IoT Security: Protecting Edge Devices in the Digital Age

As technology continues to evolve and advance, products are becoming smarter. However, protecting these devices is becoming more complex.  

According to threat intelligence agency SonicWall, there were 112.3 million IoT malware attacks in 2022 alone, showing an 87% increase from the previous year. 

In today’s digital world, strong security measures cannot be overlooked. However, the exact security required varies significantly depending on factors such as the company, product type, product maturity, and specific use case. Whether it’s connected home products, industrial IoT, medical devices, or autonomous vehicles, each category presents distinct challenges that demand careful consideration when deciding on the appropriate level of security. 

Consider the security of a house. Depending on different factors, you may choose a deadbolt, a security camera, or even a bodyguard for safety. Each option offers varying levels of protection, but they also come with different costs. Similarly, IoT device security functions on a similar premise. Making informed decisions about what is essential and refining security strategies over time becomes crucial. 

In this blog, we review the key aspects of connected devices deserving of protection, explore the security advantages of custom IoT solutions, and provide a step-by-step process to help you determine and implement the most appropriate level of security for your device. 

Edge Device Areas of Protection 

Connected products, also known as edge devices, cover a wide range of devices integrated into the IoT ecosystem. These devices are particularly vulnerable to theft or data compromise due to their remote or unmonitored locations. To ensure their safety, it’s essential to address three key protection areas: 

  1. Physical Device Security: This refers to safeguarding the tangible hardware and components of the connected product from physical tampering, theft, or unauthorized access. Measures like tamper-resistant enclosures and security chips can enhance their physical security. 
  2. Data at Rest Security: Data at rest refers to the information stored within the connected device or on associated storage media. Protecting this data involves implementing encryption and access controls to keep it indecipherable and inaccessible even if the device falls into the wrong hands. 
  3. Data in Flight Security: Data in flight pertains to the transmission of information between the connected device and other systems over networks. Securing data in flight involves protocols for verification or a certificate authority to prevent interception or eavesdropping by unauthorized entities. 

By addressing these three critical areas, users of connected products can significantly mitigate potential security risks and foster a safer and more reliable IoT ecosystem. 

Security Benefits of Custom IoT Solutions 

Ensuring robust edge device security should never be treated as an afterthought but rather as a priority, woven into the entire product design process from the beginning. The significance of this approach cannot be overstated, as it establishes a strong foundation of protection against potential threats and vulnerabilities. 

This emphasis on security is why custom-built devices often outshine their off-the-shelf counterparts in terms of safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining overall system security. While off-the-shelf solutions may be the cheaper option, opting for custom devices offers distinct advantages in the realm of security. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of custom vs off-the-shelf IoT solutions here. 

By going the custom route, designers and developers gain the flexibility and control to tailor security measures to the unique requirements of the product and its intended use. This adaptability allows for the implementation of more sophisticated and robust security protocols, making it exceedingly challenging for security threats to breach the device’s data. 

Furthermore, custom edge devices can be crafted with a security-first mindset, prioritizing encryption, authentication mechanisms, and access controls from the very core of their design. This proactive approach enhances the product’s resilience against potential threats. Learn more about the benefits of custom connected products here. 

A General Process for Developing a Secure Device 

Determining the appropriate level of security for your device is a multifaceted process that requires a careful and comprehensive approach. To help guide you in establishing and implementing the most suitable security measures for your product, here’s a general step-by-step process your team can follow throughout product development: 

  1. Design Phase: 
    • Begin by identifying and prioritizing potential attacks. Consider threats to physical access as well as remote attacks to gain a holistic view of security requirements. 
    • Select hardware components with a focus on your desired level of security, ensuring that they align with the specific needs of your IoT solution. 
    • Architect the device storage infrastructure with a keen eye on facilitating seamless updates and safeguarding data confidentiality.
  2. Implementation Phase:
    • Mitigate potential vulnerabilities wherever possible, implementing security measures to reduce the likelihood of successful attacks. 
    • Monitor and implement robust measures to make it difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities that cannot be entirely mitigated. 
    • Build support for regular updates to ensure that your device remains resilient against emerging threats.
  3. Validation Phase:
    • Conduct formal penetration testing by engaging an external security firm to evaluate the system’s security measures and identify potential weaknesses. 
    • Validate security measures through normal usage and continuous integration (CI) testing to assess the system’s behavior under regular conditions. 
    • Establish baselines for key metrics like CPU usage, disk usage, and response time to later detect and respond to abnormal behaviors or potential security breaches.
  4. Launch Phase:
    • Continuously monitor the running system to promptly identify and address any unusual activities or security incidents. 
    • Periodically check for security vulnerabilities and review release notes to stay informed about the latest security updates. 
    • Regularly update and patch your device to proactively address known vulnerabilities and enhance its overall security protection. 

By following this process, you can enhance the security of your device, instilling confidence in its resilience and safeguarding sensitive data from potential threats. Remember, security is an ongoing effort, and staying vigilant is essential to adapt and respond to the ever-evolving security landscape. 

What may be effective today might fall short in the face of tomorrow’s emerging threats. The key to staying secure is to proactively plan for updates and patches, ensuring that your defenses remain robust and adaptable. Additionally, engaging in outside unbiased security audits is an industry best practice to gain invaluable insights and expert assessments of your security measures. 

Your Partner in Protection 

At Twisthink, we understand the critical importance of securing your IoT solutions effectively. Our team of experts is capable and ready to guide you through the process of evaluating and implementing the precise level of security your devices require. From the initial design phase to ongoing support, we are committed to securing your connected products against vulnerabilities and safeguarding your data from malicious threats. 

As the security landscape continues to evolve, we can ensure your IoT solutions stay at the forefront of security best practices, providing you peace of mind to focus on innovation and growth.

As a Senior Software Engineer, Nick is a problem-solver, equipped with the patience and dedication to excel in the challenging realm of connected products. Seasoned in embedded electronics, Nick possesses the comprehensive expertise in the intricacies of handheld gadgets, touch-sensitive screens, and motion-driven machines.

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