IoT Security is an Enterprise Problem — Here’s How SSL Encryption Can Help

IoT devices are transforming the way enterprises do business, but companies that don’t take the time to secure their networks leave themselves exposed to cybercriminals.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the digital landscape — especially for the enterprise. From door locks and security cameras to HVAC sensors and network hardware, IoT devices are generating a wealth of data that will play a crucial role in businesses going forward. Equipped with this information, organizational stakeholders can make operations more efficient, streamline workflows, and gain critical performance insights.

However, while IoT technology promises a wide range of enterprise use cases, there’s growing concern that organizations aren’t doing enough in terms of cybersecurity. After all, businesses need to make sure to secure each and every network endpoint in order to prevent data breaches. Adding hundreds — or even thousands — of IoT devices across an enterprise can make endpoint security incredibly challenging.

For cybercriminals, loosely protected IoT networks offer easy access to enterprise systems, where one compromised device can quickly infect others around it. These kinds of attacks aren’t hypothetical; in fact, they’re already taking place. The Mirai DDoS attack of 2016, which crippled DNS servers on the east coast of the United States, was eventually traced to compromised IoT devices that were then used to access wider networks.

Despite these risks, most enterprises aren’t taking even the most rudimentary steps necessary to secure their digital environments. While IoT technology will soon become a necessity for organizations looking to stay competitive, it’s essential that investments in this emerging space are made with a concomitant emphasis on cybersecurity. Failing to do so risks exposing enterprise networks to bad actors skilled at breaching vulnerable IoT devices.

SSL as a Solution to IoT Security Risks

As the Mirai DDoS attack demonstrated, poorly secured IoT devices offer cybercriminals easy access to enterprise networks. Once inside, they can wreak havoc, exfiltrate proprietary information, and cripple digital infrastructure. Because manufacturers and enterprise users alike have thus far failed to take IoT security as seriously as they should, the risk of these attacks remains high.

In fact, research from Zscaler has found that approximately 91.5 percent of IoT transactions are occurring over a plain-text channel, while only 8.5 percent are using SSL. Zscaler also noted that plain-text HTTP communication to servers for firmware and package updates, plain-text authentication, use of outdated libraries, and weak default credentials contribute to this problem.

Without proper SSL encryption, transactions occurring across IoT networks remain uniquely vulnerable. Cybercriminals can intercept communications, expose vulnerabilities, and exfiltrate sensitive enterprise data. Although companies might not currently think of their IoT devices as computers that require SSL encryption, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a change in mindset is needed before organizations prioritize IoT cybersecurity.

How SSL Works and Why It’s a Must

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is the current standard in internet encryption. This kind of encryption ensures that data sent between two systems cannot be intercepted, read, or modified by bad actors. While there have been updates to internet encryption such as TLS (Transport Layer Security), SSL is still the most widely accepted term for this kind of protection.

SSL protocol works by using something called asymmetric encryption. This process uses two keys — one private, one public — to encrypt and then decipher information sent between two points over the internet. The private key and public key are paired when your Certificate Signing Request (CSR) is created, and the two keys work together to secure your information, verify your connections, and prevent others from intercepting data.

By encrypting transactions occurring over IoT networks, enterprises can make it harder for cybercriminals to compromise devices. Thus, SSL protocol offers organizations an effective way to protect IoT assets against cybercrime and reduce the chance that these assets are then used to breach an enterprise’s digital infrastructure.

Securing IoT Networks with TTI

As the number of IoT devices swells, the risk of IoT-enabled data breaches rises in kind. Accordingly, it’s becoming increasingly clear that stakeholders can no longer afford to put IoT security on the back burner, especially if this emerging technology is a part of their digital strategy going forward.

If you and your team are investing in IoT systems, Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can help you implement the SSL protocol you need to keep your devices secure. By working with TTI and taking the appropriate steps needed to protect IoT assets from bad actors, enterprises can lay the foundation they need to make the most of the IoT.

By Tony Ridzyowski

August 8, 2019

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