IoT can bring many improvements to any industry or application with a demand for data. With IoT, we can gain previously unachievable insights into the efficiency of our manufacturing pipelines, the health of patients, and the safety of autonomous vehicles.
However, IoT is a double-edged sword in that it also brings considerable challenges for us to solve. At a glance, the major drawbacks of IoT include its scalability, upgradeability, and cybersecurity. We must tackle these problems to squeeze the most out of IoT technology.
IoT cybersecurity arguably has the highest priority of all the drawbacks we’ve just listed. Considering that IoT devices can have real-time access to extremely sensitive data and user analytics, the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of IoT have far-reaching ramifications. Through holes in security, bad actors can gain access to the confidential data of your customers and even your corporate network itself. With the quantum threat, IoT’s vulnerability will increase even more.
To showcase how profound and extensive IoT vulnerabilities can be, let’s look at some of the industries that hackers might zero in on in the coming years. The basics of protecting IoT remain the same across all sectors, but the possible consequences vary widely.
Top 5 Industries Vulnerable to IoT Threats
Healthcare is one of the most promising industries for IoT, with telehealth being a key area for the technology. With IoT-powered telehealth, doctors can remotely track the condition of their patients and adjust their treatments according to their progress. Doctors can also quickly react to life-threatening developments in their patients.
Hacker attacks on IoT in healthcare could drastically affect healthcare providers and their patients. At a glance, here is what an attack could lead to:
- Bodily harm. Tampering with IoT devices monitoring vital health metrics can lead to adverse health effects and even lethal patient outcomes. For example, if an IoT medical device shows an incorrect blood glucose level in a patient after an attack, doctors might prescribe potentially fatal doses of medication to diabetes patients.
- Loss of medical records. Ransomware attacks can lead to critical medical data being maliciously encrypted and made inaccessible to the patient and healthcare professionals. This may result in delays in administering treatments to critically ill patients and in the admission and treatment of new patients. Outright theft of medical data, even if encrypted, can expose private/sensitive patient information leading to blackmail, public embarrassment (for patient and provider), or possible interference or disruption of care delivery.
- Reputation losses and fines. Cybersecurity incidents in the healthcare industry can potentially impact patient care – with far-reaching consequences. With this in mind, attacks can lead to significant reputation losses. Not just that, but cybersecurity incidents might also trigger fines and even legal action.
IoT technology has dramatically transformed military equipment and changed the way Countries approach National Defence. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of the use of connectivity and the internet in the military are combat drones which can be used for tasks like reconnaissance and air strikes. Drones have seen widespread use in Ukraine after the 2022 Russian invasion, and we’ll likely see them become even more common on the battlefield.
Military IoT can connect different units in battle, allowing them to effectively communicate and coordinate their actions. Data from connected combat suits and weapons could help manufacturers produce better military equipment.
That said, fully reaping the benefits of IoT technology requires properly securing it from attacks. Governments must be extremely wary of the equipment and software their military personnel use to avoid cyberattacks and leaks. For example, fitness tracking apps and devices used by soldiers can give away the location of US army bases and personnel movement, while drones purchased from foreign manufacturers may be used to spy on rival political regimes. Given that intelligence and military secrets are attractive targets to nation-state attackers, and the potential for harm if compromised, IoT resources in the armed forces must be tightly secured.
IoT can bring significant cost reductions and increase efficiencies in industrial applications and manufacturing. Manufacturers can optimize machine utilization, schedule maintenance before any failures occur, and monitor the well-being of their employees through wearable technology.
That being said, unsecured IoT devices in industrial settings could bring the opposite results. Malicious actors could exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices to launch ransomware attacks against manufacturing companies. Manufacturing is a favorite target for ransomware attacks, which, combined with the innate cybersecurity vulnerabilities of IoT technology, can drastically increase the chance of ransomware attacks in IoT-rich industrial environments.
Ransomware aside, hackers could leverage holes in IoT security to launch DDoS attacks and disrupt manufacturing processes for hours or even days. Considering how expensive outages can be (with over 60% of failures leading to over $100,000 in losses), a small outage can lead to devastating consequences for manufacturers.
Attacks on manufacturers could also result in data theft and the leakage of commercial secrets. If the leaked data also includes data of clients, partners, or sensitive personal information, manufacturers may face lawsuits or fines due to compliance failures.
With the proliferation of IoT devices like smart meters, utility companies can obtain real-time energy consumption data to better match energy generation with demand and identify areas with spotty electricity. They can also leverage their unique insight into energy utilization to distribute power where it’s most needed. Combined, this enables utility companies to better manage their revenue streams.
IoT in the energy sector comes at a cost, however. Today, companies need to worry about the physical security and the cyber protection of their infrastructures. The widespread adoption of “smart” infrastructure has drastically increased the attack surface of energy companies. Power lines, substations, and even grid-connected devices in homes can contain weak points for hackers to exploit. Disruptions of supply chains, emergency services, and even national defense are just some outcomes of a widespread attack on the energy sector.
One of the main challenges of IoT cybersecurity in the energy sector is the mishmash of different devices across millions of service locations. A vulnerability in the smart meter of just one consumer can enable hackers to access the entire IT infrastructure of utility companies, leading to consequences well beyond the energy sector. Decades-old devices in IoT networks can amplify the vulnerability of utility companies a thousand-fold as legacy devices often lag in protection levels compared to even the most rudimentary devices.
A potentially bigger issue is that energy companies often interconnect with other utilities, distributed energy sources (DERs), and entities in their supply chains. These vast unified networks have colossal attack surfaces where an attack on a single entity could easily compromise all the others. In these cases, cybersecurity is more than just protecting your business from threats – it’s also about maintaining business relationships and avoiding legal issues.
Connected vehicles are a growing segment of IoT service.
It’s true that connectivity allows cars to offer amazing quality-of-life features like remote parking, traffic-aware navigation, and advanced diagnostics. However, if left unaddressed, the cybersecurity risks associated with connected cars might outweigh the benefits.
Between 2016 and 2019, automotive cybersecurity incidents have increased by 605%, with serious ramifications for connected car manufacturers. In 2015, after a pair of researchers remotely took full control of a Jeep Cherokee’s systems, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to look deeper into the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of the vehicle. By hacking a car owner’s key fob, hackers can remotely control and steal connected vehicles. Design flaws like the absence of immobilizer systems in cars from brands like Kia and Hyundai can allow hackers to start car engines without the correct key, which has led to vehicles from these two brands being stolen twice as often as their competitors.
Vulnerabilities in connected cars impact not just car owners but also manufacturers. The internet connectivity in connected cars increases the attack surface of car makers, exposing their data centers and IT infrastructure to attacks.
With millions of connected cars on the roads spread across continents, car manufacturers are much more likely to suffer from production-halting ransomware attacks and data theft. With hacks potentially costing automakers north of US$1 billion, the financial impact of cyber breaches for car manufacturers can be far-reaching and business-ending.
Making matters worse, the automotive industry is estimated to lose over US$500 to cyber attacks over the next few years. IoT vulnerabilities could play a major role in future cyberattacks on carmakers, so securing IoT resources should be a priority for them.
The Quantum Threat Amplifies the Weaknesses of IoT
The quantum threat is imminent, and it has the potential to amplify the weaknesses of IoT technology greatly. Y2Q is nearly here, yet we haven’t figured out how to protect IoT resources against even classic hacker attacks.
Considering the main vulnerabilities of IoT, we believe that a good start to securing IoT from both classical and quantum threats is standardizing their security. A unified suite of cybersecurity tools across all your IoT resources enables seamless threat monitoring and security updates. The choice of a specific quantum-secure cybersecurity platform comes next.
Quantropi’s QiSpace™ platform offers “TrUE” Quantum Security, making the transition to next-gen IoT security seamless and cost effective. Fast, lightweight, crypto-agile, and hyper-resource efficient, it defends devices and traffic at all three stages of secure digital communication – key generation, communication authentication, and encryption at rest and in transit. Learn more today.