In a hyper-connected IoT world, data integrity, privacy, use of default passwords and brute-forcing; and challenges related to testing and managing device updates and vulnerabilities pose serious security threats.
In simple terms, IoT (Internet of Things) may be defined as a network of smart objects that work together to collect and analyze data and perform actions autonomously. According to McKinsey, the IoT market will be worth $581b for ICT-based spend alone, growing at a compound annual growth rate between 7 and 15%. Likewise, Gartner predicts that 25 billion connected things will be in use by 2021.
So, what does this mean to us?
For us, this may imply smart traffic signals that change as per the traffic load, or smart watches that can wake you up with an alarm, switch on your water heater at the same time, show your to-do-list for the day, your due payments, and so on. On one hand, this hyper-connectivity indicates that IoT can truly transform our lives beyond imagination, while on the other; it poses the users at a greater risk of personal data loss and misuse.
According to Gartner, security and privacy top the list of technical challenges faced by IoT projects. Let’s dig deeper into the security challenges to get to know more about them and to consider the possible solutions.
1. Device Interoperability and Data Leakage:
In a hyper-connected world, with a multitude of sensors and actuators collecting boundless data via multiple networks; data becomes vulnerable to viruses, malware, phishing, and user errors. In addition, dynamically collating and displaying data in real time may result in storage-analysis paralysis. All this incoming data further indicates the need for strict data compliance regulations.
2. Privacy Concerns:
3. Default Passwords and Brute-Forcing:
Shipping devices with default predictable passwords expose them to brute-force attacks and password hacking. Except for a few guidelines, there aren’t any legal repercussions to ensure manufacturers abandon this practice. A number of companies simply go with factory default credentials placing their confidential business data at risk, which, in the IoT world, can have huge implications. Besides, testing can be a big challenge.
4. Testing Challenges:
With IoT, testing can be a real challenge. A wide range of traffic patterns, different operating systems, varied networks, locations, and device-specific features will make testing a complex task with n number of possible testing scenarios. Hence, longer test runs and more time is required, further impacting the time to market the product. This asks for suitable test frameworks, more budgetary requirements, and highly skilled testers who will need to adopt Agile and DevOps to keep up with the pace of the market. Managing updates for all the connected devices will be yet another problem.
5. Managing Device Updates:
Distributed environments, heterogeneous devices, and a range of networks make it a challenging task to apply updates, including security patches, for all the connected devices. Moreover, some of the devices may get obsolete in the process and no more updates may be available for them while some may require manually updating the device. Moreover, making sure that only legitimate updates are applied isn’t an easy job. And even if security patches are updated correctly, system breaches and vulnerabilities are inevitable.
6. Managing Vulnerabilities:
Approaches like monitoring network communications and activity logs for anomalies, penetration testing, and ethical hacking are used to save the system from vulnerabilities. Despite security intelligence and analytics in place, once the system security is breached, it’s a tedious task to identify the devices that were affected, the data or services that were accessed or compromised, and the way users were impacted. And as this information is difficult to extract, it is all the more difficult to understand the actions required to resolve the situation.
Having said this, the above reflect some of the biggest IoT security challenges that any app development company needs to consider when building an IoT solutions app. Standard legal and regulatory frameworks should be created with huge non-compliance penalties to ensure that companies take due precautions for data security and integrity. Though attacks and vulnerabilities are inevitable, legal structures and vigilance may reduce the potential loss.
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To sum up, despite IoT creating ripples in the technology realm, IoT associated security issues remains a major cause of concern. Lack of requisite regulations related to device interoperability, data integrity, privacy, use of default passwords and brute-forcing; and challenges related to testing and managing device updates and vulnerabilities pose serious data leakage and misuse threats. Compromising sensitive information may have huge financial and other implications for companies as well as customers both. Hence, there’s a need for a strict legal and regulatory framework that imposes huge penalties on the defaulters.
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