An Essential 5-Step Checklist for Secure IoT

One of the leading trends within the digitalization megatrend is IoT – Internet of Things, connecting smaller and smaller devices and pieces of the process to the Internet. While connected devices, such as sensors, open a world of possibilities, they also pose potential security problems.

In this post, we will share our insights for making your IoT environment more secure.

Why your IoT environment may be at risk?

The fundamental problem with many IoT-enabled devices is that they are not developed with a long-term security mindset. Often features, time-to-market and low costs drive design and development. This too often means that security-related design and testing is not performed properly.

In industrial use, devices and hardware often have very long lifecycles. This means that the device supplier should provide a clear, reliable process and roadmap for software updates and security patches. Too often this is not the case – manufacturers may not be interested in the long tail of product support and development and have no plan for software updates.

In addition to new hardware, the above also applies to old industrial environments, too. For example, when an industrial automation unit was first built maybe 10-20 years ago, no-one anticipated that the system would be later connected to the Internet. That is why old devices may be missing security features altogether.

How to make your IoT more secure

Here are a few pointers for ensuring a safer, more secure IoT environment - in fact, these tips apply to all software development. Even if you are not a developer yourself, make sure you discuss these topics with your team or your solution provider.

1. Make security a priority Ensure that security is taken into consideration for the entire lifecycle of a device of software solution. Security should be built into the development process. It is a good investment, as any upfront costs may pay off later with decreased amount of security issues.

2. Know what you are doing. Why are you connecting devices to the Internet? Are the benefits worth the potential risks? What kind of data are you processing - events in the system or highly sensitive customer or user details? IoT should provide you with clear business benefits and even though the upfront development effort could be high, design and development should be done properly from day one.

3. Analyze threats. Systematic threat modeling allows you to identify and mitigate key risks in your environment as well as understand it’s full context, including any external dependencies. For example, you might discover that one solution might be to design several secure layers, where one breached wall would not allow open access to the entire system.

4. Encourage open communication. Especially in a multi-supplier environment, make sure all your suppliers talk with one another, also about security. Every individual supplier should understand the big picture and the interfaces and dependencies between individual components. For example, what kinds of 3rd party components are being used and how are potential vulnerabilities in these components handled - and by whom?

5. Have a plan ready. If the worst-case scenario happens, you should have a clear plan of action that you can follow. On a routine level, your maintenance plan should include monitoring any reported security vulnerabilities in any 3rd party components used in the system, for example.

Intopalo Digital - Part of Insta

Intopalo Digital is an expert in secure software development. We help our customers in adopting secure development lifecycles, threat modeling and overall security assessments for existing and new systems.


Seppo Heikkinen

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