Apptimate | Security recommendations for IoT by BITAG
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Security recommendations for IoT by BITAG

Security recommendations for IoT by BITAG

This is an extract of the excellent BITAG report “Internet of Things (IoT) Security and Privacy Recommendations”, published courtesy of BITAG, Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group.

 

We highly recommend downloading and reading this report. And, even more importantly, to implement these recommendations, where the Apptimate platform can be a valuable part of your developer toolkit.

 

The full report can be found here.

BITAG believes the recommendations outlined in this report may help to dramatically improve the security and privacy of IoT devices and minimize the costs associated with collateral damage. In addition, unless the IoT device sector—the sector of the industry that manufactures and distributes these devices—improves device security and privacy, consumer backlash may impede the growth of the IoT marketplace and ultimately limit the promise that IoT holds.

BITAG recommended several security standards for IoT devices, including timely, automated software updates and password protection. The organization also said there should be more testing of customization options and an implementation of encryption best practices. BITAG also highly recommended allowing IoT devices to function if internet connectivity or the cloud fails, especially in the case of home alarm systems.

In the past few years, many devices now being connected to the Internet are not only personal computers but also a variety of devices embedded with Internet connectivity and functions. This class of devices has generally been described as the Internet of Things (IoT) and has brought with it new security and privacy risks.

Although consumers face general security and privacy threats as a result of any Internet-connected device, the nature of consumer IoT is unique because it can involve non-technical or uninterested consumers; challenging device discovery and inventory on consumer home networks as the number and variety of devices proliferate; negative effects on the Internet access service of both the consumer and others that run on shared network links; and effects on other Internet services when these devices are compromised by malware and become a platform for unwanted data traffic—such as spam and denial of service attacks—which can interfere with the provision of these other services. Importantly, the number and diversity of consumer IoT devices is growing rapidly, and these devices often function autonomously, without human intervention.

Several recent incidents have demonstrated that some devices do not abide by rudimentary privacy and security best practices. In some cases, devices have been compromised and allowed unauthorized users to perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, perform surveillance and monitoring, gain unauthorized access or control, induce device or system failures, and disturb or harass authorized users or device owners.

Potential issues contributing to the lack of privacy and security best practices include: lack of IoT supply chain experience with security and privacy, lack of incentives to develop and deploy updates after the initial sale, lack of secure overthe-network software updates, devices with malware inserted during the manufacturing process, and more.

Recommendations

IoT Devices Should Use Best Current Software Practices

IoT Devices Should Ship with Reasonably Current Software

BITAG recommends that IoT devices should ship to customers or retail outlets with reasonably current software that does not contain severe, known vulnerabilities.

 

IoT Devices Should Have a Mechanism for Automated, Secure Software Updates

Software bugs should be minimized, but they are inevitable. Thus, it is critical for an IoT device to have a mechanism for automatic, secure software updates.  BITAG recommends that manufacturers of IoT devices or IoT service providers should therefore design their devices and systems based on the assumption that new bugs and vulnerabilities will be discovered over time. They should design systems and processes to ensure the automatic update of IoT device software, without requiring or expecting any type of user action or even user opt-in.

 

IoT Devices Should Use Strong Authentication by Default

BITAG recommends that IoT devices be secured by default (e.g. password protected) and not use common or easily guessable user names and passwords (e.g., “admin”, “password”).

 

IoT Device Configurations Should Be Tested and Hardened

Some IoT devices allow a user to customize the behavior of the device. BITAG recommends that manufacturers test the security of each device with a range of possible configurations, as opposed to simply the default configuration.

IoT Devices Should Follow Security & Cryptography Best Practices

Manufacturers should take care to avoid encryption methods, protocols, and key sizes with known weaknesses. Additional encryption best practices include:

  • Encrypt Configuration (Command & Control) Communications By Default
  • Secure Communications To and From IoT Controllers
  • Encrypt Local Storage of Sensitive Data
  • Authenticate Communications, Software Changes, and Requests for Data
  • Use Unique Credentials for Each Device
  • Use Credentials That Can Be Updated
  • Close Unnecessary Ports and Disable Unnecessary Services
  • Use Libraries That Are Actively Maintained and Supported

IoT Devices Should Communicate Securely

IoT Devices Should Be Restrictive Rather Than Permissive in Communicating

When possible, devices should not be reachable via inbound connections by default. IoT devices should not rely on the network firewall alone to restrict communication, as some communication between devices within the home may not traverse the firewall.

 

IoT Devices Should Continue to Function if Internet Connectivity is Disrupted

BITAG recommends that an IoT device should be able to perform its primary function or functions (e.g., a light switch or a thermostat should continue to function with manual controls), even if it is not connected to the Internet because Internet connectivity may be disrupted due to causes ranging from accidental misconfiguration to intentional attack. IoT devices that have implications for user safety should continue to function under disconnected operation to protect the safety of consumers.

 

IoT Devices Should Continue to Function If the Cloud Back-End Fails

Many services that depend on or use a cloud back-end can continue to function, even if in a degraded or partially functional state, when connectivity to the cloud back-end is interrupted or the service itself fails.

IoT Devices Should Be Maintained Securely

Manufacturers should support an IoT device throughout the course of its lifespan, from design to the time when a device is retired, including transparency about the timespan over which they plan to provide continued support for a device, and what the consumer should expect from the device’s function at the end of the device’s lifespan.

More detailed recommendations can be found in the report here.