Internet of Things, Security

Internet of Things and Cybersecurity – Challenges and Best Practices


According to Juniper Research, the total number of IoT connections will touch 83 billion by 2024, doubling the count from 2021. Everyday objects that connect to the Internet, such as a thermostat, air quality sensor, or wearable health monitor, constitute the Internet of Things.

Increasingly more “things” and systems in our lives are being embedded with computing power and network connectivity to enable their communication with other connected devices and systems- opening up a large avenue of use cases in everyday life and business settings.

Expanding network connectivity to all corners of our lives is helping us become more efficient, quick, and capable of carrying out critical tasks.

Over the years, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and other industries have applied the IoT to gain a competitive advantage and yield better services and products.

However, benefits aside, the IoT also opens individuals and businesses to a newer world of more intricate and exposed threats. 

This post will help you understand the dangers and solutions of Internet of Things security. 

Internet of Things or Internet of Threats?

According to Kaspersky, IoT cyberattacks more than doubled YoY during the first half of 2021, with 1.51 billion breaches of IoT devices. In addition, the pandemic exacerbated an infant area of exposure- IoT devices as their usage was prolonged in household settings.

While new technologies such as edge computing, IoT, and artificial intelligence present opportunities, they also open up users and organizations to a complicated security landscape.

One factor that increases risks with IoT is the People factor. The IoT doesn’t rely on people or manual intervention. However, the very characteristic that gives the IoT its edge – creating value through sensors and devices that collect communicate, analyze and decide – also creates new avenues for the information to be compromised.

Not only has the volume of data spiked, but it is shared among more entities- including devices and humans- and is more sensitive. Resultantly, the risks are exponentially higher.

In the case of the IoT, features sometimes become a bug. For instance, if a homeowner has an automatic garage door opener that also deactivates the home alarm, the entire alarm system can be deactivated by simply compromising the door opener.

Consider another real-life example featured in the CISO Magazine about poor security in smart TVs. In the manufacturing of smart TVs, security is an afterthought, which exposes these devices to various security vulnerabilities. For example, hackers could control unsecured TVs to change channels and volume and stalk your everyday movement and conversations using the integrated microphone and camera.

Imagine the scale of complexity when we extend the same knowledge to manufacturing industries that employ IoT technology extensively. The most vulnerable IoT devices include laptops, computers, tablets and smartphones, storage devices, cameras, and streaming video devices.

Here are the most common threats to IoT applications and devices, according to the United States Government Accountability Office:

  • Denial of Service
  • Malware
  • Passive Wiretapping
  • Structured Query Language Injection
  • Wardriving
  • Zero-day exploits

It’s hard to employ software and services like antivirus and firewalls to IoT devices that typically possess minimal processing and storage capabilities. Further, edge computing aggregates local data, proving a worthy target for attackers.

Related Reading: How IoT is Facilitating the New Normal of Employee Experience

Common Industries Grappling with IoT Cybersecurity

Here are a few common verticals deploying IoT devices, technologies, and services that struggle with security challenges.

1. Healthcare and Life Sciences

The Internet of Things has convinced healthcare institutions to enable remote patient care, diagnostics, and monitoring, besides equipment monitoring, food sensors, and bio wearables.

Healthcare IoT vulnerabilities can lead to more significant harm than vulnerabilities in consumer devices, as professionals and patients rely on these devices to make care decisions and administer treatment.

Related Reading: How IoT Enables Remote Patient Monitoring with Telehealth

2. Smart Homes

A smart home enables unbelievable remote access to parts of the house. For example, parents can remotely communicate with their children, monitor their space, be reminded when they are low on groceries, and much more.

However, each easy access also exposes users to an array of vulnerabilities. For instance, a hacker can remotely control who gets admission in and out of the house if an intelligent lock gets compromised. In addition, a hacked smart speaker can allow malicious attackers to give their commands.

3. Supply Chains

The IoT aggravates supply chains’ vulnerabilities. IoT exponentially increases the mesh of devices. As numerous endpoints integrate, the exposed surface expands, posing a significant risk to the organization.

Organizations typically employ the IoT in supply chains for higher operational efficiency and better product demand forecasting.

Related Reading: How IoT is Optimizing Supply Chains for Efficiency & Accuracy

4. Industries and Manufacturing

While the IoT promises Industry 4.0 to manufacturers and industries, there is a high cost of connecting data, workers, and equipment. Many manufacturing businesses are witnessing an uptick in cyber-related incidents associated with control systems that manage industrial operations.

So, while connectivity in manufacturing introduces advantages such as improved productivity, quicker identification and remediation of quality defects, and smoother collaborations across functional departments, it also highlights the appalling gap in cyber capabilities needed to secure business-critical systems. 

Best Practices for IoT Cybersecurity

Securing the IoT infrastructure is critical, but it requires a robust strategy to effectively secure data in the cloud and protect data integrity in transit.

Here are some best practices to improve IoT security for your organization.

1. Track and manage your devices.

It can be challenging to manage devices across an organization without learning how each device works and what they do. Understanding connected devices within your organization is the first step to securing the IoT infrastructure. To best manage devices, consider implementing continuous monitoring software that helps monitor, discover, track, and manage devices to secure your organization from future attacks.

2. Consider patching and remediation efforts.

Patching and remediation involve changing the code of connected devices over time to ensure optimal security. Before implementing a networked device, organizations must consider if the device can be patched over time to combat the ever-changing threat landscape. Some devices are limited in capabilities or too complex to fix comprehensively. Therefore, remediation must be considered before implementing a new IoT device into your network.

3. Update passwords and credentials.

Although updating passwords may seem outdated, many devices shipped out have a vendor-supplied default passwords. Cybercriminals can easily access these passwords and exploit or gain control of these devices. Maintaining good password hygiene by updating passwords and credentials is an important step that should be managed routinely to ensure your devices are always secure.

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4. Use up-to-date encryption protocols.

Unencrypted data allows cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information or even listen to network communications. To effectively protect against IoT threats, organizations need to encrypt all data within a network. Establishing up-to-date encryption protocols for all data makes any data within the network illegible to unauthorized users and, therefore, more secure.

5. Conduct penetration testing or evaluation

Connected devices are innately vulnerable since they are manufactured with ease of use and connectivity at top of mind. Organizations must perform some kind of evaluation or penetration testing on the hardware, software, and other equipment of their business before deploying IoT devices. Penetration testing helps identify and understand vulnerabilities, as well as test security policies, regulatory compliance, employee security awareness, risk response, and more. Conducting a pen test before IoT devices are deployed can prevent your organization from severe IoT threats in the future.

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Cyber Risk Management with Innovation- Balancing Act

Cyber risks and innovation are inextricably connected. More and varied data creates more potential for value. This is the IoT’s selling point- propelling companies to invest significantly in customer analytics and collaborations with other organizations to find new value streams for customers to monetize.

These avenues leverage device and systems data, employee rosters, inventory records, facial recognition data, industrial control systems data, facilities access data, and more.

Data governance needs to catch up as organizations venture into uncharted territory. If companies tighten control over administration too much, they may stay caught up on innovation. And if they overlook governance, they might stare into gaping vulnerabilities. 

This is a sheer balancing act that organizations must engage in, striving to create a baseline of regular data activity and quickly flagging anomalies for further consideration.

The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act 2020 

The IoT technology dwells on a shared ecosystem and operating model across public and private sectors. Yet, there are little to no laws governing IoT security. The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 was signed into law in December.

The act requires government agencies to ensure the security of their IoT devices. Several states, including Oregon and California, have passed cybersecurity laws. However, the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act widely impacts how IoT devices are manufactured across the board.

Manufacturers need to be aware of the guidelines introduced by regulatory agencies to avoid penalties and fines.

While standards are a part of the solution, they are off by years as the IoT continues to soar. Much of the promise of the IoT lies in its ability to aggregate diverse data. Without common governance standards for the functioning of IoT devices, interoperability seems a far-off fantasy.

Retrofitting Promises and Potential Risks

Some companies are implementing IoT applications on top of existing legacy systems, which were previously unconnected and standalone. Retrofitting is the more viable option considering the cost of implementing new technologies that get obsolete rapidly.

Retrofitting can also introduce unique cybersecurity risks with IoT’s many communication points. In other cases, purpose-built devices and add-ons for the IoT ecosystem may become preferable.

However, being aware of the risks arising from retrofitting, assessing, and mitigating them can be crucial in risk management.

An Integrated Risk Philosophy

As organizations grow, their approach to cyber risk management becomes fragmented across locations, products, and business units. For some, this has worked well as parts of their business needed higher safeguarding and threat management.

However, the IoT forces companies to reassess this decentralized approach and opt for an integrated risk philosophy. If safeguarding the IoT landscape wasn’t complicated by the volume and velocity of data, it doesn’t help that some of it are held and accessed by partners and third parties.

Consequently, business and security leaders’ only choice may be to install an umbrella risk management paradigm that governs cyber risks at every organizational level, from preventing threats to responding to them.


There are no fail-safe solutions to the lack of cybersecurity in IoT. So, your target as a company should be to be more secure constantly instead of striving to be perfectly safe.

Security gaps will continue to expand during the IoT era as organizations distribute thousands of IoT connections in their systems. Therefore, security leaders and founders must understand potential vulnerabilities and mitigate them through a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Using a comprehensive risk management approach to understand and reduce the effects of IoT threats can be a holistic solution to take on.

Every IoT project needs careful consideration of the underlying security. KiwiTech’s IoT development services integrate security into the development process.

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