurity systems are incapable of recognizing and identifying either the specific types of IoT devices or the unique risk profiles and expected behaviors associated with them.
In addition, IoT devices can be deployed by any business center, thereby bypassing typical network security controls and processes. All of these network-connected IoT devices – printers, cameras, sensors, lighting, HVAC, appliances, infusion pumps, handheld scanners (the list goes on and on) – use different hardware, chipsets, operating systems, and firmware that introduce vulnerabilities and risk.
What Are the Challenges of IoT Security?
IoT security can be understood as a cybersecurity strategy and protection mechanism that safeguards against the possibility of cyberattacks which specifically target physical IoT devices that are connected to the network. Without robust security, any connected IoT device is vulnerable to breach, compromise, and control by a bad actor to ultimately infiltrate, steal user data, and bring down systems.
The overarching challenge for security in IoT is that as large volumes of diverse IoT devices continue to connect to the network, a dramatic expansion of the attack surface is happening in parallel. Ultimately the entire network security posture is diminished to the level of integrity and protection offered to the least secure device.
Security teams are now faced with new and escalating challenges that are unique to IoT security, including:
Inventory – not having clear visibility and context for what IoT devices are in the network and how to securely manage new devices.
Threats – lack of well-embedded security into IoT device operating systems that are hard or impossible to patch.
Data volume – overseeing vast amounts of data generated from both managed and unmanaged IoT devices.
Ownership – new risks associated with the management of IoT devices by disparate teams within the organization.
Diversity – the sheer diversity of IoT devices in terms of their limitless forms and functions.
Operations – the unification crisis wherein IoT devices are critical to core operations yet difficult for IT to integrate into the core security posture.
In addition to these challenges, 98% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted, putting personal and confidential data at severe risk.
Every IoT device on the network represents an endpoint that provides a potential point of entry for a bad actor to expose the network to outside risks. This includes the IoT devices you know about as well as the IoT devices you don't know about. For example, if infected with malware, IoT devices can be used as botnets to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the network the bad actor wants to bring down. However, unlike IT devices, a growing number of IoT devices are virtually invisible in enterprise networks, making it impossible to protect them all in the same way.