While the smart devices and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that offices and homes utilize around the globe certainly improve productivity and enhance overall experiences, many users wonder if these devices are secure. That’s because smart devices share sensitive information, which could lead to information breaches if the right preventive measures are overlooked.
Read on for practical tips from experts that will help ensure users’ IoT devices, data, and networks remain safe and secure.
Why IoT Security is Important
Before we get to the security tips, it’s important to understand why IoT security is crucial. People and businesses expect IoT devices to be safe, of course, but no technology is guaranteed to be 100 percent secure. After all, IoT technologies are made and operated by people, so mistakes are inevitable.
Actionable Tips to Secure Your IoT Devices
Here are 12 best practices that experts recommend users employ to keep IoT devices safe and secure from cyber threats.
One: Purchase IoT Devices from Trusted Brands
There are countless IoT devices being introduced to the market every day, but that doesn’t mean all manufacturers put in the effort and time necessary to ensure that their devices are secure.
According to Dave Kohnke, a senior IT director at the University of Colorado Boulder, due diligence and proper research are needed to manage IoT effectively. According to Kohnke, this starts with a comprehensive review and analysis of IoT device suppliers, which can include a review of the parts used in the devices.
Reputable IoT device suppliers should have enough security measures in their products to provide support or updates. Kohnke said that, if a supplier cannot describe their security processes, he recommends users opt for a different IoT vendor.
Two: Use a Dedicated Network for Every IoT Device
Connecting IoT devices to a primary network makes users more vulnerable to security risks. Instead of connecting these devices to critical business applications and networks, most experts recommend that users connect them to a dedicated and separated network.
Tom Van de Wiele, a principal security consultant at F-Secure, said IoT devices used in offices are more prone to broad attacks if companies fail to separate their IoT technologies from their business networks. That’s because their office infrastructure and shared networks can be affected.
Connecting devices to Wi-Fi is even recommended by the FBI. Doing this isolates crucial IT infrastructures, which means that, if any IoT devices are compromised, then possible exposure is limited.
But how do you segregate the devices connected to your network? Alex Feiszli, CEO of GRAVITL, believes that trusted devices should have a zero-trust virtual network and while untrusted devices should have a guest network. In addition, super-strong passwords will prevent unauthorized access to both networks.
Three: Restrict Who Can Access Your Devices and Networks
The integral component of IoT security management is identity and access management. This is also crucial for businesses’ overall cybersecurity. Therefore, users should implement strict practices and policies when it comes to authorized access to devices and networks. These practices and policies will let businesses know which users are authorized and that they are the only ones accessing company systems.
Four: Regularly Check Your Physical Devices
In addition to connected devices, users should regularly check physical devices for any signs of compromise. This is because when physical devices are removed or tampered with, IoT systems can be compromised, especially because only some IoT devices are designed to combat physical compromise and then send notifications should compromise occur. This means that anyone who can physically access your device – including all workers and contractors who enter your property – can also access your data.
The bottom line is that, by improving your network visibility, you can effectively gain insight into your connected devices and how they’re being used.
Five: Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is an added security layer that requires extra proof of identity when logging into a device. Many devices come equipped with MFA, while others may require users to enable it via third-party apps.
With MFA, anyone trying to log in to your IoT device will need to input a verification code that is sent to your email address or phone. This means that anyone without access to this code will be unable to log in to your device.
Six: Update Your Systems’ Software and Firmware and Use Patches
If your security tools are unpatched, you are at risk, regardless of the number of security tools and measures you may have in place. This is not only applicable to IoT security but overall cybersecurity as well.
In addition, it’s advisable to apply the updates released by manufacturers to your devices and systems as soon as possible. According to Michael Miller, CEO of VPN Online, automated updates can make this easier. Simply turn on “automatically check for updates” on all systems.
Miller also suggests keeping software and firmware up to date to further improve the security of IoT devices. That’s because, when you update your firmware, you get the most updated security patches that enable your devices to better withstand attacks. It’s also good to remember that, when manufacturers release patches and updates on their devices, they should sign their codes digitally for additional protection. This also assures users that the updates are authentic.
Seven: Educate Employees about IoT Security
An often-overlooked component of IoT security involves ensuring that all employees and network users, regardless of their positions, understand the best practices of cybersecurity. They should be educated about common cyber risks, security policies, penalties for non-compliance, expectations, and attack methods.
Eight: Educate Consumers
Educating consumers about IoT security threats will help them keep their systems secure and be prepared for any challenges they may encounter. This includes knowing how to apply software updates and credentials. With this information and awareness, consumers are more likely to embrace devices that meet high-security standards.
Nine: Hire Qualified Cyber Leaders
Qualified cyber leaders are in high demand and for good reason: without them, organizations are much more prone to cyber risks. In addition to finding talented cyber leaders, companies should also ensure that their existing cybersecurity employees are well compensated. These employees’ skills are in demand and as such, companies need to compensate them well.
Ten: Disable Unnecessary Features
Disabling unnecessary features may seem unimportant, but doing so can go a long way toward securing your IoT devices. Indeed, IoT experts believe that disabling features one doesn’t need can protect devices and lower the risks of cyber threats.
Specifically, it’s best to disable functions and features such as unsecured radio connections, unencrypted communications, open serial, and TCP/UDP ports that you don’t need. Otherwise, these features can serve as openings for hackers to access your network.
Eleven: Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Another actionable step in protecting your IoT devices involves avoiding public Wi-Fi. It’s better to opt for a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is more secure, which makes it difficult for hackers to access.
Similarly, if you have a Wi-Fi network at home, it’s best not to share it with your guests. Instead, you can create a guest network that will give guests access to the network without posing a security threat to your IoT devices.
Twelve: Properly Set Your Router
Usually, a router will come with a default password. It’s best to change this password to a unique password consisting of symbols, numbers and letters. It’s also a good idea to change the router’s name to something that can’t be traced back to you. Usually, routers have default names that indicate their make and model; with this information, hackers can easily locate your default login details and gain access to your network.
Secur(IoT)y to the rescue
To make IoT security efforts effective, users first need to determine their organizations’ safety and performance needs, and budget. Of course, IoT devices can never be 100 percent guaranteed secure, but, by following the tips above, users are much less likely to fall victim to data theft and other cyber attacks.