IoT Attacks: 6 Security Risks To Be Aware Of

IoT Attacks 2

The Internet of Things has rapidly grown over the past few years. From smart homes to industrial automation, IoT devices have been used in every industry. However, the security risks that come with this popularity are often ignored. In this article, we will discuss six major security risks associated with IoT devices. IoT devices are by nature designed to connect, so the risks associated with them are compounded across the entire network. As IoT devices become increasingly valuable and important parts of organizational and industrial infrastructure, securing those devices to protect against IoT attacks is a critical step for every security team.

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IoT Attacks: The Most Common Security Risks

#1: Botnets

#2: Ransomware

#3: Convergence

#4: Invisibility

#5: Unencrypted Data and Lack of Basic Protections

#6: Legacy & Rogue Devices

IoT Attacks: The Most Common Security Risks

During the first half of 2021, attacks on IoT devices grew by over 100 percent. While the previous six months had seen 649 million attacks on IoT devices, there were 1.5 billion IoT attacks during the period of January-May 2021. The uptick in attacks is connected to the sudden ubiquity of the tech category — from consumer wearables to industrial IT and across the work-from-home reality of post-COVID employment, the internet of things is everywhere.

When not properly secured, IoT devices can introduce a number of new and preventable attack vectors. Some of these risks are simple to see and understand, like unpatched operating systems or insecure passwords that are easy targets for brute force attacks. As organizations in virtually every industry increase their operational reliance on IoT devices, security teams must account for both simple and complex risk factors specific to the world of IoT. Here are six IoT attacks and security risks to be aware of:

#1: Botnets

IoT devices are particularly vulnerable to malware because they don’t have the same security mechanisms built into their operating systems as more advanced machines and computers. They are usually functionality-focused machines, and typically don’t offer the storage space or processing power that computers do, for example. With that in mind, attackers tend to see IoT devices as low-hanging fruit attack vectors that they can easily take advantage of.

Installing malware on one IoT device wouldn’t have much of an impact, but infecting multiple IoT devices allows attackers to form botnets — armies of compromised devices that carry out attacks on other systems within the network. With botnets doing their bidding, attackers can command their zombie devices to execute attacks like flooding the network with traffic or sending spam information, for example.

In 2017, the Mirai botnet devastated a number of websites with a widespread coordinated DDoS attack, opening the floodgates for many Mirai botnet variants. High profile botnets have also recently been used to direct computing resources toward mining cryptocurrency, like the Lemon Duck attack.

How to protect against botnets

The best way to protect against botnets is to ensure that all IoT devices are secured properly. This includes changing default passwords, keeping firmware up to date, and limiting access to the device. In addition, companies should have a plan in place to detect and respond to DDoS attacks.

If you want to protect your IoT devices against botnets & DDoS attacks, Byos can help you secure your devices and prevent them from being used in DDoS attacks. Click here to read more or talk to us directly.

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#2: Ransomware

The fact that IoT devices rarely store valuable data locally doesn’t make them immune to ransomware attacks. Instead of ransoming information back to an organization, ransomware attacks on IoT devices typically block the device’s core functionality. That may mean shutting down an industrial device without which fundamental business operations wouldn’t be able to continue, or stopping a camera or microphone from recording the feed it’s trained on.

The attack on Colonial Pipeline caused the company to shut down their operations because of fears that the spread of ransomware into their operations would cause so much damage that their operations could have been impacted for months.  That decision caused fuel shortages across the southeaster US, but had the ransomware spread, the result would have been catastrophic.

How to protect against ransomware

To protect against ransomware, companies should ensure that all IoT devices are properly secured. This includes limiting access to the device, changing default passwords, and keeping firmware up to date. In addition, companies should have a plan in place to detect and respond to ransomware attacks.

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#3: Convergence

Convergence refers to the idea that IT and IoT (also know as OT, that can include medical devices in hospitals, industrial controls, sensors, cameras, etc.) are not likely to merge. However, the different knowledge, skills and priorities of IT and operations staff need to evolve rapidly so that the best of the skills, knowledge, and perspective can be applied to problems in a collaborative manner..

IT and IoT departments have different priorities when it comes to security. IT focuses on securing users and data, while IoT focuses more on securing devices and networks. IoT is also more concerned with uptime. In addition, IT has a better understanding of security threats, while IoT devices are often designed without security in mind.

How to prepare for improve IT and IoT collaboration 

If you’d like to learn more, this whitepaper addresses the ways that leadership can create a smooth path to the integration of IT and IoT/OT operations.

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#4: Invisibility

Because of the rapid proliferation of IoT device connections to the network, asset inventories often fail to keep up, hence the saying “you can’t protect what you can’t see.” Visibility into IoT devices enables security teams to conduct detailed monitoring of the traffic that moves through them so they can identify any abnormal patterns and identify threats and warning signs of attacks in progress.

How to improve the visibility into your assets

Implementing network discovery tools to identify the devices connected to the network is an important step, but it’s not the first step. It is best to begin by starting with the inventory of devices that you do know about.  Certainly you know your most critical, most expensive assets.  Starting there, and securing those devices is an important start, and using what you learn with those devices will help you make better decisions in selecting the tools you need and in building your overall strategy.  To learn more about embarking on this kind of iterative process and having more success for this overall initiative, read this in-depth analysis here.

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#5: Unencrypted Data and Lack of Basic Protections in Devices

The function-focused approach of IoT design means that most IoT devices don’t have the resources built in to support strong encryption. Although many IoT devices don’t store files locally, they do transmit important telemetry information (like video or audio data) back to organizations or into the cloud. Without robust encryption protocols in place, that traffic is particularly vulnerable to eavesdropping, espionage, and hijacking. Attackers might replace camera feeds or stop them from recording, or change important medical information or customer data, for example.

To mitigate this risk, the optimal solution is to protect these types of devices behind a specialized shield that includes the functions of a firewall, NAT device, authentication with additional protections from being discovered on the network.  Byos is unique in being able to support all these functions with a single appliance called the Edge Gateway

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#6: Legacy & Rogue Devices

Installing IoT devices also introduces the possibility of rogue devices — replacements to legitimate devices or physical additions to systems that are designed to go undetected while the attacker changes, erases, or steals information. Rogue devices enable attackers to create rogue access points, fracturing the network perimeter by creating a point of ingress and egress traffic that the attacker controls.

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Addressing IoT security vulnerabilities and attacks must be a priority for modern organizations. Attacks will only increase in frequency and sophistication as the tech becomes a more integral piece of more organizations. Byos protects and secures IoT devices by introducing microsegmentation at the edge. With hardware-enforced isolation through the patented Byos Secure Gateway, security teams can detect threats, contain attacks, and eliminate breaches when they occur. Ready to learn how to reduce your attack surface by protecting your organization’s endpoints from IoT devices to remote computers? Contact us to learn more today.

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Need to brush up on the fundamentals of IoT Security? Check out our complete guide to IoT Security, or visit our solutions page to learn how Byos can help.


What is an IoT attack?

An IoT attack is a malicious attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in internet-connected devices, such as smart home devices, industrial control systems, and medical devices. Attackers may gain control of the device, steal sensitive data, or use the device as a part of a botnet for other malicious purposes.

How does an IoT attack differ from IT attacks?

Overall, IoT attacks present unique challenges compared to traditional IT attacks, which require specialized security measures to adequately protect against these risks.

  • Attack surface: IoT devices are often designed with limited resources and processing power. So they may lack security features to protect against attacks, making them more vulnerable to attacks compared to IT.
  • Diversity of devices: The types of IoT devices vary significantly in form factor, operating systems, and network connectivity. So standardized security measures are more complex, leaving some more vulnerable to attacks than others.
  • Physical impact: IoT devices are often used in critical infrastructure or life-sustaining systems, such as medical devices, which means that an attack on these devices can have severe physical consequences. In contrast, most IT attacks are focused on stealing data or disrupting services.
  • Legacy devices: IoT devices often have longer lifes.  Many older devices will be in use and connected. Legacy devices may not receive software updates or security patches, making them more vulnerable.

How can I protect my IoT devices from attacks?

You can protect your IoT devices from attacks by following some best practices, such as changing default login credentials, keeping software up-to-date, disabling unnecessary features, and segmenting your network. Additionally, using security solutions like firewalls, antivirus, and intrusion detection systems can also help mitigate the risks.

What are botnets, and how do they relate to IoT?

A botnet is a network of compromised devices that are controlled by a single entity for malicious purposes, such as launching DDoS attacks or stealing sensitive data. IoT devices are often targeted by botnets due to their security, which allows attackers to gain control of large numbers of devices and use them for their nefarious activities.

What are some examples of legacy IoT devices, and why are they vulnerable?

Legacy devices are older devices that may not receive software updates or security patches from the manufacturer, making them more vulnerable to attacks. Examples include older smart home devices, industrial control systems, and medical devices. These devices often lack basic protections like encryption, which can be exploited by attackers to gain access to sensitive data or control the device.

Why is it important to be aware of IoT security risks?

There are IoT devices on your network, growing the attack surface. IoT attacks can lead to financial losses, damage to reputation, and even physical harm. By being aware of the risks and taking appropriate security measures, individuals and organizations can better protect themselves from these threats.

Device level firewalls, strong encryption, and making devices invisible on the network are all integral to preventing endpoints from connecting to IoT devices before the attackers have a chance to get initial access into your network. Byos makes your endpoints invisible, prevents attackers for moving laterally across your network, and adds hundred of other advanced security protections to IoT devices... even older legacy devices. When you’re ready to take the next small step in moving forward, start a conversation.


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