IoT, Internet of Things, machine to machine or industrial internet – this buzzword has many synonyms. It is a topical concept both in homes and in industrial settings, as systems are connected in ever larger and smarter entities.
However, are these wide networks of connected devices cyber secure, and what would be their weakest link? What kind of risks could devices communicating with other devices cause? Or is the risk also in this case with malevolent people?
Threats and weak links
Devices used in IoT systems are seldom developed with cyber security as a priority, but instead quick access to market and easy integrability with other devices often overrun in the priority list. Cyber security is not visible to users, so using it as a sales argument is not compelling, and therefore cyber security development does not get much resources.
Problems often arise when larger entities are built. Individual devices used in IoT systems are not necessarily insecure as such, though if their proper configuration is left undone when building large entities in a hurry, they can become the weak link of the system. Unprotected interfaces could be left in the system or disabling unnecessary web services might be forgotten. Also, the used cloud service that gathers data from IoT system devices can be configured in a way that its cyber security level is left too weak.
Often it is thought that with IoT systems, it is mainly just machines communicating with other machines, so what kind of cyber security would even be needed with these machine-to-machine communications? However, it is possible that someone could find access to the data the device, e.g. a sensor, produces, and with this data stream, finds an unprotected interface to the backend system. The data that the device generates can be exploited, it can be distorted, or it can be blocked altogether. Not to mention what someone breaking in to the backend system could cause.
Involving cyber security from scratch
Building cyber security is easiest and most cost efficient when it is involved from the beginning of the development project. When creating and implementing the architecture of the IoT system, it is important to avoid all weak links, so as not to leave the backdoor open to hackers and provide them a chance to break in to the system.
Cyber security should be paid attention to at all levels of an IoT solution: with physical devices, data transfer channels, and systems in between. Enterprise architecture should be secured. The same security principles are followed when building IoT cyber security that have been implemented before – in this case they just have to be considered both within the entity and at each of its parts. IoT systems have several components and devices that are not new, but they have now been connected in a new way that can yield unpredictable results which have not been thought through.
Cyber security is an enabler
The cyber security of IoT solutions enables a better tomorrow. When cyber security has been paid attention to from scratch in the development of IoT systems, one can trust them to work as they were designed to work. In that case, ever more critical and sensitive data can be securely processed in the system, which enables more personalized entity. In industrial setting, better remote control can be achieved. When the systems can be trusted, new business opportunities and new competitive advantage can be reached – anything is possible.
Good level of cyber security also guarantees that systems are available and achievable, they have enough bandwidth for their users to operate efficiently, and they tolerate certain amount of “ambient noise”; hacking attempts and other activism, without the intended functionality becoming endangered.
What are the typical and most critical vulnerabilities of IoT systems? Read more from our guide: “How to ensure the cyber security of your IoT system – Conquer at least these 10 typical vulnerabilities”.