IoT may seem like the new kid in town. But it’s actually been around for quite a long time now. 

In 1999, a guy named Kevin Ashton at Proctor & Gamble coined the term ‘Internet of Things’ way before it became as prevalent as it is today.  

However, these days, the IoT has taken over our lives like no other invention in history - and it is here to stay.

So, what is IoT?

To put it simply, the ‘Internet of Things’ is a nexus of interrelated devices, machines and humans (or even animals) that has the ability to transfer data over a connected network. 

This can be done without any need for human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. 

While it has made the world a much more connected place with huge applications in the fields of medicine, home appliances, fitness and agriculture, this technology doesn’t come free of some caveats. And one of the gravest and most prominent caveats is that of security and data breach.

This is why it is essential for you to know how to protect your IoT devices against malicious cyberattacks

How to protect your IoT devices from cyberattacks?

A recent study by Ponemon has revealed that in 2018, the number of security breaches due to unsecured devices account for 26% of cases, up from 15% the previous year.

Unfortunately, simply hoping you won’t fall prey to such security breaches isn’t going to help you stop them.

In the words of Chris Romeo, a cybersecurity specialist, “That's a terrible approach. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand. It’s not a matter of if you’re going to get burned, but when.”

It’s the time to be proactive about beefing up cybersecurity, instead of just lounging about.

Here are some tips to secure your devices from cyberattacks:

1. Set strong passwords

As clichéd as it may sound, having a strong password may actually fend off harmful cyberattacks. 

In fact, statistics suggest that over 81 percent of hacking-related breaches leveraged stolen or weak passwords. 

Not many people are even aware that IoT devices use passwords. 

That said, having a strong password is naturally going to offer you much-needed protection against unauthorized access and other cybercrimes. 

Here are some of the essentials for a secure password:

  • A password should have around 15 characters 
  • Must have an optimal mix of numbers
  • Uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Add a symbol in the midst 

As the length and diversity of characters of your password increases, it becomes exponentially harder for a cyber-criminal to hack it and gain access to your system.

It’s better to avoid setting up your password yourself. Instead, let a password manager generate a random password every time you need to set one. Changing passwords frequently is another way to stay one step ahead.

2. Use 2-factor authentication system

The famous poet Robert Frost said, “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” 

It essentially means that unexpected things happen, and they may not always be pleasant. In businesses too, you tend to get lazy and think that no one is going to hack you-right up to the moment you actually get hacked. You get complacent, you don’t change your password, and keep it the same for everything, just because it saves a lot of trouble. It is a terrible bad habit, especially in this digital age.

If an attacker gets a password for one account, they essentially gain access to your entire database stored anywhere in the world. 

Thankfully, there is a way to overcome this - the two-factor authentication or 2FA. This easy-to-use security method stops password theft even before it can occur. 

The process is quite simple. 

While logging in to an account with 2FA, you type in your normal username and password combination, which is verified on your phone, through a secondary code. This secondary code helps ensure that you are really who you say you are. 

The crux of the matter here is that even a stolen password will not be of much use to the hacker. A simple code keeps your data and accounts protected. 

Using your phone as your ultimate verifier is a brilliant yet simple way to ensure you are protected. OneLoginProtect app is a great example of this authentication.

3. Monitor Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)

To facilitate ease of use, IoT devices such as home media players and smart television use something called UPnP. UPnP essentially gets rid of the banal activities like configuring devices upon first connection and speeds up the process of information sharing.

However, this also provides cybercriminals with an avenue for attack. By hacking in through a UPnP, criminals can gain mobile access of devices like printers, webcams, and security devices. This can allow them to steal passwords and access any devices connected to your network. 

Far more malicious events like distributed denial of service (DDoS) and campaigns to take down websites can be carried out once the UPnP is compromised.

The best way to ensure your business is not at risk due to this feature is to go ahead and disable it altogether.

4. Separate networks

In this digital age, you can’t be too sure of anything. So when it comes to networks, you connect your IoT devices to, it’s best if you separate the business and office network from your personal one. 

Gaining access to your office network can reveal a whole lot of things to the criminals, and they may take undue advantage of the same. It is thus best to not take a chance with your IoT devices connected to your office network. 

So, make sure to connect with your personal network only, where you’ve probably got a lot less to lose.

5. Whitelisting

According to Rob Cheng, the CEO of PC Pitstop, "Whitelisting is more necessary than ever because viruses and other malware are morphing."

When you whitelist specific IP addresses, you are essentially creating a platform where users from those selected IP addresses are only able to log in to the network. It is a fail-safe security measure for your IoT devices. This way, you can ensure that no unauthorized person can access the IoT network and get connected unbeknownst to you.

It acts as a safeguard against morphing virus and malware that you may never have faced before. Thankfully, you won’t have to, either, once you start using whitelisting as a safety measure, because access simply won’t be granted.

6. Firmware updates

Technologies are changing at the blink of an eye. 

Therefore, it is exceedingly critical to keep abreast of the new developments and stay updated. It is the same with IoT devices. There are always more modern software updates to make. You should never miss any of them. Every update is aimed at potentially sealing a door against the possibility of a cyber-attack, and they must be taken seriously.

You can also use patch management software in case of multiple devices. It is a tool to automate patch distribution and schedule regular updates so that you never have to worry about missing the next one.

7. Finally, disconnect

Disconnecting your devices from the IoT network once you have completed your work is a very under-rated activity. People don’t realize the importance of this simple act. It makes you much more immune to cyber-crime, and practically brings the chance of getting hacked by an unauthorized network down to 0%.

Wrap Up 

Today, IoT is just about everywhere. 

The number of active IoT devices are expected to grow to 10 billion by 2020, and approximately 22 billion by 2025. 

Clearly, the numbers won’t come down anytime soon. 

And with these increasing IoT devices, the number of cyberattacks are also bound to increase exponentially. 

In fact, a recent study revealed that cybercrime would cause around $6 trillion worth of damage by 2021. That is why securing your IoT devices is of paramount importance in this global scenario. 

Along with the measures mentioned in this article, make sure to educate your employees and encourage them to acquire cybersecurity training to fight these prevalent online attacks. 

So, don’t delegate anymore and take stringent measures mentioned above to secure your IoT devices from cyberattacks.

Author's Bio: 

Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at The 20 Media, a content marketing agency that specializes in data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing and loves to read and write about AI, machine learning, data science, and other emerging technologies. In his spare time, he enjoys watching movies and listening to music. Connect with him on Twitter @belanigaurav.