The IoT is expected to comprise 20.8 billion devices by 2020, with Gartner estimating that 5.5 million new “things” went online daily during 2016. Nevertheless, as Forrester analysts emphasize, robust IoT security remains mired in the “creation phase” along with nascent interoperability standards.
Unsurprisingly, malware targeting IoT has matured considerably, with the number of attacks focusing on IoT devices multiplying in recent years. According to Symantec, lackluster security makes IoT devices a soft and appealing target for attackers.
This is because embedded devices rarely receive any notable firmware updates and are typically only replaced upon reaching the end of their respective lifecycles, which may be considerable. Moreover, victims may be unaware that their connected devices are compromised. Indeed, a recent Network World report confirmed that an IoT security camera can be infected with malware merely 98 seconds after going online.
As more and more “things” connect to the Internet, the danger of nefarious attackers exploiting unsecured devices looms ever larger. It is therefore important for the industry to be cognizant of the very real threat posed by vulnerable IoT devices. Once infected with malware, IoT devices are often hijacked and instructed to join botnets that execute distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Internet services.
In addition, vulnerable IoT devices introduce risks that include malicious actors manipulating the flow of information to and from network-connected devices or tampering with devices themselves, which can lead to the theft of sensitive data and loss of consumer privacy, interruption of business operations and potential disruptions to critical infrastructure. Nonetheless, IoT security has traditionally been treated as a tertiary afterthought rather than a primary design parameter.
From our perspective, life-cycle management, which includes over-the-air (OTA) updates and vulnerability management, is essential to maintaining the continued security of IoT devices. Life-cycle management should be implemented utilizing a secure hardware root-of-trust to ensure secure updates of firmware and cryptographic keys. A hardware root-of-trust with a unique cryptographic identifier also allows each IoT device to be uniquely and cryptographically verified to determine if it is authorized to connect to a specific cloud service. Spoofed or unauthorized devices are easily identified by the service and denied access.
This secure connectivity paradigm helps mitigate the effectiveness (and damage) of DDoS attacks against the IoT service itself, while ensuring the integrity and protection of collected data. Preventing malicious actors from manipulating the flow of information to and from network-connected devices is the cornerstone of establishing a secure IoT network.