What is the most prevalent cyber threat from IoT devices?

  • IoT’s physical security is critical due to its deployment in open environments, making it vulnerable to hijacking, sabotage, and unauthorised device replacements by malicious actors.
  • Identity authentication in IoT systems suffers from weak passwords, plaintext transmissions, and a lack of cross-domain authentication, providing opportunities for data breaches and unauthorised access.
  • Communication security challenges arise from IoT’s complex network structure and diverse protocol standards, leading to data encryption issues and risks of data theft, manipulation, or disruption.

Traditional internet development has matured and is widely applied, yet it still has security vulnerabilities. As an emerging entity, IoT (Internet of Things) possesses a more complex architecture with no unified standards, leading to more pronounced security issues across various fronts. Due to insufficient focus on security during the design and manufacturing of many IoT devices, along with a lack of protective measures, they are susceptible to cyberattacks, resulting in network security problems.

Physical security and external attacks

The IoT features a heterogeneous network architecture with multiple network integrations, facing similar security threats as traditional fixed-line and mobile internet but also encountering unique challenges. Among these, physical security is paramount for the IoT’s foundational security. Given that IoT devices are often deployed in open environments, they are susceptible to hijacking and sabotage by malicious actors. Attackers can physically damage devices to disrupt their normal functioning or technically compromise them to steal sensitive user information. Additionally, attackers may unlawfully replace devices, thereby disrupting normal network and business operations.

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Identity authentication and communication security

There are identity authentication issues within IoT systems. Currently, various authentication methods exist in IoT systems, leading to incomplete or absent cross-domain authentication and authorisation for devices. Some devices suffer from weak initial passwords or default username-password combinations, and there’s a lack of restrictions on user password complexity. Furthermore, some IoT devices transmit identity information in plaintext, lack login failure handling functions, and face risks of user identity information leaks or tampering. These issues provide opportunities for malicious actors to cause severe harm to the system.

Communication security presents another significant challenge for the IoT. With its complex network structure and many devices using wireless transmission, data is often encrypted simply or transmitted in plaintext, making it easy for data theft, manipulation, or disruption. Resource constraints in perception nodes prevent them from providing complex information security protection. Moreover, different perception networks use different protocol standards, posing challenges in establishing a unified security protection system.

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Vulnerabilities and data security

The IoT system itself harbours various vulnerabilities or flaws, including operating systems, application software, databases, protocols, devices, operations, and management. Once exploited by malicious actors, these vulnerabilities can have serious consequences for the IoT system. Additionally, massive amounts of data are stored in the IoT’s cloud computing platforms, data mining and analysis platforms, and business management control platforms. While the security of this data is crucial, there are risks of data leaks, malicious code attacks, and other security issues. Vulnerabilities and design flaws in operating systems, virtualisation platforms, and even application processes can lead to illegal access and compromise data integrity and confidentiality. Furthermore, IoT applications face challenges in lawful data use and sharing.

To protect IoT devices and network security, manufacturers and users should prioritise device security and implement appropriate security measures to safeguard devices and data.


Crystal Feng

Crystal Feng is an intern news reporter at Blue Tech Wave dedicated in tech trends. She is studying Chinese-English translation at Beijing International Studies University. Send tips to c.feng@btw.media.

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