Security Tip (ST17-001)
Securing the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is becoming an important part of everyday life. Being aware of the associated risks is a key part of keeping your information and devices secure.
The Internet of Things refers to any object or device that sends and receives data automatically through the Internet. This rapidly expanding set of “things” includes tags (also known as labels or chips that automatically track objects), sensors, and devices that interact with people and share information machine to machine.
Why Should We Care?
Cars, appliances, wearables, lighting, healthcare, and home security all contain sensing devices that can talk to other machines and trigger additional actions. Examples include devices that direct your car to an open spot in a parking lot; mechanisms that control energy use in your home; control systems that deliver water and power to your workplace; and other tools that track your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.
This technology provides a level of convenience to our lives, but it requires that we share more information than ever. The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed.
What Are the Risks?
Though many security and resilience risks are not new, the scale of interconnectedness created by the Internet of Things increases the consequences of known risks and creates new ones. Attackers take advantage of this scale to infect large segments of devices at a time, allowing them access to the data on those devices or to, as part of a botnet, attack other computers or devices for malicious intent. See Cybersecurity for Electronic Devices, Understanding Hidden Threats: Rootkits and Botnets, and Understanding Denial-of-Service Attacks for more information.
How Do I Improve the Security of Internet-Enabled Devices?
Without a doubt, the Internet of Things makes our lives easier and has many benefits; but we can only reap these benefits if our Internet-enabled devices are secure and trusted. The following are important steps you should consider to make your Internet of Things more secure.
Evaluate your security settings. Most devices offer a variety of features that you can tailor to meet your needs and requirements. Enabling certain features to increase convenience or functionality may leave you more vulnerable to being attacked. It is important to examine the settings, particularly security settings, and select options that meet your needs without putting you at increased risk. If you install a patch or a new version of software, or if you become aware of something that might affect your device, reevaluate your settings to make sure they are still appropriate. See Good Security Habits for more information.
Ensure you have up-to-date software. When manufacturers become aware of vulnerabilities in their products, they often issue patches to fix the problem. Patches are software updates that fix a particular issue or vulnerability within your device’s software. Make sure to apply relevant patches as soon as possible to protect your devices. See Understanding Patches for more information.
Connect carefully. Once your device is connected to the Internet, it’s also connected to millions of other computers, which could allow attackers access to your device. Consider whether continuous connectivity to the Internet is needed. See Securing Your Home Network for more information.
Use strong passwords. Passwords are a common form of authentication and are often the only barrier between you and your personal information. Some Internet-enabled devices are configured with default passwords to simplify setup. These default passwords are easily found online, so they don't provide any protection. Choose strong passwords to help secure your device. See Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information.
The following organizations offer additional information about this topic:
- Online Trust Alliance: https://otalliance.org/smarthome
- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP):
- Atlantic Council: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/issue-briefs/smart-homes-and-the-internet-of-things
- Networks of 'Things' (NIST Special Publication 800-183): http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-183.pdf
- Department of Homeland Security: https://www.dhs.gov/securingtheIoT
- Stop.Think.Connect.: https://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect