What is an IoT Attack and How Can you Defend Against it?

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what is iot attack

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized how we live, bringing everyday objects online and making them smarter.

But with great connectivity comes great responsibility – especially when it comes to security. IoT attacks are malicious attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in these internet-connected devices.

In this article, we're delving deep into IoT attacks, exploring what they are, how they work, and how you can properly protect your devices against these attacks.

What is IoT?

The IoT, short for Internet of Things, are objects connected to the internet and able to communicate with each other.

IoT devices are connected to the internet, allowing them to send and receive data. These devices often have built-in sensors that collect data about their surroundings, such as temperature, motion, or air quality.

Read: Top 10 Ways IoT is Transforming Business 

They run software that helps them process sensor data and communicate with other devices. The data collected by IoT devices can be used for a variety of purposes, such as monitoring and automation.

What is an IoT Attack?

An IoT attack is a cyber attack that specifically targets vulnerabilities in internet-connected devices. Cybercriminals exploit weak security measures to gain unauthorized access and then steal data, disrupt operations, or even use compromised devices to launch further attacks.

Many IoT devices prioritize convenience over security, and manufacturers prioritize ease of setup over security, often shipping devices with default usernames and passwords like "admin" and "password."

Users are often unaware they need to change them. Hackers can leverage automated tools to exploit weak passwords through brute-force attacks, systematically trying common password combinations until they gain access. Default passwords are at the top of the list for hackers to try.

iot attack

Unlike computers where we actively download files and programs, IoT devices can be infected with malware in less obvious ways.

Outdated firmware on your IoT devices can contain security holes that attackers exploit to inject malware whilst automatic updates might be disabled by default on some devices, leaving them vulnerable.

Smaller companies developing IoT devices might not have the resources to implement rigorous security protocols, with minimal screening for security risks. This means potentially malicious apps can slip through the cracks and leave devices vulnerable to malware infiltration.

In a more sophisticated approach, attackers can embed malware directly into the device during manufacturing. This is known as a supply chain attack and can be particularly difficult to detect.

Attackers tamper with hardware components during the manufacturing process, inserting malicious code that becomes part of the device itself. Often cybercriminals target companies within a complex supply chain, such as chip manufacturers or software providers, to inject malware into components before they reach the final device assembler.

How to Prevent IoT Attacks?

Although the IoT has transformed our homes and workplaces by integrating technology into our daily lives, it is important to exercise appropriate caution to protect your homes and businesses against IoT attacks. 

1. Build Strong Passwords 

Ensure you have changed default passwords. Always set strong, unique passwords for each of your IoT devices and avoid using personal information or easily guessable words. 

Remembering strong passwords for multiple devices can be tricky, so consider using a password manager to securely store and generate unique passwords for all your devices

2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second verification factor beyond your password.

This could include verifying via email, SMS or an authenticator app. Not all IoT devices offer MFA, but it is best to enable it whenever possible.

Read: What is MFA Fatigue?

3. Update Firmware

Ensure your IoT devices have the latest firmware updates installed. These updates often patch security vulnerabilities that attackers exploit. Automatic updates are ideal, but if not enabled, make sure to check for updates regularly.

In addition to security fixes, firmware updates can introduce new features and improve the overall performance of your device.

Updates can also address compatibility issues with other devices or software on your network and fix bugs that might be causing malfunctions.

4. Segment your Network

If your router allows it, consider creating a separate network for your IoT devices. This can help isolate them from other devices on your network, potentially limiting the damage if one device gets compromised.

Virtual LANs logically separate your network into virtual subnets, allowing you to group specific devices, like all your IoT devices, onto one VLAN, isolating them from other network traffic.

In combination, firewalls control the flow of traffic between different network segments. You can configure firewalls to restrict communication between your IoT segment and other segments, further enhancing security.

For advanced setups, you can create a DMZ (Demilitarized Zones), a separate network segment that sits between your internal network and the public internet.

You can place specific IoT devices that need external access (like smart home devices controlled remotely) in the DMZ, adding an extra layer of isolation.

5. Secure your WiFi

A strong foundation starts with your home network. Secure your Wi-Fi network with a strong password to make it harder for attackers to gain access to your devices on the network.

Ensure your router uses WPA2 encryption to scramble data transmitted over your network, making it virtually unreadable for anyone without the password.

Avoid outdated encryption standards like WEP, which are easily cracked. Consider guest networks for visitors to keep them separate from your main network devices.

Read: How SD-Wan Secures Enterprise IoT Devices to Mitigate Network-Wide Cyberattacks

The IoT offers convenience and innovation, but it also introduces new security challenges. By understanding IoT attacks and the methods used by cybercriminals, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your connected devices.

From implementing strong passwords and keeping firmware updated to segmenting your network and securing your Wi-Fi, these measures empower you to create a more secure smart environment. Remember, security is an ongoing process.

Staying informed about the latest threats and remaining vigilant in your practices best equip you to protect your home and workplace whilst ensuring the continued benefits of a smart and secure IoT experience.

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