Automation has become the buzzword these days, with business enterprises going about adopting newer technologies to be competitive and profitable. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is one such technology that has the potential to transform the way we perceive and act upon things - such as driving a car using smart IoT technology. The technology has been adopted on a large scale, especially in industrial applications, as a means to digitally transform processes and derive a host of benefits. These include reducing effort and cost, achieving speed, accuracy, higher productivity, and efficiency. The growing fascination for such devices is driving the market crazy with a valuation of $520 billion. Furthermore, IoT technology is expected to receive up to $1 trillion in investments by 2022 (Source: research.aimultiple.com).
All said and done, the downside to the breakneck speed at which IoT is being adopted across the board is the neglect of security considerations. Business enterprises, in their zeal to adopt IoT technology to drive digital transformation, do not always give the security of such devices and the network on which they operate enough attention. This leaves these devices with vulnerabilities, which have the potential to be exploited by cybercriminals to cause data breaches with dire consequences for all stakeholders. Let us understand the IoT and how to strengthen its security.
The Internet of Things comprises everyday devices that are interconnected through the internet or other wireless networks and can be controlled remotely. Everyday devices are fitted with sensors and microchips that can send or receive data over the internet. This creates the possibility of these devices being controlled remotely. The use of IoT in physical areas like homes, cars, offices, and even cities has a transformational effect in terms of turning them smart. For instance, your alarm clock can read the calendar and sets itself up to buzz at the right time.
Why is IoT security important?
The world is poised to move into a “smart” ecosystem where automation, in all likelihood, is going to change our lives for the better. However, given that the internet or any wireless network is the carrier for IoT “signals”, cybercriminals can hack into the devices or networks and cause havoc. For instance, hackers can penetrate the IoT network of any company to cause system downtime or spy on homeowners to garner crucial information. Since billions of devices are connected to the IoT network, it is important to develop and comply with security standards to prevent tampering or breaches. Let us understand how IoT security testing can help in establishing such a secure ecosystem.
Protecting IoT devices and networks from cyber attacks
As companies develop new products with IoT capabilities, consumers are simply lapping them up. However, this increases the possibility of cyber-attacks on such devices. Let us understand how the Internet of Things QA testing for security can prevent such attacks.
IoT penetration testing: In this type of IoT testing methodology, the QA testers try to penetrate the IoT network and devices by exploiting the inherent vulnerabilities with full knowledge of the management. With IoT penetration testing, QA testers check the security of such devices and find out the vulnerabilities as they continue to operate in the real world. It helps stakeholders understand the types of vulnerabilities or glitches existing in the IoT system and how they can be exploited by real threat actors. After knowing the vulnerabilities through IoT security testing, the loopholes are plugged, thereby strengthening the security of the IoT system and making it virtually impregnable.
Threat modeling: This IoT testing approach helps determine the threat model for the IoT system and how it can be breached. For instance, if an IoT-enabled camera is installed to monitor a house or spy on people within a specific distance, it can be breached by a hacker to gain access to the images captured by the camera. With threat modeling, the vulnerability that allowed the hacker to gain access to the camera is eliminated.
Firmware analysis: Firmware is a type of software that is used in embedded devices like sensors to execute a dedicated function. It can be found on devices such as routers, smart appliances, or medical devices. As with any other software, firmware can contain vulnerabilities or bugs that can be exploited by cybercriminals. Firmware analysis is a type of IoT testing approach that looks for security issues such as buffer overflows, backdoors, and others.
Best practices to secure the IoT devices or systems
No matter how robust the security of IoT systems is, if the people operating the devices are not thorough with the security protocols, hackers can gain entry into the systems. The best practices to be followed to keep the IoT systems secure are listed below:
- Change default credentials frequently and use strong passwords
- Implement a VPN with strong encryption to transmit and store data
- Perform IoT security testing frequently
- Change default router settings
- Disconnect devices when not in use
- Do not use Universal Plug and Play
- Update firmware regularly
With the rapid growth of IoT systems, businesses should turn their focus to securing these devices from any unauthorized access. They should be thoroughly assessed to identify and mitigate any security vulnerabilities in the code. Even though IoT technology has the potential to transform our lives for the better, it is critical to understand that it can have security risks as well. It is only by implementing IoT device testing solutions in the value chain that businesses can ensure the protection of data from falling into the wrong hands.