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5 Major Security Challenges to Consider while Implementing IoT Applications


December 6, 2016


The fast and uninterrupted machine to machine communication facilitated by Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to transform every industry. Many governments and enterprises have already started developing and implementing custom IoT solutions to accomplish enhanced growth and productivity. However, both entrepreneurs and government agencies need to address several challenges for implementing the IoT solutions perfectly.

While implementing an IoT application, the user needs to address a variety of challenges including lack of globally accepted standards, and concerns related to data privacy and application security. The enterprise users must explore efficient ways to collect, store, analyse and exchange huge volumes of data securely. At the same time, it also needs to implement a complete strategy to protect all components of the IoT solution from emerging security threats.

5 Major Security Challenges Associated with IoT Application Implementation

1) Devices Lack Fundamental Security Features

According to INFOSEC Institute, “The Global State of Information Security® Survey 2015 issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers comes to the conclusion that about 70% of connected IoT devices lack fundamental security safeguards.” The lack of built-in security features makes the IoT solutions vulnerable to a variety of emerging and targeted security attacks. However, IoT application engineering and implementation is still in nascent stage. Hence, no major security breach related to IoT applications has been reported yet. But each enterprise must build custom IoT solutions with robust security features to implement and use them securely.

2) Specially Designed Malware

Some cyber criminals have already started creating and distributing malware by targeting both small and large IoT solutions. Symantec, a security software firm recently reported that its researchers discovered a new, malicious “worm” which spread through Internet and is adapted to attack embedded devices running the Linux operating system, including many devices that are part of the Internet of Things.

The rapidly growing popularity and adoption rate of IoT will encourage more and more cyber criminals to engineer malware by targeting IoT devices, applications, and deployment environments. The developers must explore ways to eliminate the loopholes that will make the IoT solution vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. Likewise, the enterprises must monitor the security of infrastructure, network and devices secure to keep the IoT application functional despite targeted malware attacks.

3) Need to Keep All Components of IoT System Secure

To keep the IoT application secure over a period, the enterprise must focus on the security of its key components including embedded software, communication channels, data stored inside and various devices. Also, it needs to ensure that the tools used for data aggregation and data centers used for sensor data analysis are not vulnerable to security attacks.

Hence, an enterprise must implement a variety of system level authentications and authorizations while deploying an IoT application. Also, it needs to implement the latest protocols to keep data secure, and install firewalls to keep the network secure. Hence, an enterprise must implement a custom security strategy by focusing on all aspects of each IoT application.

4) Variations in Quality of IoT Devices

Many companies take advantage of custom IoT applications to deliver faster and high quality service to customers. But the quality of IoT devices used by individual customers differs. While some customers use expensive IoT devices designed with powerful sensor and processors, others use inexpensive or disposable IoT devices. There is always a chance that the cyber criminals may use disposable IoT devices as a tool to access and attack enterprise IoT applications.

Cyber criminals may even execute targeted malware attacks through smart washing machines, air-conditioners, refrigerators, heating devices and other commonly used accessories connected to the internet. Hence, the enterprise users must assess both quality and security of IoT devices used by customers to keep their IoT solutions secure. Also, they must use secure protocols and scan the data received from the customers’ devices to protect the IoT application from targeted malware attacks.

5) Keeping Communication between Device and Server Secure

Several studies have highlighted that the concerns related to data privacy will affect the adoption rate of IoT solutions. Both individual and enterprise users will look for IoT applications that collect, store, analyze and exchange data efficiently without compromising privacy and security. While building IoT solutions, the developers must eliminate the data privacy issues by adopting end-to-end encryption and implementing token-based authentication.

Several studies have highlighted the vulnerability of data exchanged between the IoT device and server. If the communication between IoT device and server is not encrypted fully, it becomes easier for cyber criminals to send malicious information/commands to the IoT application and access the data stored in the server. Hence, the enterprise needs to ensure that the all communication networks between the devices and server is encrypted by using the most advanced encryption techniques.

However, the security challenges associated with Full stack IoT application implementation will vary from one industry to another. Some of these security challenges need to be addressed by IoT application developers, whereas others need to addressed by enterprise users. Each enterprise must implement a comprehensive strategy to keep the IoT application and data solutions. Enterprise needs to customize the security strategy according to usage of IoT solutions and business requirements. Also, the business must evaluate the security strategy at regular intervals to protect the IoT applications and their deployment environment from emerging security threats.

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