IoT (Internet of Things) devices are hugely popular at the moment, with more than 40 billion IoT devices on the planet – a number predicted to rise to over 75 million by 2025.  

It’s a massively lucrative market for tech-minded companies to explore and exploit. However, there is a darker side. As a rapidly growing technology, IoT technology presents some significant security challenges for businesses and users alike. 

Here, we’ll help you understand the scope of the problem by looking at some of the chief vulnerabilities that make IoT devices insecure, and some potential solutions.  

What are the security challenges faced by IoT devices?

Five of the most common security issues that face IoT devices are: 

  1. Weak passwords and user authentication 
  1. No encryption 
  1. A lack of built-in security 
  1. Inconsistent firmware updates 
  1. Legacy systems not built for a cloud-connected world  

Below, we’ll look at each of these IoT security vulnerabilities in more detail. 

1. Weak passwords and user authentication 

Arguably the most common security issue with IoT devices revolves around something you probably use every day: a personal password for your devices and accounts. 

You’ll be used to using one of these for, say, logging into your laptop or phone. But plenty of IoT devices like thermostats and fitness trackers don’t have any authentication at all, or only a very thin layer that can be easily bypassed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Other IoT devices meanwhile may come with password protection, including a default password that’s designed to be changed. However, often these default passwords are relatively weak (in other words, short and/or not including a combination of letters, numbers and special characters). And in many instances, users fail to change these to something that’s more secure. 

This is a critical IoT security vulnerability to note because, even if the IoT device in question doesn’t store any particularly private or important data, it can offer hackers a back door into your whole network or transform it into a “zombie” machine from which can be used to orchestrate further a more complex attack. To make sure you’re protected, check that your passwords are strong and make sure to only use IoT devices that carry a strong level of user authentication. 

2. No encryption

If you have an IoT device that doesn’t use password authentication, it’s also a reasonable assumption that it won’t encrypt the data it sends either. This is another significant vulnerability that makes IoT devices insecure because it allows hackers to intercept data, potentially altering communications or obtaining login credentials. Adding cryptographic encryption into the mix makes IoT devices far more secure, which is why we’d always recommend doing so. 

3. A lack of built-in security

While most desktop and laptop computers come with built-in antivirus software, and both mobile phones and tablets have plenty of added security options available through app stores, that’s not the case for the majority of IoT devices. This makes them more susceptible to malware infections. We’re firm believers that IoT devices should be designed with security in mind, and create all our software solutions factoring that in. 

4. Inconsistent or missing firmware updates

The always-connected nature of IoT devices means a developer’s work is never done, even after software rolls out. New threats are constantly emerging, which means software companies need to issue operating system updates to keep IoT devices secure and compliant. When either a developer is slow with this rollout schedule, or a user is slow installing them, the resultant new vulnerabilities put IoT devices at risk. Our advice? Always work with a software partner who has a trusted reputation for reliable and regular firmware update rollouts.  

5. Legacy systems not built for a cloud-connected world

The last in our list of IoT security vulnerabilities involves older devices with legacy operating systems using the same network as newer IoT devices. In short, it’s a platform management issue. 

Hospitals can be a great example, with smart lighting and thermostats connected to the same networks as patient monitors and ventilators. Sites like this can be a target for ransomware attacks, so working with a software partner who designs with security in mind, and can manage your entire IoT platform, can make a world of difference. 

IoT solutions you can trust

At One Beyond we design intuitive IoT solutions for businesses of all kinds, focusing on security while also emphasising usability. Our software includes customisable interfaces and simple reporting, so you always know what’s going on with your device. And all rolled out using an agile software methodology that factors in ongoing management and updates, to keep your device(s) as secure as possible. 

To learn how our IoT services can work for you, check out our IoT case studies, then take a look at our IoT software page and get in touch to find out more.