The Importance of Ensuring IoT System Security


Despite first-generation IoT systems missing fundamental components for network safety, IoT technologies have rapidly evolved to add encryption layers.

Developments in wireless IoT sensor technology are providing new, affordable, and easy-to-use solutions in data collection and management. With the ability to vastly improve the quality of facilities management in several areas, the technology holds the potential to revolutionize outdated systems positively.

Despite IoT sensors providing increased efficiency and multiple other benefits to business management, some companies are deterred by perceived security issues. This hesitancy can have a domino effect on progress, restricting innovation and opportunity. However, understanding and effectively tackling these security concerns will ensure that the progress offered by wireless IoT technology is unhindered.

What Are the Main IoT Security Risks?

IoT technology covers several application areas, each presenting unique questions. However, all modern technology faces the threat of cyber-attacks, which can risk data loss or leaks. Loss or change of information can affect equipment function, shutting down systems and consequently costing both money and time. In some scenarios, businesses also face reputation damage.

While security was not the primary focus in the first generation of IoT systems, the frequency of security threats has firmly placed the spotlight on the effectiveness of system and data security. Actions such as keeping up to speed with regular updates to software and technology and adopting good device management practices will now ensure a higher level of IoT security.

Fierce competition and limited resources mean businesses must stay on top of the technology curve. IoT technology provides crucial improvements to efficiency and productivity. In addition, now that security concerns are a central issue for technology providers, businesses can better understand IoT risks and how they are addressed instead of avoiding adopting the technology.

See also: New Report Highlights $14 Billion IoT IAM Market

Cyber-Attacks and Internet of Things Architecture

To properly tackle the security of IoT systems, it is vital to understand how the architecture of these systems affects security concerns.

IoT works within an ecosystem, with several technologies working collaboratively to achieve specific aims. When systems involve a broader range of technologies, there is an increased risk of security gaps. Unaddressed, these security gaps can allow malware and hackers to access an entire system relatively undetected. Proper safeguards help prevent these security breaches from occurring.

Seeking supposedly easy solutions, some have combined first-generation IoT hardware with updated software to access increased security measures. Newer generations of both IoT hardware and software have a stronger focus on security from the initial development, providing the best possible protection.

It is also essential to understand that independent companies make and control different elements of IoT technology. With hardware, software, firmware, and networks all integrated into IoT systems, it can be hard to determine who oversees the security of the whole system. As a necessary element of its function, IoT networks must include a diverse collection of machine-to-machine connections. This diversity does create a more complex architecture of devices that requires more attention directed towards security solutions.

IoT Gateways – Common Cyber Threats

Man in the Middle” (MitM) attacks are the most common cyber-attack targeting IoT infrastructure. These attacks rely on digital connections as gateways to access data, effectively hijacking the middle space between digital communications (for example, between two devices).

MitM attacks are also known as “digital eavesdropping” – attackers intercept, capture, and change sensitive information in real time, including potentially accessing login information, card details, and more. The attacker will act as a functioning authorized user, allowing them to remain inside systems for extended periods without detection. Secure connections are crucial to preventing such unauthorized access and exploitation.

First-generation Internet of Things technology solutions used generic gateways to connect wireless sensors to the cloud. As IoT networks became more widely tried and tested, technology providers were able to identify that using this system – which creates a single point of failure – increases the chances of MitM attacks being successful. Newer generations of IoT technology took this knowledge on board to create secure and encrypted connections, reducing the success rate of these attacks and providing an overall better-protected system.

Practical Solutions – Keeping it Simple

The market is full of add-on solutions claiming to provide additional security for systems such as IoT networks. However, these add-ons rarely offer the level of security they may advertise, and even if they do, security should not be an afterthought. Instead, the best possible protection comes from built-in, tested systems.

The simpler an IoT network is (including minimal add-on systems), the fewer access points there will be. As a result, the number of potential weak spots in the system is drastically reduced, lowering the number of access points to monitor for breaches actively. For example, there are many different smart sensor designs, with many providing wireless and off-site monitoring capabilities. These systems are often most effective when kept as straightforward as possible, without legacy system integration, and on their own secure network. This way, the potential for cyber-attacks is minimized.

The Key to IoT Security: Cloud Connectivity

As discussed, add-on systems and unnecessarily complicated networks can undermine efforts to provide the best security for IoT technologies. In addition, these methods give too many potential access points for malware and cyber-attacks. So, what methods will genuinely provide a more secure system?

Using smart, wireless Internet of Things sensors as an example, the best defense against cyber threats is building the sensors and security system together. The product should have end-to-end encryption to protect data transfer across its entire journey from devices to the cloud. Encrypting this transfer distance protects from malware and cyber threats such as man-in-the-middle attacks, vastly improving the safety of the data in transfer.

IoT technologies are providing innovative solutions across multiple industries, with the ability to improve efficiency, productivity, accuracy, profitability, and more. Using smart, wireless IoT sensors as an example, we can demonstrate how simple networks with built-in security provide the best possible protection against cyber threats.

Despite first-generation IoT systems missing fundamental components for network safety, Internet of Things technologies have rapidly evolved to add encryption layers. Now, encryption heavily protects data transfers from physical hardware to the cloud, and businesses can rest assured that security is a core priority for IoT production.    

Øystein Moldsvor

About Øystein Moldsvor

Øystein Moldsvor is VP Engineering at Disruptive Technologies. He has more than 20 years of experience in leading roles within the semiconductor industry. He was a co-founder and CTO of Arctic Silicon Devices and R&D Director for data converters in Nordic Semiconductor ASA.

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