5 Key Steps to Secure IOT Product Development

By Kateryna Boiko, Marketing Manager, Mobilunity

A new concept that has taken the world by storm is the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT). IoT refers to systems designed to transfer data over a network of traditionally non-internet-connected devices without the interaction between humans or between humans and computers. These devices are embedded with technology, can communicate via the internet and can be controlled remotely. IoT has simplified a large range of tasks, including business processes, home, and business automation by enabling devices to communicate data to humans and other devices. Though IoT has many benefits, there is a range of pitfalls that need to be addressed. The most concerning obstacle are the IoT security risk. With the increase in the use of data through IoT devices, the probability of security breaches and privacy issues rises. Therefore, it is important to iron out any security issues during the first IoT product development stages.

The Categorization of IoT Device Types

IoT devices are usually used to simplify processes in the home, in the industrial sector and business world. Therefore, devices are usually categorized into three groups: industrial, enterprise and consumer.

Consumer devices

These days many modern homes are designed with IoT devices already installed. These devices are referred to as consumer devices. IoT consumer devices are specifically used for home automation and can include smart appliances, smart TVs, smart lighting and smart security systems. In homes, these types of devices are all excellent additions to automate certain tasks. Not only does it simplify life, but it also saves time. While smart devices in and around the home have multiple benefits, security is a major concern. If these systems are designed with poor security measures anyone can access or hack these systems and retrieve highly personal data.

Enterprise devices

In the business world, IoT devices and systems offer even more benefits than in the home. Devices used in businesses can include automation devices that can streamline day-to-day tasks. These can include smart screens, security systems, alarm clocks, smart lights, and vending machines, as well as smart electronic devices. In a business environment, these types of devices can not only save a lot of valuable time but can also save money in the long run. It is important to note, however, that IoT systems used in business are especially vulnerable to data hacking and other privacy issues that may, in turn, lead to major loss of information and profits. Difficulties in updating systems and lack of cybersecurity knowledge are the major obstacles observed while using IoT in businesses.

Industrial devices

In the industrial sector, many establishments are already making use of complex IoT systems. These systems can speed up operating processes by providing information for when parts on machines need to be replaced, predicting downtime, productivity and profits, diagnosing issues. In the industrial sector, IoT systems are excellent additions to standardized processes in order to increase productivity, however, there are a few stumbling blocks that need to be kept in mind. These include loss of jobs and total reliance on technology.

5 Key Steps in IoT Product Security Development 

There have been numerous debates on the internet about the lack of security in IoT. Since the development of IoT, security risks have been a major concern and many experts in the field are working on solutions to this issue.

Security in IoT should start at the development phase, including the IoT development tools used. Now that most security concerns have been identified, developers have to implement solutions to ensure IoT devices are completely secure and that consumers’ data is protected.

Here are five steps IoT developers should keep in mind when developing systems and devices:

  • Design secure network architecture

Ensuring watertight security right from the development stage of IoT product design will guarantee secure processes for end-users. IoT developers, therefore, need to make sure that the basic framework or network architecture is reliable, secure and can accommodate the traffic they carry. The first step at this stage is to get physical devices in the network to securely connect by means of sensors that carry information safely to IoT gateways.

Robust network architecture sets the basis on which an IoT system will function. Once the basic structure is designed, it should also be evaluated according to specific evaluation methodologies to iron out any issues before the next step in the development process. Securing this right from the beginning of the development process will avoid complex Internet of Things security issues that are difficult to solve once an IoT system operates.

  • Authentication is needed

Authentication is the process of verifying users’ identities. This process is foundational and one of the main factors that need to be in place with IoT systems and devices. Strong authentication requires that each IoT device in a system has a unique identity (ID) that can be verified when the device wants to connect to, for example, a central server. With this unique ID in place, any entity wanting to use a system has to prove their identity first. With this ID, system administrators can also manage devices securely and prevent them from performing unsecure actions.

If developers do not add strong authentication to IoT devices, anyone can use or hack a system that can lead to major security breaches.

Encrypt all data

Encryption is a vital step in security when IoT application platforms are developed. Encryption involves the process of taking information that humans communicate via an IoT system, mixing it up through complex formulas and producing a special key to unlock the data. Only those users that have the special key can unlock information or data. Currently, there are a variety of IoT encryption standards with their own encryption methods and algorithms, that developers can use depending on the product and user needs. When it comes to encryption, developers have to comply with certain standards to protect end-users. Some of the most widespread encryption methods include the Triple Data Encryption Standard (DES) and Twofish Encryption Algorithm.

Any IoT system that makes use of the internet to transmit data needs to be encrypted to avoid hacking of intelligence data. Therefore, IoT devices, no matter how small, must be designed with their own solid encryption.

  1. Update and manage open-source software

As with so many other technologies used these days, open-source software is included in IoT devices. Open-source software’s source code is accessible and can be distributed to anyone and for any purpose. With the rise of IoT development, a wide range of open-source libraries and platforms has been created for this purpose. Open-source software is preferred when it comes to IoT product development because the developer has more control over it and can modify it to match specific development needs. However, if this software is left unmanaged, anyone can exploit security vulnerabilities through weak spots. It is, therefore, incredibly important to make sure all open-source software used in IoT devices is always updated and carefully managed. If this step is left incomplete, the Internet of Things hacking becomes a big possibility.

  1. Add extra layers of security

When it comes to data, the IoT developer community will agree that no amount of security layers is ever enough; the more layers you add, the more secure your IoT system will be. These layers will add extra protection when top layers such as authentication and data encryption are cracked. Additional security layers should include a rock-solid interface or API security to allow only authorized devices and users to access devices, shielded storage and backups for data in a secure cloud environment, and device lifecycle management which includes automatic devices monitoring and security layer updates.

Security Checklist for Engineers to Follow During the IoT Development Process

With IoT application development, it is incredibly important to follow a checklist to ensure all the boxes are ticked.

  • Identify security issues
  • Design secure network architecture
  • Add authentication
  • Encrypt of all data
  • Update and manage open-source data
  • Add extra layers of security
  • Troubleshoot and fix all Internet of Things security issues in the first design steps
  • Test, upgrade and update
  • Have a recovery plan

The Bottom Line

As the IoT industry grows, the amount of data used with these systems also expands. Therefore, it is vital to have top-security in place, from the product design stage, to guarantee absolute privacy and security. No longer can devices and systems be designed without following a comprehensive security checklist. IoT product developers needs to identify security issues before the development process starts, design secure network frameworks, ensure multiple watertight layers of security, including authentication and encryption, troubleshoot, and update IoT products often. Only by ticking all the security boxes IoT products can be used with confidence. Internet of Things security is a major concern, but luckily, with the right steps in place, it can be solved and can be a major asset to IT business owners.

About the Author

Kateryna Boiko is a Marketing Manager at Mobilunity, Provider of Dedicated Development Teams with 9 years of hands-on experience in digital marketing. Kateryna managed to work with diverse industries and markets and now is keen on sharing unique cases with the world and coach on topics relevant to Web Analytics and Search Engine Optimization. Kateryna can be reached online at pr@mobilunity.com and at our company website http://www.mobilunity.com/

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