Research suggests that more than 20 billion internet-connected devices will be in use worldwide by the year 2025. Currently, numerous companies are involved in designing, manufacturing, marketing, or supporting various devices such as smart refrigerators, smart cars, and wearable technologies within the scope of the Internet of Things (IoT). However, along with the advancement of IoT technology, a serious problem arises in the form of significant security risks. If a smart device lacks sufficient security measures, unauthorized access to sensitive information transmitted by an attacker becomes possible, and even access to all other devices connected to the smart device can be obtained.
IoT companies must take a series of measures to protect users against these risks. A recent guide published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) emphasizes that IoT users need to take reasonable steps to protect their devices from hackers, thieves, and other malicious individuals. The guide highlights the following topics related to IoT and security: device function and purpose, type, and quantity of collected information, organizations with which data is shared, and the level and likelihood of potential security risks. Within this framework, the guide provides a set of guiding recommendations to IoT-producing companies under various headings.
- The security of IoT products should be considered from the design stage onwards. In the early stages of development, the sharing of data collected by the device, how users will use the product, and the necessary measures for ensuring security should be taken into account.
- Security should be continuously monitored throughout the production process. Security measures should be implemented at multiple levels. This includes using unique passwords, prompting consumers to change the password during installation, encrypting data, adopting known methods to make it difficult for attackers to access the system, and implementing multi-factor authentication to protect systems.
- A risk assessment should be conducted, taking into account the purpose, nature, and functionality of your products and services.
- Security measures should be tested throughout the development process and before market release.
Utilization of Established Security Practices
- Collaboration with expert groups should be established to implement relevant security measures when security vulnerabilities are known and easily preventable. Additionally, seeking support from these expert groups to stay updated on the latest security vulnerabilities would be beneficial.
- Compliance with current standards, rules, and regulations is of great importance. For example, IoT devices designed for children should adhere to the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule guidelines.
Identity Authentication and Access Control
- Ensuring security for your devices, data, and systems involves using effective identity authentication protocols that encompass both stored and transmitted data. Particularly when sensitive data is being transmitted or received, authentication errors can lead to unauthorized access and expose sensitive data stored on the device as well as sensitive data within the connected networks. It is important to test authentication techniques before their deployment and periodically thereafter.
- Secure remote access should be provided to your networks and cloud servers. Necessary measures should be taken to separate and protect live systems from testing environments. Additionally, encryption methods such as WPA2 or WPA3 should be used to secure Wi-Fi networks.
- Reasonable access restrictions should be adopted to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing IoT devices, data, or networks. For example, not every employee or supplier needs access to sensitive customer data.
Secure Data Management Practices
- Adopting a holistic approach is crucial to address the processes of data collection, transmission, storage, access, usage, and secure data deletion associated with your IoT products or services.
- Principles and approaches such as limiting the collection of personal data and retaining information only for the necessary duration, in a non-permanent manner, should be adopted. Consideration should be given to why and how data is stored or shared, as well as what should be done with unnecessary data.
- Timely security reviews should be conducted for vulnerabilities and penetration testing, as well as for new use cases, updates, new connectivity capabilities, and other types of changes.
- The network should be properly segmented, and monitoring should be in place to track who is attempting to access both inbound and outbound traffic. Tools should be employed to alert authorities in case of attempts to transfer large amounts of data or improper usage of devices.
Monitor and address security Risks
- Regular security testing should be conducted to actively monitor and address security vulnerabilities. It is particularly important to check for security vulnerabilities in third-party components integrated into the products.
- Reasonable steps should be taken before and after the launch to ensure privacy, security, and protection against security threats. For example, designating a senior executive responsible for product security is essential.
- Your employees should receive regular training on good security practices, including how to recognize current threats and vulnerabilities. Regular security and privacy training should be provided to employees, and frequent reminders should be sent to prevent them from falling victim to social engineering tactics such as targeted phishing attacks.
- If working with service providers, ensure that they genuinely provide a reasonable level of security. Furthermore, security standards should be included in contracts.
- Appropriate and clear communication from the beginning can prevent significant costs associated with security issues for both companies and their customers.
- Communication with customers regarding security should be simple, clear, and direct. The data collection process, how and why data is collected, and how this data is secured should be explained. Communication channels should be provided for customers to easily reach out with their questions and concerns.
- In the event of security issues, customers should be promptly notified. Post-sales, an emergency plan should be established to notify customers about updates and security patches and provide instructions on how to apply them.