Illustration: © IoT For All
In the municipality of Malmö, Sweden, a digital display shows train timetables. At least it does typically. The IT team in Malmö took a few security shortcuts and used an insecure internet connection with their IoT connection for the display board. They didn’t think through the IoT security vulnerability problems or the consequences of their choices in regards to those shortcuts.
Soon, hackers found their way into the system and displayed explicit content instead of train timetables. The hack led to a PR disaster for Malmö, and the municipality found itself in worldwide news for something it never wanted to be known for.
These problems with IoT implementation can lead to PR disasters and poor customer experience. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common IoT challenges and how to avoid them.
At the heart of IoT lies a global, digital exchange of information. Without this information exchange, IoT couldn’t serve its purpose. However, it does pose security threats that require thorough protection. Anything that connects to the internet or relies on connectivity—from train displays to phones to smart thermostats— can be hacked.
Unfortunately, these attacks are often hard to detect on IoT devices. Most hackers are experts who know how to enter a network slowly and steadily to go undetected while valuable information and secure data are taken. If hackers infiltrate the cloud, it can be extremely difficult to detect the breach until data has already been collected by the attackers.
Here are two precautions you can take to reduce the risk of security breaches in your IoT network:
Keep Software and Devices Updated Regularly
It’s easy for attackers to infiltrate a system through network vulnerabilities, but most software and applications include updates to patch these vulnerabilities. If you regularly update devices and software, you can stay up-to-date on any weak spots in your network.
Perform Risk Assessments on IoT Security Vulnerabilities
Risk assessments for IoT will scan the network, cloud, and devices for potential vulnerabilities or holes that attackers could infiltrate. While risk assessments aren’t infallible, they can provide a base for security protection and heavily reduce security risks to an IoT network.
Consumer Privacy & Security
Security and privacy are often conflated and treated as two terms for the same concept. However, they’re actually two different things. Security is what protects a network from hackers, and privacy is what protects user information from third parties or internet surveillance. As with any connectivity, customers’ information can be found and misused by exploiting IoT security vulnerabilities. Modern users are more aware of privacy risks and value their privacy more than in the past. The success of your IoT solution depends on your company’s ability to guarantee the privacy of user information.
We recommend these steps to reduce privacy and security risks:
Ensure Strong Password Protection
One of your first lines of defense for preserving consumer privacy is having strong password protection. This means avoiding duplicate password use for multiple systems, setting internal password requirements (such as length, special characters, capitalization, etc.), frequently changing passwords, and using a password manager to create quality passwords.
Encrypting data helps protect private information, sensitive materials, and can enhance the security of communication between devices and servers. Through encryption, even if an unauthorized person or organization were to gain access to your information, they wouldn’t be able to read it. We recommend encrypting data both in transit and in storage.
Poor Connectivity or Full Loss of Connectivity
Keeping your devices online is essential to deploying an effective IoT solution. Loss of connectivity can affect every aspect of a business’s productivity and profits. Poor connectivity can even lead to decreases in vital business transactions and milestones.
To avoid connectivity issues, we recommend the following:
Choosing the Right IoT Connectivity Provider
Your provider should have partnerships with multiple connectivity companies to ensure that your location is covered, especially if your IoT solution requires coverage in multiple locations or over a large area.
Having an LTE Failover Solution
An LTE failover solution allows your business or organization to continue operations as normal should your primary connection fail. A good failover solution will keep your devices online, allowing business to run as usual without losing productivity, affecting profits, or experiencing other consequences. Organizations will want to pay attention to the amount of anticipated downtime to find the right solution for a smooth failover strategy. Some providers have limits or different overage schemes that can greatly affect the cost of a failover solution, but an organization shouldn’t skip on the coverage they need in favor of costs. The key is finding a balance between coverage needs and cost.
Keeping Up-to-Date on IoT Security Vulnerabilities
It can be difficult to stay updated on an industry with continuous new developments and advances in technology. Falling behind on these advances can compromise your solution’s security and competitive edge. Keeping up-to-date on IoT will also help organizations stay on top of any IoT problems that arise and find solutions for those potential pitfalls.
Here are a couple of easy ways to stay in the know about everything IoT:
Hold Internal Company Training on IoT Security Vulnerabilities
These training sessions can help employees understand how IoT works and prepare them for issues in security, privacy and connectivity. Training can help employees stay on top of IoT changes and keep the organization running smoothly. While training won’t completely remove all issues related to understanding current IoT trends, it can reduce misunderstandings about your IoT deployment.
Overall, there are many ways to overcome potential IoT pitfalls. While there may not be a silver bullet solution for IoT risks and complications, these guidelines can help reduce risks and put insightful plans into action to prevent IoT problems. By taking precautions and being aware, organizations won’t take shortcuts in security or privacy and end up with an incident like Malmö.