Get Smart: Why Securing Your IoT Devices is a No-brainer

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to interconnect the world at a dizzying rate, there exists a growing need to secure smart devices. Without a doubt, IoT devices such as cameras, TVs, smart speakers, and fridges make life easier and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, though, these devices can fall prey to cyberattacks. Indeed, if left unsecured, IoT devices can act as entry points for hackers to access a user’s private and most sensitive information. Needless to say, it’s imperative that users secure their IoT devices. Here’s how:

  • Utilize End-to-End Encryption

An effective way to protect and secure one’s network is to encrypt data on back-end networks and IoT devices. According to a study conducted by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 research team, 98 percent of IoT devices’ data in transit is unencrypted. End-to-end encryption is the most foolproof way to enhance overall data protection, at rest and in transit, by preventing IoT data breaches.

It is also advisable to employ the strongest encryption method, such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which boasts the most significant bit size. Users should consider upgrading their home routers if they currently use WEP or WPA protocols to safeguard their networks against IoT threats.

  • Know Your Network and Connected Devices

Users must be familiar with their networks and the types of devices connected to them. Armed with detailed and updated information on their networks’ asset inventory, users can help ensure that they are adequately protected.

It’s also a good idea for users to take asset inventories of all IoT devices being used and add them to their network monitoring systems. Otherwise, they are likely to lose track of all of their connected devices, leaving them vulnerable to the hacker attacks. Similarly, users should keep track of their networks and scan them regularly to prevent unauthorized devices from finding their way in.    

  • Set Strong Passwords and Username

One of the easiest ways to ensure that networks and connected devices remain secure is by implementing strong passwords for all devices. Avoid using default passwords and usernames, but instead, choose passwords that are hard to crack. In addition, it’s advisable to use a different password for each device on a network, so that if a hacker is able to steal your password, then your other devices will remain safe. Also, passwords need to be changed regularly, every 30 to 90 days. Password management tools can come in handy here, with their ability to store, manage and keep track of passwords.

  • Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides an added layer of security that acts as a backup if a user’s password fails. By enabling this authentication method, every person trying to log in to a user’s IoT devices will need to provide proof of identity.

There are different types of multi-factor authentication, including ones that send a verification code to a user’s phone or email address each time someone tries to log in. Another type of multi-factor authentication – physical authentication – requires the person logging in to insert a physical key such as a USB stick.

Multi-factor authentication typically is built into most devices, but users can choose to get MFA service through a third party; this is especially useful in business settings which require exceptionally high levels of MFA.

  • Create a Separate Network for IoT Devices

Experts recommend using separate networks for each of a user’s devices. This means network segmentation, where a network is divided into subsections. This strategy will give a user control over traffic in connected devices, which means hackers will be unable to gain total access to a network, even if they’re able to breach its firewall.

In other words, If hackers attack users’ smart devices, they cannot access either their private data or shared files. This works best for IoT devices that are shared with visitors. In these cases, users should opt for Wi-Fi routers that support guest networking, allowing visitors to connect to their network without increasing the security threat.

Also, experts recommend using next-generation firewall policies and virtual local area networks (VLAN) to implement network segmentation. This way, users can keep their IoT devices distinct from their IT assets, thus reducing the chances of breaches.

  • Change Default Passwords

Usually, smart devices come with default device settings, which often can be insecure and pose a security threat. For this reason, experts recommend reconfiguring the default settings of new IoT devices where possible. This includes changing the default credentials, open port, and any other settings that an attacker could crack.

  • Disable Your Devices Unless Necessary

IoT devices come with myriad features, and it can be tempting to want to try them all. However, many of these features may provide entry points for hackers. As such, it’s advisable to disable features such as Bluetooth, and voice control, especially if they remain largely unused.

  • Use the Latest Firmware

While this may seem obvious, some users fail to keep their firmware fully updated. Experts recommend that users check for updates every three months. By using the latest firmware, users will significantly lower the chances of attacks on their IoT devices. Specifically, the firmware’s security patches will uncover vulnerabilities and quickly fix them before they cause any security damage.

  • Monitor Your Devices

Users can take IoT security a step further by setting up monitoring systems that keep an eye on all of a network’s IoT devices. A good monitoring system not only will track IoT devices for any unauthorized access or unusual data flow but will also monitor, report, and alert in real time.

A wise investment

IoT and all of the smart devices it enables is undeniably beneficial for businesses, but only in a secure setting. Without the right security strategy to keep a user’s devices safe from data breaches and security attacks, IoT is a risky endeavor. Investing in IoT security will pay dividends, both literally and figuratively.

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