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IoT Security Explained: Key Standards, Frameworks, and Technologies to Safeguard Your IoT Ecosystem

May 15, 2024
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IoT devices have come a long way since the first network-connected vending machine was introduced in 1982. Fast-forward to 2024, and the potential for IoT innovation has undergone an unprecedented transformation.

However, with opportunity also comes risk. Each connected IoT device is a potential entry point for a malicious actor. When scaled up — such as electronic shelf labels used by a supermarket chain or smart boards implemented across a school district — the attack surface expands to an unmanageable size. This growth is partly why IoT attacks saw a 400% increase between 2022 and 2023.

Also, when embedded in business operations, each IoT device is a potential point of failure that can lead to downtime and reduced productivity.

Unfortunately, numerous organizations, including device manufacturers and those utilizing these devices, are uncertain about where to start regarding IoT security strategy.

Why organizations should be worried about IoT security

Cybercriminals searching for confidential data for sale usually seek out and compromise vulnerable IoT devices to gain access to a company’s network. For example, this tactic enables ransomware attacks. Hackers gain access via IoT endpoints, encrypt data, and demand ransoms.

In other instances, state-sponsored cybercrime groups often target interconnected IoT networks to shut down or disrupt essential services. Frequently, they employ tactics like harvesting vulnerable IoT systems to create botnets, which they use to launch devastating DDoS attacks. Furthermore, most of the common IoT exploits have yet to be resolved, making unpatched IoT devices an easy target for attackers.

The picture is alarming when we examine the financial implications of IoT attacks. These attacks not only cause an immediate financial burden through extortion and data loss, but they also lead to long-lasting economic harm. The impact could be reduced customer loyalty, hefty regulatory fines, and potentially expensive legal processes. Furthermore, the financial implications come with more hefty costs incurred during incident response, investigation, control, eradication, and recovery. These ancillary costs underscore the economic consequences of IoT threats. The ripple effect of costs resulting from an IoT breach can significantly affect an organization’s financial stability, sometimes irreversibly.

The bottom line is that unsecured IoT devices are a significant cybersecurity vulnerability for all organizations. Amid the haste to capitalize on these devices’ advantages, most organizations often need to pay more attention to adequate security measures and their broader implications. Despite the sector, compromised IoT infrastructure inevitably leads to operational interruptions, intellectual property loss, and damage to reputation. Therefore, it’s evident that there’s an immediate necessity for more businesses to give precedence to a comprehensive risk management approach that can effectively address the distinct hurdles of IoT.


Technologies and approaches for bolstering IoT security

1.    Outsourcing to Cybersecurity Firms

Outsourcing cybersecurity functions to specialized firms can significantly enhance the security of IoT ecosystems. These firms provide access to cybersecurity specialists with extensive experience in various areas, including IoT security. They use state-of-the-art IoT security systems and have access to the latest threat intelligence and measures. Furthermore, these firms conduct penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in the system before malicious actors can exploit them.

Additionally, outsourcing provides continuous monitoring and adaptation. Cybersecurity firms leverage modern monitoring solutions to detect incidents that threaten the integrity of your IoT cyber ecosystem in real-time, and security professionals leverage these systems to establish continuous monitoring mechanisms to detect and respond to security incidents.

2.    Real-Time Monitoring Systems

The rapid proliferation of IoT devices has led to an increase in security threats. These threats continuously evolve, making it challenging for organizations to keep up. For instance, there were 10.54 million attacks on IoT devices in December 2022. This constant evolution of threats underscores the need for real-time monitoring solutions.

Moreover, real-time monitoring solutions provide network visibility, detect anomalies, and respond swiftly to security breaches, safeguarding the IoT ecosystem. These solutions are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with many utilizing AI and machine learning to automate security functions.

Real-time monitoring also enables companies to collect data from various sources, allowing organizations to gain insight into their operations or other activities. While it provides valuable information such as resource usage, performance metrics, and customer behaviors, certified cybersecurity experts analyze and use this data to gain valuable insights that can help guide strategies, identify opportunities and risks, drive efficiency, reduce waste, increase customer satisfaction, and detect and resolve potential security threats.

3.    Secure Endpoint Hardening

Secure endpoint hardening is a critical aspect of IoT security. It involves implementing security measures on each IoT device, or “endpoint,” that connects to the company’s network. Moreover, secure endpoint hardening is vital since many IoT devices lack the computing, memory, or storage capabilities required to directly implement the level of security necessary to protect against modern threats.

The importance of secure endpoint hardening in improving IoT security cannot be overstated. It addresses vulnerabilities at the device level, employing techniques such as changing default passwords, turning off unnecessary services, regularly updating and patching devices, and implementing appropriate access controls. As a result, organizations can significantly reduce the attack surface and enhance the overall security of their IoT ecosystem.

In addition, secure endpoint hardening practices often include red teaming, penetration testing, and network assessments. Red teaming is a strategic cybersecurity practice that simulates real-world cyberattacks to assess an organization’s security posture. It mimics the strategies of cyber adversaries, providing a comprehensive view of vulnerabilities.

Penetration testing, on the other hand, involves simulating cyberattacks to identify vulnerabilities in the system before malicious actors can exploit them. It allows organizations to detect weaknesses in their defenses and respond proactively. Network assessments are also critical for understanding an organization’s security posture. They help identify vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for improving network security.

Cybersecurity firms play a vital role in spearheading secure endpoint hardening. They provide access to cybersecurity specialists with extensive experience in various areas, including IoT security.


Standards and frameworks for securing IoT ecosystems

The era when the IoT was viewed as an unregulated wilderness has long passed. In the past few years, we’ve seen the IoT regulatory landscape evolve, with legislators concentrating on two main goals:

  • Boosting IoT cybersecurity to fortify connected devices against cyber threats.
  • Protecting personal data collected and processed through IoT devices.

Here are some of the most important standards and frameworks that have changed how organizations approach IoT security to realize more secure IoT ecosystems.

1.    The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020

The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 is a notable legislative measure aimed at bolstering the cybersecurity of IoT devices. It was introduced on March 11, 2019, and enacted into law on December 4, 2020.

The Act directs NIST and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to formulate and disseminate standards and guidelines for federal agencies to utilize and manage IoT devices securely. These standards and procedures are intended to manage cybersecurity risks present in IoT devices owned or controlled by an agency or devices connected to information systems owned or controlled by an agency.

Furthermore, the Act empowers the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to prevent an agency from acquiring or renewing a contract to obtain or use an IoT device if it is deemed that it hinders compliance with NIST standards and guidelines.

2.    The California IoT Cybersecurity Law – SB-327

The California IoT Cybersecurity Law, also known as Senate Bill 327 (SB-327), was enacted on January 1, 2020. It is designed to improve the security of IoT devices by requiring manufacturers of connected devices to provide these devices with suitable security features that align with the device’s function and the data it may gather, hold, or transmit. These security requirements aim to safeguard the device and any data it contains from unauthorized access, usage, alteration, or exposure.

The legislation consists of two key provisions:

  • Appropriate Security Measures: Manufacturers must adhere to these standards to protect the device and inhibit unauthorized access to the information it accumulates, retains, or dispatches. Examples of appropriate security measures encompass secure APIs, data encryption, and frequent software patches.
  • Distinct Passwords and Security Protocols: Devices connected outside of local area networks must be allocated a distinct pre-set password or require users to generate a new password before accessing an IoT device for the first time.

3.    Executive Order 14028

President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14028, “Enhancing the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” on May 12, 2021. It seeks to amplify the cybersecurity initiatives of the Federal Government and its collaborations with the private sector. The directive encompasses several crucial provisions that can assist organizations in strengthening the security of their IoT ecosystems:

  • Software Supply Chain Security: The directive instructs NIST to pinpoint existing or devise new guidelines, best practices, and tools to augment software supply chain security. These guidelines consist of measures to assess software security, standards for evaluating suppliers’ and developers’ security practices, and innovative approaches that illustrate compliance with the mandated secure practices.
  • Cybersecurity Labeling for Consumers: NIST is tasked with undertaking two labeling endeavors related to consumer IoT devices and software. The goal is to motivate manufacturers to develop—and consumers to be informed about—IoT products built with a heightened awareness of cybersecurity risks, threats, and capabilities.


Leveraging experts to secure your IoT ecosystem

Pulsar Security is a trusted partner when it comes to securing your IoT ecosystem. Their expertise in implementing advanced technologies, standards, and frameworks is unparalleled. This proficiency allows them to provide comprehensive solutions tailored to each organization’s unique needs, ensuring the integrity and security of their IoT infrastructures.

With Pulsar Security, you’re not just adopting a service; you’re embracing a secure future for your IoT ecosystem.

Peyton Somerville

Peyton Somerville

Peyton is a Security Engineer at Pulsar Security. He is the technical contact for our customers - managing all Cyber Shield Vulnerability and Dark Web Assessments, and is on the Red Team. He has software development experience with Python, JavaScript, C, C++. He has earned his Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Network+ and Security+ certifications. Peyton first started with Pulsar as a intern while attending the University of Massachusetts - Lowell as a Computer Science major. He now leads the Pulsar Explore Internship Program ensuring all interns engage in hands-on learning, interactive mentorship, and learn about cyber career opportunities. Fun Fact: Peyton loves to snowboard, and even knows how to juggle.