How to secure IoT devices?

You need to secure IoT devices to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to your data. If a third party gains access to your device, they can manipulate its functionality and access your data.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly growing in popularity. Even though it is a relatively new technology, its recent fame is unprecedented. There’s no doubt that IoT offers various exciting ideas and opportunities for innovation.

However, most people might not know about the extent of privacy and security risks linked with this exciting technology. For the fact that several devices are connected to the same wireless connection, there’s a great risk of security breaches.

How to Secure IoT Devices: What is IoT?

Simply put, IoT refers to devices that are connected to the internet, for instance, your smartwatch, refrigerator, coffee machine, heating system, car, and so on.

IoT adds so much comfort for users. By using smart devices that are connected to the internet, you can make your coffee ready for when you get up from bed or make your oven to heat your meal for when you get home. You can lock your doors, control air quality and room temperature, and even watch your house when you’re away.

Every connected IoT device is a data collector. So, unless you want other people to know about your personal life, you have to secure all your connected devices. Just as you’re making efforts to secure your network, you should also ensure there are no weak links in the network by checking that each device is secure.

It is estimated that today, there are more than 7 billion IoT devices in the world, and they present an opportunity for cybercriminals to attack. One concern with IoT is ensuring that data, devices, and networks are secure.

How to Secure IoT Devices: How can your Devices be Vulnerable?

IoT devices can provide new entry points for cybercriminals. These criminals have hijacked monitors in the past and used it to spy on people using their webcams, for example. If you own a smart home device, your security and privacy could be at risk.

As you connect to the internet, IoT devices are always prone to online vulnerabilities. By infiltrating your data network, a cybercriminal can take unauthorized control and harm you in several ways. Consider a few scenarios.

  • If your security camera is compromised, your privacy is ruined, and criminals can easily spy on you
  • Hackers can use the readings of your thermostat to get knowledge of your whereabouts and can get into your home when nobody is around
  • When your network is hijacked, a cybercriminal can carry out a ransomware attack by disabling all the devices and ask for a ransom in return, with no guarantee that the attacker will give you back access
  • Smart digital assistant like Amazon Echo, Google, and Alexa gather lots of data. If they get hacked, your privacy will be compromised

How to Secure IoT Devices: What makes IoT Devices Vulnerable?

Your IoT devices might be useful, but they don’t come with proper built-in security. Surprisingly, manufacturers of IoT devices don’t take security as a top priority. That makes them very vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The other reasons why they are vulnerable include:

  • These devices don’t have complex security protocols because they are created in a way that they require low power and computational skills
  • IoT devices lack system hardening that gives strength to computer devices to fight off external threats
  • They lack the mechanism to regularly update their software
  • The devices come with hardcoded default passwords that most users don’t change

How to Secure IoT Devices: Best ways to Secure IoT Devices

Your IoT devices can make your life a lot more comfortable. However, they could also make your home and connected devices vulnerable to threats. That’s why you need to have a defense plan for securing them. You can secure them in these steps.

1. Use strong passwords

Apart from the router password of your Wi-Fi, you also need to make sure you have a super-strong password in some other areas. For example, you need to create an account for your IoT devices and sign in to use them. The devices mostly have linked mobile apps where that require login details. You need to create unique credentials for the account and app of all your IoT devices so that if the password of one device gets compromised, the others will still be intact.

The downside of this is that you’ll need to remember all those passwords, which can be overwhelming. You should write them down somewhere and ensure that you’re the only one that can access it. Another alternative to writing down passwords is to use a password management tool, which can store various passwords, make new ones, and sync them between many devices.

2. Disable features you don’t use

Sometimes, you can decide to enhance your security by disabling features you don’t need. To determine the features that are necessary and those that are not, take time to review the features of all IoT devices you use. Some devices will be more feature-rich than others.

For instance, an IP-enabled industrial sensor will likely have fewer ancillary features. But on the other hand, devices that are more oriented toward end users are more feature-rich. In some cases, disabling just one feature can greatly improve the general security of the device.

3. Correctly configure your router

First, you need to carry out some tweaks to secure the router of your WiFi. Since it is a central connection to all your IoT devices, the router is a doorway for a hacker to introduce malware on your devices. You can carry out these tweaks on your routers.

Change the default name of the router so that the hacker will find it difficult to guess the name of the manufacturer and the default login information. Don’t mention any personal identifiers in the router’s name.

Although this is obvious, change the default password of the WiFi router immediately you begin using it. Create a password that is difficult to guess by combining alphanumeric and special characters. Use high-level encryption for your WiFi router; consider changing the router if it doesn’t support this level of encryption.

4. Disable universal plug and play features

Almost every smart device has a feature known as UPnP. By using this feature, various devices can locate and connect. This feature makes it more convenient to use the devices because you don’t need to configure every one of them separately.

However, you need to be aware that UPnP protocols use local networks for connecting and can therefore be vulnerable to intruders. When an attack happens, outside entities could simultaneously gain access to various devices. It is therefore a good practice to disable the UPnP feature on each device.

5. Reduce how you use cloud technology

Most of the IoT providers offer free cloud storage with their devices because it is considered an emerging technology. But there are some potential setbacks with this. First, you need an active connection to gain access to the data that is stored in the cloud; it is impossible to access that information without a connection.

Secondly, third parties might be able to hack your connection as you gain access to your account. Therefore, before you use the cloud, ensure that you know all the ways you can secure your data and completely understand privacy methods.

6. Use network segmentation

The major security goal of segmenting a network is to reduce the attack surface. Segmentation will divide a network into two or more subsections to make it possible for you to have granular control over lateral traffic movement between connected devices and workloads.

When a network that is not segmented and has several endpoints directly communicating with each other without any partitioning, it’ll have a greater chance of being compromised; and if that happens, it’ll laterally spread to become a contagion.

But if you segment your network, it’ll be difficult for hackers to compromise your devices. You can use virtual local area network (VLAN) configurations and recent firewall policies to implement network segments on your IoT devices. By doing this, both groups can be protected from a lateral exploit.

7. Regularly update your devices

It is important to keep the software of your IoT devices up to date. The apps you use to access your IoT tools also need to be regularly updated. In addition to software updates, also, check for the firmware updates.

Although WiFi routers receive firmware updates, you should always manually check for it. Similarly, most IoT devices and their apps don’t automatically update but inform you to do so whenever the updates are available. Don’t procrastinate! Update them immediately.

How to Secure IoT Devices: Conclusion

There are various benefits to using devices that depend on IoT. It can make your life more convenient and give you access to data that otherwise would not be available. But just as it is with other innovations, IoT has its risks. You must be aware of these risks and take action to be protected against them.

Even though security is getting more advanced, hackers are also evolving ways to infiltrate various systems. You therefore need to prepare your IoT devices for every type of threat by taking the appropriate security measures.

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