IoT Security: Protecting your connected devices

IoT security refers to the measures taken to protect IoT devices and networks from unauthorized access, malicious attacks and other cyber threats. As the number of connected devices increases, so does the risk of cyber-attacks. By understanding the IoT security threats and taking steps to protect against them, individuals and organizations can help to secure their connected devices and networks.

What is IoT Security?  

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnected network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. IoT is revolutionizing the way we live and work, but it also brings new security risks and challenges – hence, the need for IoT security. IoT security refers to the measures and technologies put in place to protect IoT devices and IoT applications from unauthorized access, malicious attacks, and other cyber threats. It includes protecting devices from hacking and unauthorized access and other security measures.

Why is IoT Security important?  

As the number of connected devices continues to grow, so does the risk of cyber-attacks. IoT devices are particularly vulnerable to attacks because they often have limited processing power and memory, making them more difficult to secure. Additionally, many IoT devices are connected to the internet, making them accessible to hackers from anywhere in the world. IoT security is important because it ensures authenticated access in the IoT application and helps to protect personal and sensitive information, such as financial data and health records, from being stolen or compromised.

What are the IoT Security threats?  

IoT security threats refer to a range of potential cyber risks that can impact IoT devices and IoT applications. It’s important to be aware of these potential IoT security threats, and to take steps to protect yourself and your devices. Some of the top IoT security threats recognized today are:  

  1. Unsecured Devices: Many IoT devices, such as connected cameras, thermostats, and home appliances, have weak security features, making them easy targets for hackers. This can allow them to gain access to the device and control it, or steal personal information.   
  2. Malware and Viruses: IoT devices are particularly vulnerable to malware and viruses, which can spread quickly across a network and cause damage to multiple devices. These can include malware that can control the device and steal personal information, or viruses that can cause the device to malfunction.   
  3. Unauthorized Access: Hackers can gain access to IoT devices through weak passwords and other vulnerabilities, allowing them to control the device or steal personal information. This can include accessing the device's camera or microphone, or using the device to launch DDoS attacks.   
  4. DDoS Attacks: IoT devices can be used to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which can overload a website or network and make it inaccessible. This can be caused by hackers taking control of a large number of IoT devices and using them to flood a website with traffic.   
  5. Privacy Concerns: IoT devices often collect and transmit personal information, raising concerns about data privacy and potential misuse of that data. This can include location data, browsing history, and personal information such as name and address.


How to address IoT Security 

A security breach today is one of the quickest ways to harm a company's reputation. These incidents are widely reported as front-page news with examples such as camera security breaches at homes, hacking of office building access controls, and vulnerabilities in cardiac devices. The foundation of IoT application security is the use of IoT devices that have unique, unforgeable trusted identities. This enables the IoT devices to prove their identity and authenticate to any service, e.g., IoT platform, or other IoT device they communicate with. The most commonly used trusted identity for machines, e.g., IoT devices, is a digital certificate based on a PKI.

How PKI can help secure your IoT device

For effective and secure communication between IoT devices and services, they must possess trusted digital identities. This allows for proper identification and protection against unauthorized or malicious parties attempting to interfere with your devices and services. Digital identities form the foundation for security services, providing encrypted communication, verification of data origin, and ensuring the integrity of stored, transferred, or executed data and software. The use of public-key infrastructure (PKI) certificates provides cryptographically secure and unforgeable identities that are protected from theft. PKI technology is well-established and standardized, providing a vast pool of options including software vendors, open-source implementations, service providers, and system integrators. This variety of options allows for a flexible solution with the same core technology, avoiding vendor lock-ins.

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Securing the IoT device in the manufacturing process 

It is imperative that IoT devices are secured already at birth, when being manufactured, by having a digital PKI certificate securely provisioned to them. The birth certificate is issued to the device by a Factory Certificate Authority(CA). This trusted birth identity enables the device to prove its identity and authenticate throughout the supply chain and its lifecycle, including authenticating to an ‘Operational CA’ issuing the operational certificate to be used by the operator of the IoT device, not necessarily being the device manufacturer, in the field. 

Stay protected with strong authentication and encryption 

Since IoT means that services and devices are connected to the internet, it is especially important to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the systems, devices, and cloud services.   To ensure the security of digital identities, robust security measures must be employed. This includes strong authentication, which restricts network access to authorized users and devices, certificates that enable encrypted communication between devices and services, and digital signatures that verify the origin and integrity of data and software.   Use strong, cryptography-based authentication to make it hard for the attackers: 

  1. Passwords are unreliable, so consider implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) for those needing access to devices and services. 
  2. Ensure that keys are securely created, distributed, and stored. 
  3. Prioritize user-friendly solutions, such as a mobile app with biometric factors, to avoid users finding ways around complicated security measures. Additionally, use industry standards and open source. Technologies and protocols that fit well into IoT applications include Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), Transport Layer Security (TLS), Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS), OMA Lightweight M2M (LWM2M), Enrolment over Secure Transport (EST), and EST-CoAPs.

Regulations and standards

For a long time, the IoT security area has been unregulated without common standards and common security, safety, and privacy policies. Lately, however, various security standards have emerged. Those include:

  • IEC 62443
  • ETSI EN 303 645
  • IEEE 802.1AR specifying an initial device identity (IDevID).

These series of standards define requirements and processes that address cybersecurity for operational technology in automation and control systems. They set best practices for security and provide a way to assess the level of security performance.  

How Nexus can help

Nexus, part of IN Groupe, has more than 20 years of experience and knowledge in issuing and managing certificate-based, cryptographically secure and unforgeable identities for IoT devices and applications. On a daily basis, we are enabling true end-to-end security within a range of different sectors such as connected vehicles, telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare, energy and workplace.

Contact us to learn more


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