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The Criticality of IoT Penetration Testing for a Remote Workforce

 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is gradually transforming the way people go about their daily chores or how enterprises conduct their activities. It is the harbinger of everything ‘smart’ the world is aspiring for. The days are not far when IoT can make science fiction a reality to a great extent. It improves efficiency, productivity, comfort, convenience, responsiveness, and management, besides reducing cost and waste. The Internet of Things has the capability to transform homes and offices and help create islands of efficiency amidst the presence of legacy systems. The IoT revolution is mostly visible in the way employees of enterprises have been using the IoT-enabled devices remotely to connect with their offices.

Today’s employees who are wont to bring their digital devices like laptops, tablets, or smartphones to offices have graduated to bringing IoT-enabled devices like e-readers, wearables, game consoles, or even smart printers and coffee makers. Even if these devices have given convenience and efficiency a new meaning, they bring with them a new set of challenges involving cybersecurity. If earlier the security teams at offices were tasked with securing the company’s assets and the devices brought by employees, today, the challenge is formidable. In the new IoT-enabled ecosystem, security teams have to deal with devices they are not used to handling earlier. These include coffee makers, smartwatches, fitness trackers, and remotes, among others. Thus, the IoT-enabled devices may have attendant security concerns that many enterprises are not prepared to deal with. And if left on their own, these devices can play havoc in the day and age of cybercrime.

The present BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) protocol being run at enterprises needs to be scaled up to include the advent of IoT-enabled devices. So, let us understand how organizations can strengthen their security systems to ensure the safety of IoT devices for a remote workforce. This calls for conducting stringent IoT testing across the digital landscape.

The value of IoT security and how IoT security testing is the key

A study by Gartner, the global research and advisory firm, states that the number of IoT-enabled devices is likely to cross 20 billion by 2020. With the increased integration of IoT into people’s lives, there will be a greater dependence on such devices to derive data and draw inferences from the same. However, this also increases the security risk from such devices - for individuals, groups, enterprises, organizations, and entities. The risks can be varied and annoying. For example, cybercriminals can break into an IoT ecosystem and capture the video feeds as well as block access to the real users of such feeds. Also, in radiation monitoring devices, cybercriminals can exploit any inherent vulnerability to target critical infrastructure. The field of medicine is one potential area where IoT has made rapid ingress with smart wearables to monitor critical parameters. Again, the lack of security testing here can give a long rope to cybercriminals to make good with sensitive patient-related data.

To pre-empt cybercriminals from wreaking havoc on the IoT and connected ecosystem, enterprises should put increased focus on IoT penetration testing. This way they can identify the vulnerabilities or glitches within such systems and fix them. For a remote workforce dependent on the successful performance of such devices, stringent IoT testing can take care of any potential security issue.

What is IoT penetration testing?

In this type of testing, an assessment is made on the usage of various components within an IoT-enabled device to make it safer. However, given that such devices have numerous interfaces with third-party devices or software suites, it is indeed challenging to plan an all-encompassing IoT testing approach for devices with so many end-points.

Benefits of IoT device testing

  • Testing IoT applications, especially through pen testing can have a host of benefits for enterprises.
  • Strengthening device security: The vulnerabilities within devices can be identified and fixed. Thus, the machinations of cybercriminals can be nipped in the bud and sensitive information safeguarded.
  • Prevention of unauthorized usage: IoT devices should have multiple layers of security to prevent any unauthorized usage. However, glitches within such devices can be exploited to gain access to sensitive or critical areas or databases causing data breach or worse, endangering the critical systems controlled by such devices.
  • Eliminating elevation of privileges: The usage of IoT devices in organizations comes with a layered approach having a proper distribution of privileges. At each level, the person entrusted with deriving data and insights from such devices has access that is not available to everyone. This ensures the device continues to function seamlessly and generate the necessary outcomes required of it. However, the lack of IoT security testing can allow cybercriminals to exploit the access privileges and steal sensitive personal or business information. This can have serious security implications in areas where the successful functioning of such devices has extensible security dimensions. A robust pen test can search for vulnerabilities and secure them from further exploitation.
  • Strengthen data privacy: The IoT-enabled devices must adhere to stringent industry regulations failing which enterprises using such devices as a part of their IT infrastructure can face censure, penalties, or an outright ban. The application of a robust IoT testing methodology can enforce such protocols thereby ensuring data privacy.
  • Setting strong encryption: The software suite running any IoT device connects to the servers of various third-party applications to exchange data and information. If the data exchanged between devices or servers are not encrypted, they can be easily snooped into and exploited. The IoT penetration testing validates the effectiveness of encryption ensuring the transmission of data among such devices remains safe and secure.

Conclusion

The IoT landscape has become very complicated with myriad devices having sundry end-points conducting data transmission intermittently. This has made the job of developers and security teams challenging. However, ensuring the security and performance of IoT-enabled devices is underpinned on understanding the complexities of device platforms and conducting stringent penetration testing.

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Hemanth Kumar Yamjala has 10+ years of experience in IT Services, predominantly Marketing, Branding, specializing in Digital. Currently a part of the marketing for Cigniti Technologies with functions such as leveraging digital marketing channels for lead generation and promotion.

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