How to Secure IoT Devices: 5 Best Practices

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Internet of Things (IoT) devices, computing devices that send and receive information via the Internet and that run very specific applications, can be anything from smart thermostats to smart TVs. The main advantage of IoT devices is their constant connectivity, which allows users to access information and control the devices remotely at any time.

Although many individuals and organizations are adopting IoT devices in increasing numbers, not everyone has adequately secured those devices. Some users leave default credentials on their devices, which leaves them wide open for attack, and others do not monitor their devices or networks, which could allow attackers to move about undetected. Learn more about how to secure IoT devices, including 5 key best practices below. 

Introduction to IoT device security

Remote access and interconnectivity make life easier for users; unfortunately, it also creates opportunities for bad actors who are looking to steal your private data. Properly securing IoT and IIoT devices from cyber threats and attacks is very important for protecting yourself from data theft, network compromise, and financial loss. Although IoT devices are convenient because they are interconnected devices on local networks, using them can be risky, especially if you aren’t following all recommended security practices. 

A few of the potential vulnerabilities associated with IoT devices include weaknesses from inconsistent patches and updates, weak or default credentials, and poorly secured networks. Many IoT device owners set up their devices and then forget about them, frequently keeping the default username and password (which can easily be found on the dark web) and neglecting to take security precautions. This makes your IT environment vulnerable to attacks. To mitigate these risks, consulting with top US Pentest Companies can provide comprehensive security assessments and recommendations for safeguarding your IoT ecosystem.

5 best practices for securing IoT devices

To reduce your risk of attack, follow these five steps and best practices for IoT device security:

1) Use strong passwords and authentication

Changing the default credentials is the most important first step to securing your devices. However, if you change the password to something simple and easy, you haven’t done yourself much good. Instead, be sure to use unique and strong passwords for IoT devices. Avoid reusing passwords across devices, and be sure that any password storage solution that you use is encrypted and secure. Additionally, consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for enhanced security where possible. Never respond to MFA requests that you did not initiate. 

2) Carefully manage device inventory

Device discovery and inventory will also improve your security. Knowing all connected IoT devices on the network means you are able to secure all connected devices (this is a tricky thing to accomplish if you don’t have a way to identify every device that you need to secure). Any unsecured device is a potential attack vector, so it’s important to use best security practices on every device connected to your network.

Although many people struggle to manage a large number of IoT devices in their environments, you can stay a step ahead of attackers by employing automated tools for device discovery and maintaining an inventory with a device management system. NinjaOne offers a network monitoring solution that will track and monitor all IoT devices, as well as other networking equipment like routers and switches.  

3) Isolate IoT devices from critical systems and data

Network segmentation divides a network into smaller networks to better manage traffic or to improve security. For IoT device security, network segmentation contributes by isolating IoT devices from critical systems and data. Essentially, it’s insulation that keeps your information from leaking and prevents attackers from accessing all of your devices, so even if attackers infiltrate your network, they are limited to that subnet rather than allowed access to the whole.

Having subnets also gives you more control and monitoring ability. You can more easily identify who is accessing your network and isolate the new device or user. It’s a good idea to follow zero-trust protocols in network segmentation, meaning that all new devices are immediately quarantined and cannot connect to others until after review. Finally, you can use your subnets to limit IoT device access to the Internet and reduce or eliminate outgoing traffic. 

4) Regularly patch and update IoT devices

It’s important for IT professionals to recognize the role of regular patching and updates in IoT security. Like any other devices, IoT devices use software to complete their various functions, and that software needs to be regularly updated to prevent attackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities. Many of the applications that are available are built on open-source software, which means that attackers could be studying how to infiltrate your network long before they actually make the attempt. So, if there are any known vulnerabilities, it’s a good idea to patch them as soon as possible, especially those labeled critical or high-risk. 

Establishing an efficient patch management process for IoT devices is also important. It can be challenging to keep up with all of the necessary updates for every IoT device that connects to your network, so implementing a Remote Management and Monitoring (RMM) solution that can facilitate your efforts may be useful. RMM solutions enable you to schedule updates and patches and will push them out to all relevant devices automatically, reducing your workload and allowing your team to vastly improve its efficiency. It also improves the overall speed of addressing vulnerabilities, which means you will be able to patch more of them than you would if you were patching manually. 

5) Eliminate unused IoT devices

If you don’t use one of your IoT devices, don’t be tempted to leave it in your environment. Any device that is still connected but not maintained poses a potential security risk. You likely won’t be monitoring or patching a device you aren’t thinking about, which means that any attackers who attempt to access it may have a relatively easy time exploiting it. To protect your other devices, eliminate these extraneous potential attack vectors. 

Implementing IoT device security best practices

There are some basic steps that you should take in order to implement these best practices. Utilize encryption methods like AES or DES to secure data transmitted by IoT devices. Implement data protection strategies, including antivirus, automated monitoring, data visibility solutions, and strong passwords with multi-factor authentication to safeguard sensitive information.

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) monitoring and management is a useful tool for keeping your IoT devices secure. SNMP is a protocol that collects information and manages devices on a network so that they are secured against unauthorized access. To efficiently manage your network with SNMP, however, monitoring and management tools or solutions are recommended. 

SNMP solutions provide a central platform for monitoring all of your network-connected devices, allowing you to monitor traffic, access, and activity. You can also keep an eye on hardware performance and set up customized alerts to inform you of unusual activity. Additionally, a high-quality SNMP solution like NinjaOne can also discover new devices and categorize them based on authentication credentials. 

Stay proactive with IoT security

Keeping your IoT devices secure is a tall order, but by following the five best security practices, you can improve your odds of success. Be sure to use strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and encryption for your devices and applications. Manage both active and inactive devices, being sure to always patch the ones you’re using and disconnect the ones you aren’t. Finally, segment your network to minimize the interconnectivity of your entire environment. An isolated device is a less dangerous device.

Staying proactive and vigilant is imperative for strong IoT security. Any preventative measures that you take will be far more valuable to your organization’s integrity and ability to overcome attacker intrusions than post-disaster recovery efforts. Implementing SNMP solutions to monitor your network and alert you to potential problems can help you stay secure, especially if they are part of a broader management and monitoring strategy with remote patching capabilities and device management. With NinjaOne’s SNMP monitoring and management solution, you have the ability to manage and track any SNMP-enabled IoT device. Start your free trial of NinjaOne to see just how quick and easy IoT device management can be.

Next Steps

The fundamentals of device security are critical to your overall security posture. NinjaOne makes it easy to patch, harden, secure, and backup all their devices centrally, remotely, and at scale.

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