IoT has become integral to people’s daily lives. From smart home applications to industrial automation, IoT devices are everywhere. However, with this increased connectivity comes an elevated risk of security breaches. That’s where the concept of zero trust comes into play.
The IoT revolution
The UK is no stranger to the IoT revolution. The IoT has gained significant traction with the proliferation of smart cities, connected transportation systems and health care applications.
Smart home adoption is rising in the UK, with IoT devices gaining popularity in British households. The IoT market anticipates a consistent annual growth of 13.42% in revenue.
The adoption of zero trust in IoT security is not limited to a specific industry. Organisations in health care, manufacturing, transportation, and more have recognised its value in protecting sensitive data and ensuring the smooth operation of their IoT ecosystems.
What Is zero trust?
Zero trust is a security model and approach to cybersecurity that challenges the traditional notion of trust in network security. In a zero-trust model, the default assumption is no entity inside or outside the network can be trusted by default.
Instead, trust is continuously evaluated and verified on several factors before granting access to resources or data. This concept is often summarised by the phrase, “Never trust, always verify.”
Fundamental principles of zero trust that are valuable for IoT security include:
- Lease privilege access: Users and devices get the minimum access required to perform their tasks. Access is only granted to specific resources necessary for their role.
- Micro-segmentation: Networks divide into smaller, isolated segments, limiting the lateral movement of threats within the network. This reduces the overall attack surface and minimises the damage a compromised IoT device can cause.
- Continuous monitoring: Real-time monitoring and analysing user and device behaviour are crucial. Any deviations or suspicious activities trigger alerts and potential access restrictions.
- Continuous verification: Every device, user or application must continuously prove their trustworthiness through robust authentication, access control and constant monitoring. Machines are not automatically granted access to critical resources. They must earn it, providing an additional layer of security.
- Identity and access management: Strong authentication and authorisation methods confirm the identity and trustworthiness of users and devices. Multi-factor authentication is often employed.
- Improved regulatory compliance: Zero trust can facilitate compliance with data privacy regulations such as HIPAA, CCPA, FISMA, and similar standards that demand advanced authentication and stringent access control measures.
- Strict access control: Access control policies are strictly enforced and access is dynamically adjusted based on the real-time risk assessment. Every user inside the network are subject to these controls.
- Data encryption: Data in transit and at rest is encrypted to protect it from unauthorised access.
- Leveraging machine learning: Machine learning and artificial intelligence play a pivotal role in zero trust for the IoT. By analysing patterns of behaviours, these technologies can detect anomalies in real time, helping identify potential security threats. This allows for immediate response and mitigation.
Health care organisations leverage zero trust to safeguard patient data. Likewise, financial institutions use it to protect critical economic systems and customer information. It secures industrial IoT devices in manufacturing, while government and defence sectors rely on it to protect classified information. Zero trust’s influence extends to retail, education, transportation and telecommunications, enhancing security and protecting critical infrastructure, customer data, and brand reputation.
The vulnerabilities of IoT devices
IoT devices often have weak passwords manufacturers set, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. Users often encounter the issue of being unable to change the login or not being prompted to. Vulnerabilities in IoT devices can also range from unpatched software to insecure data transmission methods.
As a result, the potential for unauthorised access and data breaches is substantial. One study from Princeton revealed many common smart devices have no authentication features, and allow hackers to interact with third parties and encrypted traffic without the user knowing. Those devices could include smart lightbulbs, health care appliances, TVs, security systems and more.
Implementing zero-trust security
Zero trust is a vital component of securing IoT devices in the UK and worldwide. It provides the necessary framework to ensure trust is earned, not assumed, making it an essential element in protecting IoT devices and data. A tough security architecture is critical to safeguarding a connected future.
Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack. With over 4 years of writing in the technology industry, his expertise includes cybersecurity, automation, and connected devices. For more of his work, follow him on LinkedIn.