The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized people's lives and work by enabling convenience and efficiency through connected devices and systems. However, IoT security remains paramount in a rapidly evolving threat landscape despite these benefits. Any device connected to the internet could be an entry point for malicious actors. Hackers can infiltrate thousands and even millions of unsecured devices or launch various types of cyber-attacks, causing operational downtime, loss of sensitive information, and financial loss.
As enterprises continue to adopt IoT exponentially, they must strategically plan to address the cyber risks and challenges associated with IoT devices.
The IoT and Cybersecurity Threat Landscape
The expanded attack surface is the most significant threat to an organization's ability to secure the IoT environment. Undoubtedly, IoT devices have increased in number rapidly over the past few years. According to Statista, there will be over 29 billion IoT devices by 2030, which are expected to grow yearly. The proliferation of IoT devices has changed the threat landscape and shifted the balance in favor of the threat actors.
Cybercriminals take advantage of this situation and exploit vulnerabilities within the IoT devices to gain unauthorized access to critical data or take control of the entire device, resulting in data breaches. For example, hackers target a group of 13 IoT remote execution vulnerabilities and enable them to install Mirai malware on the affected devices to control them.
As the number of insecure devices surges, so does the risk of IoT ransomware attacks. The malicious actors often infect the devices with malware or exfiltrate the data and threaten to keep, delete, or make the data public if the ransom is not paid. Researchers have also discovered Ransomware for IoT (R4IoT), increasing security risks. It is a new form of malware that first targets weak IoT devices to get initial access and then installs ransomware within the IT network to disrupt business operations.
Besides this, in recent years, SolarWinds and other large-scale cyberattacks have brought the risk of IoT software supply chain attacks into focus. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities within the supply chain by inserting malicious codes within the devices during the manufacturing, distribution, or updating. These compromised devices can be used as entry points to access the network and steal valuable data.
Moreover, a big part of IoT security issues stems from shadow IoT devices. With the rise in cloud adoption, remote working, and BYOD cultures, monitoring multiple endpoints and activities on each IoT device has become more challenging for security teams. These devices also create risks for the organization because they might not be configured appropriately or meet enterprise security standards.
Generative AI and Blockchain Technology Is The Future of IoT Security
IoT security's future lies in harnessing the capabilities of generative AI and blockchain technology. The generative AI systems provide real-time threat detection and remediation. At the same time, blockchain technology is a game changer against evolving threats in the IoT landscape and can potentially revolutionize how people interact with connected devices. Below is a much better insight into how both technologies enhance IoT security:
Generative AI in the IoT market is valuable and growing at a CAGR of 25.9% from 2022 to 2023. When combined, generative AI and IoT technologies have opened up the path of benefits across various industries, such as operational efficiencies, predictive maintenance, increased automation, data-driven decision-making, and personalized user experience. Another major area where generative AI can have a profound impact is improving the security of IoT devices.
Enterprises can train the generative AI model, such as ChatGPT, to identify the patterns and behavior of regular IoT operations. By continuously monitoring the device data and analyzing it, it can detect any suspicious or unusual activities that may result in a potential IoT breach. For example, Anodot released its generative AI platform that allows businesses to generate synthetic data similar to what IoT devices collect and helps to detect anomalies effectively.
Besides this, ChatGPT can help to deploy secure authentication mechanisms by analyzing and interpreting natural language (NL) inputs. It can assist in verifying the user identity based on specific prompts and prevents unauthorized access to IoT devices or systems.
However, generative AI models do come with significant challenges and ethical concerns. Organizations must review the data collection and storage needs, prioritize security and privacy needs, and collaborate with talented AI experts to ensure successful implementation and overcome these issues.
Since the advent of blockchain technology, it's been primarily known as the foundation for cryptocurrency, but it also has much to do with the IoT. With the world becoming more connected, blockchain technology will play a vital role in ensuring that these devices are secure and protected from potential cyber-attacks.
Statistics reveal that the global blockchain IoT market will grow to over $2400 by 2026. As the data processed by IoT devices is enormous and vulnerable to cybercriminals, blockchain technology can enhance the security of the data exchanged among connected devices and IoT platforms by creating a decentralized ledger system. Unlike the traditional centralized systems where the entire data is stored on a single server, a blockchain database distributes the data across a decentralized network of computers, making it more resilient to cyber-attacks.
Moreover, blockchain technology uses advanced encryption and cryptographic keys to secure IoT data. Each block within the chain is linked with the previous block using a cryptographic hash function, making altering or stealing data nearly impossible. Also, each chain or transaction is verified using a digital signature, ensuring only authorized parties can access the data. Eliminating the need for a central authority to authenticate devices improves security and allows a secure connection between the devices.
How IoT Security Be Improved Further?
Improving IoT security requires enterprises to adopt a comprehensive approach that includes proactive actions to be taken. A few more effective ways of enhancing IoT security include:
- Enterprises must follow basic cybersecurity measures like applying regular patches, authentication, using encryption tools, and keeping a check and balance of the IoT devices to ensure that they meet the required security standards and protocols before adding them to the network.
- Organizations must invest in various network security tools, such as Data Security Posture Management (DSPM). It offers granular access control and continuous cloud user behavior monitoring. Also, it ensures that data exchanged between IoT devices and other endpoints are encrypted using strong encryption protocols, reducing the risk of device compromise.
- Implement a zero-trust approach within the network as it strengthens security by verifying and authenticating all devices and users. Also, it enforces the principle of least privilege that ensures that only authorized devices can access the company's network.
- As IoT devices have a particular life period, organizations must effectively plan for device lifecycle management, including tracking and managing the devices from purchase to ensuring that the software is frequently updated and devices are replaced and disposed of responsibly.
- Closing the skill gap by conducting employee training and awareness sessions helps prevent cybersecurity incidents and eventually enhances IoT security. Such initiatives inform workers about the latest IoT threats and teach them to detect and respond promptly.
The Internet of Things (IoT) offers many business opportunities; however, with benefits, it comes with significant security and privacy risks. Organizations must be aware of IoT devices' dangers and take appropriate steps to mitigate them. Besides taking preventive measures, the security teams must take advantage of innovative technology like blockchain technology that helps gain visibility and strengthens IoT security by creating a decentralized network and using encryption and cryptographic keys.