Security threats and attacks expose the vulnerabilities of any system or network. With the growing number of devices that can connect to the Internet today, the playground for attackers and hackers to breach, attack and gain access to confidential, sensitive and critical data has become easy. In this scenario, security should be seen a bottom-up approach. Security can not be assigned as a task to the endpoint where the product or system is ready to be used or attacked. Security has to be architected from the earliest development tasks, and all the actors in the process should have a hand in it. Let’s take a look at some of the common security threats to the Internet-connected devices, and how these affect the IoT ecosystem.
Malware: Malware is the abbreviated form of “malicious software.” Malware is intended to specifically gain unauthorized access to a computer. The purpose is to damage a computer without the knowledge of its owner. Malware may refer to computer viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, worms, or any malicious code that can infiltrate a computer.
Computer Virus: A computer virus is a malicious software program that can attach to a file or document, and lie dormant until that code is executed. Once it is executed, it can corrupt or delete or steal data. It can use an email program to spread itself from one computer to another.
Trojan Horses: Trojan horse is a malware that appears as a legitimate software. It is intended to breach the security of a computer by gaining unauthorized remote access to a computer system. Unlike viruses, Trojan horse does not replicate itself. Trojan horse enables the user or creator to steal private data, install malware, carry viruses. The malware mostly found on the Internet is a Trojan horse.
Spyware: Spyware is a piece of malicious software that is intended to collect personal information from someone’s computer. This personal information can be private financial data like credit card details, bank account details etc. Also, spyware monitors a user’s computer’s browsing history and surfing patterns.
Adware: Adware, as the name suggests is advertising malware. The purpose of adware is to display advertisements on a user’s computer. These advertisements are related to user’s search history, preferences and browsing history. Adware tracks a user’s activities offline as well as online to collect data regarding which advertisements would interest the user. This not only steals privacy of the user but also slows down the user’s computer’s’ performance.
Worms: Worms are malicious computer programs that have the ability to self-replicate and cause damage over a computer network. They penetrate an operating system via attachments, file sharing on networks and through links on already infected websites. Worms can send copied the original malicious code to many computers and result in deletion of files, misuse of emails and eating up bandwidth.
Rogue security software: Rogue security software is a software that lures computer users to get their computer rid of some malware that the software detects online. This fake software asks for a fee to remove these threats from a user’s computer and normally pops up in form of a pop-up window while the user is on the Internet.
Botnet: Botnet is a network of computers that are infected, and the malware is spread on this network. A Botnet is made up of 2 words, Bot which is a short form for robot, and net stands for network. The purpose of Botnet can be many, starting from stealing private and critical information, to overloading websites, to sending spam emails. For a Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOS), a malicious actor uses a botnet group to attack a particular resource/target, which can be a server, website or a network. They bombard the target with messages, connection requests, and invalid packets. This results in a slow down, or a shutdown, and the service of the target is thus denied to its legitimate users.
Rootkit: the tar A rootkit is a collection of tools/programs that let an unauthorized user gain access to a computer or network. Rootkits can’t spread by themselves. These can affect a computer and thereby a network by entry through shared infected disks/drives, commercial security products, third-party extensions. It can piggyback on a software application you trust to install, and gets in the system via that program. This can also be in form of a spyware. These are intended to monitor the traffic on a network/website and make changes in system’s log files. The purpose is to get access to all private and system files.
IoT Security Threats
According to Gartner, by 2020, an IoT component will be used in more than half of the major new business processes and systems. IoT will not be manifested as pure applications only, rather, many more applications will leverage it, on a small or large level. Also, the current exponential adoption of IoT in multiple industry verticals like lifestyle, healthcare, cities, government, security, agriculture, etc., the need for robust IoT security is seen as a big priority.
Often the unusual points are the most vulnerable. You could imagine how a smart thermostat or a connected refrigerator do any harm. But security threats are omnipresent: from home equipment to public sector, industries, smart cities and heating and light systems. Any smart system that controls utilities like water, electricity, power, or health, even confidential private information like financial and corporate is a huge target ready to be attacked and converted to profit making points.
- DDOS or botnet attacks: The recent DDOS attack, Mirai by IoT security botnet, infected 2.5 million Internet of Things devices (as reported by McAfee). IoT is very much susceptible to hackers because it provides just a large surface area to be infected or attacked. The cost-effective or cheap IoT devices aren’t built on the security paradigms and often, even users tend to ignore security instructions.
- Vulnerable Home Routers: Internet home routers are vulnerable and easily available for botnets to launch DDOS attacks. These can be used to easily infect the network with malware and gain access to a home network.
- Corporate connected devices: Connected appliances within a corporate network can be hacked to connect to the inter-connected applications. This access can be leveraged by hackers and malicious actors to gain confidential and corporate data.
As the expanse of IoT increases, the manufacturers will have to understand and include security principles in the fundamental design of the internet-connected devices. More interconnection gives hackers a large surface area to base their attacks on, and hence all the parties have to act responsibly and do their bit to ensure safety each step of the way. Also, the enterprises and businesses have to be ready to counterattack any security breach or attack. These possible events have to be covered in their security plan. With innovation and technical advancements comes power, and with power comes responsibility.