Published on November 16, 2023, 5:14 pm

A forward-thinking zero trust strategy is essential for effectively and securely managing the ever-expanding landscape of Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) devices. With the global number of connected IoT devices projected to exceed 29 billion by 2027, it’s paramount that organizations address the security risks associated with this connectivity.

One of the main vulnerabilities in IoT deployments is weak authentication and authorization practices. Inadequate password protection, a lack of multi-factor authentication (MFA), and insufficient access controls create opportunities for malicious actors to infiltrate networks and devices. Organizations must prioritize strong authentication measures to prevent unauthorized access.

Another major concern is the lack of visibility into devices and connections. With countless devices connecting to corporate networks, blind spots and gaps in visibility become significant security weaknesses. Without comprehensive knowledge of connected devices, organizations are unable to monitor their activities or detect potential threats effectively.

Excessive implicit trust in IoT devices poses another vulnerability, especially when it comes to shadow IoT devices that operate outside corporate security policies. Allowing unsanctioned devices access to networks creates additional entry points for potential threats, putting critical systems and data at risk.

Regularly updating and patching IoT devices is also crucial. Failure to do so leaves these devices vulnerable to known exploits that cybercriminals commonly target. By keeping up with patches, organizations can protect against these attacks and ensure their IoT network remains secure.

Ignoring encrypted traffic is another mistake that can compromise IoT security. While encryption is a common security measure, it can also be used by cybercriminals to hide threats. Failing to inspect encrypted traffic means missing the opportunity to detect and prevent attacks.

The consequences of these vulnerabilities are clear: attackers can exploit them as easy entry points into corporate networks before moving laterally and gaining access to other connected devices, servers, or sensitive data. This exploitation often results in the creation of botnets – networks of compromised devices controlled remotely by threat actors. These botnets are then weaponized to carry out more extensive and impactful cyberattacks, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

In recent years, the number of IoT malware attacks has surged, with notable botnets like Mirai and Gafgyt contributing to this increase. The manufacturing sector, in particular, faces a higher volume of IoT malware attacks compared to other industries. This trend highlights the need for all organizations to evolve their cybersecurity measures and take proactive steps to address the evolving IoT/OT threat landscape.

To effectively protect against IoT/OT threats, organizations must embrace a modern zero trust approach. Traditional security approaches and tools are no longer sufficient for managing the scale and complexity of IoT and OT devices. Solutions like Zscaler’s Zero Trust Exchange platform offer a holistic approach by verifying identity, applying access controls, and enforcing policies before establishing secure connections.

By adopting best practices such as multi-factor authentication, implementing IoT security frameworks, providing employee training, and leveraging advanced security solutions, organizations can establish an effective security strategy that mitigates the risks associated with IoT/OT threats.

While IoT and OT adoption bring numerous advantages for businesses, including enhanced efficiency, data-driven insights, reduced costs, and faster innovation, it is crucial to prioritize cybersecurity. A forward-thinking approach to security is necessary to ensure the safe management of IoT and OT devices at scale. With the right solution in place, organizations can confidently navigate the evolving threat landscape while capitalizing on the benefits that IoT and OT offer. To learn more about securing your organization against IoT and OT attacks, download the Zscaler ThreatLabz 2023 Enterprise IoT and OT Threat Report.


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