IoT Device Security: Threats and Defences

11 October 2022
IoT Device Security: Threats and Defences

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) comes an increase in cybersecurity problems. As more devices are connected to the internet, the potential threat for cyberattacks grows. To protect IoT devices from these attacks, security must be implemented at all levels, from the device itself to the cloud infrastructure.

For companies developing new and improved IoT devices, the escalating cybersecurity problems spell the need to examine the potential cyber risks associated with their products and the urgency to adopt new features to counter them. Failing to do so can be detrimental to business growth because consumers are wary and shun devices that may compromise their personal data.


IoT Security Concerns

IoT devices are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Whether they belong to businesses that are expanding their operations or consumers who can't seem to get enough of the digital world, nearly everyone is susceptible to cybersecurity problems.

There are three categories of cyberattacks that everyone should be mindful of:

When DfA is executed correctly, manufacturers can reap many benefits such as:


1. Fake Cloud Services and Eavesdropping/strong>

Eavesdropping and fake services pose a serious cybersecurity problem for businesses and individuals alike. In 2017, a major vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol was discovered that allowed attackers to listen in on Internet traffic. This meant that anything sent over the Internet could be intercepted by anyone. While this vulnerability has since been patched, there are still many other ways for attackers to eavesdrop on Internet traffic. One common method is to set up fake Wi-Fi networks that look identical to legitimate ones. When users connect to these networks, their traffic can be hijacked by the attacker. Another way attackers can eavesdrop on Internet traffic is by setting up fake cloud services. These services appear to be legitimate, but they are operated by the attacker. When users send their data to these fake services, the attacker can read it.


2. Counterfeit Devices

The cyber risk posed by counterfeit devices is just as bad as fake cloud services. Counterfeit devices are unauthorised replicas of the real product and are produced to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product. A client may purchase a counterfeit device thinking it is the real thing, when in fact, it has been tampered with. Once the victim has and uses the device, the attackers can do whatever they want. They could remotely install malware that allows them to spy on the user, launch attacks against other devices on the network, and/or steal sensitive data.


3. Code and Data Alteration

Altering code or data is another serious security concern. This type of attack can be used to change the behaviour of an IoT device or system, which could have devastating consequences. For example, once an attacker gains access to the device, they can insert and alter codes using malware, which impedes the device's function and compromises the user's data. This can have damaging consequences to an organisation's operations and reputation, not to mention the financial losses that could result, should the attack be conducted on a big scale.

The data alteration threat exists at the same level as code alteration threats. With data alteration, storage devices like memory and microcontroller units (MCU) can have the data extracted or altered. This type of attack can also be used for espionage or data theft, as well as for launching attacks against other devices on the network.


Countermeasures for IoT Security Breaches

Protecting IoT devices from security breaches has been increasingly challenging for electronics device manufacturers and companies that are actively adopting IoT technologies to launch their businesses. Here are six countermeasures that they must consider when securing their IoT devices.


1. Encrypting Data

The purpose of data encryption is to protect digital data confidentiality. It helps protect private information in such a way that even if an unauthorised entity gains access to it, it will not be able to read it. The two most common data encryption methods are symmetric and asymmetric encryption. Symmetric encryption uses a single key that needs to be shared among the people who need to receive the message, while asymmetric encryption uses a pair of public and private keys to encrypt and decrypt messages when communicating.


2. Improving Encryption Key Management

Managing data encryption keys is an essential part of any data encryption strategy because, without the keys, cybercriminals can't decipher the encrypted data. Effective key management requires separating keys from data for increased security.


3. Implementing MCU Access Protection

A MCU is a dynamic integrated circuit designed to govern a specific operation in an embedded system. It is used in some of the most common appliances such as mobile devices and home security systems. The problem with such an intelligent internet-connected unit lies in the fact that it is easy to hack. To protect against malicious extraction of sensitive information stored within a MCU, implementing the functionality known as readback or readout protection is a must. These functions restrict the reading of internal storage using cybersecurity measures such as encryption, firewalls, and password authentication.


4. Using MCUs that Support Secure Boot

MCUs that are designed to support Secure Boot ensures only secure software can run on them. This means every firmware update must be authenticated by the MCU chip and only secured firmware is allowed to run. If the code is intercepted and modified in transit, the MCU will not authenticate it and will prevent it from running, thus protecting the device from unauthorised code execution.


5. Implementing Secure Firmware Updates

Secure firmware updates are essential for keeping IoT devices up to date with the latest security patches. These updates need to be authenticated and signed with a digital signature before they can be installed on the device. This helps to ensure that only authorised firmware can be installed on the device and prevents attackers from installing malicious code on the device.


6. Enabling Mutual Authentication

Mutual authentication, also known as two-way authentication, is a process in which two parties must authenticate each other before the server will grant data exchanges. Especially in device-to-device communications, like those between IoT devices, mutual authentication is commonly used as a cybersecurity measure to prevent unauthorised access.


7. Adopting Updated Cryptographic Protocols

Cryptographic protocols such as Secure Socket Layers (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are introduced to prevent eavesdroppers and hackers from accessing sensitive data via the internet. For IoT devices to keep up with security protocols that are designed to provide industry-standard privacy protection over the Internet, they should be developed to support TLS and its versions from TLS 1.2 onwards.


Build a Secured IoT Device with PCI

PCI is a highly experienced electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider for diverse industries. On top of our competency in hardware design, we also have profound knowledge in providing IoT solutions to ensure every device is developed with highly secured features that are relevant to the ever-evolving digital market. For businesses seeking the services of an EMS service provider with the industry knowledge and skills to manufacture IoT devices, reach out to us for a discussion of your project. Our dedicated customer service team will provide a comprehensive proposal customised to your requirements.



It is more important than ever for organisations to take a proactive approach and secure their IoT devices. However, many organisations are still not taking the necessary steps. This is because they often view security as an afterthought or something that will add complexity and cost to their IoT solutions. However, security should be viewed as an essential part of any IoT solution. By taking the necessary steps to secure their devices, organisations can protect themselves from costly security breaches. Fortunately, businesses need not do this by themselves. By engaging the services of PCI, they can engage the services of a one-stop EMS provider that comes complete with professional product designs and manufacturing support. For businesses looking to turn their IoT ideas into reality, contact PCI for a project discussion now.