How to Secure IoT Devices in the Enterprise

4 min. read

In recent years, a growing constellation of connected internet of things (IoT) devices has transformed how enterprises collect, exchange, analyze and extrapolate vast amounts of data to gather insights into everything from understanding consumer behavior and improving business efficiencies to reducing operational costs and enhancing overall workplace safety.

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As connected devices continue to increase in number, it is increasingly challenging for enterprises to secure them and keep threats at bay. Fraught with vulnerabilities and offering an attack surface ripe for security breaches, IoT devices are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Whether enterprises are just starting out with IoT adoption or looking to expand their established IoT networks, all face similar challenges when it comes to managing, monitoring and securing their connected IoT environments. To successfully secure IoT devices, there are a few things enterprises should consider.

1. Employ Device Discovery for Complete Visibility

The first thing an enterprise should do is get visibility into the exact number of IoT devices connected to its network. Discover which types of devices are connected to your network and keep a detailed, up-to-date inventory of all connected IoT assets, ideally with a dedicated IoT security solution to ensure all devices are identified. Collect the manufacturer and model ID; the serial number; hardware, software and firmware versions; and information on underlying operating systems and configuration applied to each device. Determine the risk profile of each device and its behavior as applied to other connected devices in the network. These profiles should assist with segmentation and next-generation firewall policy creation. You should always keep your asset map current with each new IoT device connected to the network.

2. Apply Network Segmentation for Stronger Defense

The security goal of network segmentation is to reduce the attack surface. Network segmentation divides a network into two or more subsections to enable granular control over lateral movement of traffic between devices and workloads. In an unsegmented network, when a large number of endpoints communicate directly with one another without any partitioning in place, there is a greater chance that a single compromise event will spread laterally to become a contagion. In contrast, the more a network is segmented, the harder it is for hackers to endanger a device as a single point of compromise for launching exploits laterally. Enterprises should use virtual local area network (VLAN) configurations and next-generation firewall policies to implement network segments that keep IoT devices separate from IT assets. This way, both groups can be protected from the possibility of a lateral exploit. Greater integration between your IoT security solution and your next-generation firewall will add IoT context to your next-generation firewall’s capabilities and reduce both time and effort in policy creation.

3. Adopt Secure Password Practices

Poor password security practices continue to fuel password-related attacks on IoT devices. Therefore, maintaining strong password security is critical to securing your IoT endpoints. Many IoT devices come with weak preset passwords that are easy to find online. As soon as an IoT device is first connected to your network, it is a best practice to reset its preset password with a secure, more complex one. The new password should be difficult to guess, unique to each secured device, and in line with your IT security team’s password policies and management practices.

4. Continue to Patch and Update Firmware When Available

While most IT systems are able to patch security flaws via regular updates, most IoT devices aren’t designed with this ability, so their security flaws stay there indefinitely. In the case of IoT devices with particularly long shelf lives, there is often also a risk that the manufacturer will discontinue support. When setting up a new IoT device, visit the vendor’s website and download any new security patches for known vulnerabilities. Ensuring your devices are regularly patched with the latest updates is important, so work with your IoT device vendors to establish a recurrent patch management and firmware upgrade strategy. To avoid data loss, add dedicated IoT-aware file and web threat prevention as well as virtual patching capabilities via intrusion prevention.

5. Actively Monitor IoT Devices at All Times

Real-time monitoring, reporting and alerting are crucial for organizations to manage their IoT risks. However, since traditional endpoint security solutions require software agents that IoT devices are not designed to take, these traditional solutions cannot protect IoT assets. Take a better approach. Implement a real-time monitoring solution that continuously analyzes the behavior of all your network-connected IoT endpoints by seamlessly integrating with your existing security posture and next-generation firewall investment. 

Further Reading

Managing the complex IoT lifecycle is a new challenge for organizations that requires a revolutionary approach. Learn from our analysis of 1.2 million IoT devices. Our 2020 Unit 42® IoT Threat Report covers which devices are most susceptible to compromise and why. Build your checklist today of the five must-haves for an IoT security solution and see how you can eliminate the risk of unsecured IoT, which comprises 30% of devices in the average organization.