By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine
IoT cybersecurity is critical for safety and success in five key industries today. Manufacturing, supply chain, healthcare, energy and transportation businesses face higher than average risk of IoT-related security vulnerabilities. It is crucial for businesses in these industries to be aware of the risks that make IoT cybersecurity paramount today.
The manufacturing industry is one of the top adopters of IoT technology today. Smart, connected sensors are perfect for the data collection manufacturers rely on for insights into their operations. IoT devices are especially important in the midst of Industry 4.0, where many manufacturers are adopting new technologies like robotics and AI.
IoT cybersecurity is crucial for safety and performance. Manufacturing devices are at high risk of being targeted by botnet attacks in particular. A manufacturing facility can be a highly appealing target for a botnet attack due to the high concentration of exploitable devices all in one place. The infamous Mirai botnet attack in 2016 specifically targeted IoT devices due to their commonly weak default security protocols.
Manufacturers often use dozens or even hundreds of IoT devices in a single facility. These devices are responsible for providing critical operations data and may even feed into safety mechanisms, such as emergency stop sensors on robots.
So, if an IoT device was compromised, it could threaten hundreds of other devices and potentially compromise employee safety. Isolating IoT devices through techniques like network segmentation can help minimize the potential impact of a cyber attack. However, effective preventative security measures are still vital.
2. Supply Chain and Logistics
Similarly to manufacturing, supply chain and logistics businesses are increasingly relying on IoT devices in their everyday operations. IoT devices are helping supply chain businesses manage and monitor their inventory more efficiently. Warehouse robots also benefit from the connectivity and visibility IoT devices provide. In logistics, trucking companies are increasingly using IoT to monitor vehicle and driver performance, improving safety and efficiency.
IoT cybersecurity is crucial for ensuring supply chain businesses can keep up with high demand and tight deadlines. Weak security can cause safety risks, downtime and equipment failure. In fact, the average cost of a data breach is $3.75 million for businesses in the transportation industry, such as trucking companies and last-mile delivery providers.
The high level of connectivity between supply chain businesses makes it crucial for everyone to ensure they have strong IoT cybersecurity protocols. If a supplier’s network goes down because their IoT devices were compromised, it has a ripple effect that impacts every other organization in the supply chain, even down to individual consumers.
Few industries are more important to consumers than healthcare. As technology plays an increasingly important role in medicine, IoT cybersecurity is becoming critical for patient safety. A compromised healthcare IoT device can directly and immediately impact the health and safety of real people. The urgency and severity of this risk heighten the need for a high level of security caution and preparedness.
Healthcare organizations are at heightened risk of being targeted by hackers, as well. The number of healthcare organizations hit by ransomware attacks nearly doubled from 34% in 2020 to 66% in 2021. Hackers know that hospitals and care providers can’t afford downtime or safety risks, so they are more likely to pay a ransom if their systems are compromised. The same thought process also applies to patients.
The vulnerabilities of IoT devices are augmented by the heightened risk factors of the healthcare industry. For instance, in 2017, the FDA discovered that implantable IoT cardiac devices provided by St. Jude Medical could be hacked using the devices’ remote transmitters. Healthcare device developers need to prioritize device-based security protocols to ensure that every individual IoT medical device is defended against unauthorized access.
4. Energy and Utilities
The energy and utilities industries are undergoing significant innovation today with the growing adoption of renewable energy. New technologies are making their way into the industry at the same time, including IoT. Critical infrastructure like electrical plants and water treatment facilities are prime targets for hackers, who know this infrastructure can’t afford to go offline for long.
The most infamous utility industry cyber attack in recent years is the Colonial Pipeline attack. In 2017, the pipeline system’s network was taken offline by hackers who exploited weak and outdated security measures. The Colonial Pipeline Company ultimately lost millions of dollars in ransomware payments in addition to the revenue lost during extensive downtime.
It is clear that energy and utility businesses need to take security seriously today. IoT cybersecurity is vital for ensuring that sensors crucial for monitoring and operations don’t create security weaknesses. Millions of people rely on the services provided by energy and utility companies every day. This puts these businesses at higher risk of cyber attacks and increases the need for cyber resilience.
The transportation industry is adopting IoT across a wide range of applications and markets. For example, more and more consumer vehicles are getting features like built-in GPS trackers and smart sensors. Tesla’s electric vehicles use IoT for everything from software updates to self-driving capabilities. These features are great to have, but they can pose serious IoT cybersecurity risks.
Similar to the healthcare industry, transportation cybersecurity vulnerabilities can directly and immediately impact people’s safety. This increases the need for highly resilient cybersecurity as well as the risk that a transportation service or business will be targeted by hackers. The repercussions of a compromised IoT device in the transportation industry can be severe, including serious physical harm to drivers or passengers.
Any time a connected device is integrated into a vehicle, the vehicle itself becomes part of the Internet of Things. This means that even a small weakness can compromise an entire vehicle’s systems. For example, in 2022, a teen hacker used a third-party app to hack into Tesla vehicles and control things like lock mechanisms and speakers. Similar incidents have been reported over the years of hackers hijacking vehicles and taking control of brakes and steering systems.
Strengthening IoT Cybersecurity
IoT cybersecurity is important for all users and businesses today, but it is particularly crucial in a few industries. Manufacturing, supply chain, healthcare, energy and transportation businesses are at heightened risk of IoT-related cyber vulnerabilities.
People and businesses rely on these industries for safety and everyday operations, expanding the impact of a data breach or network failure. Businesses in these high-risk industries need to prioritize IoT cybersecurity on every device and on a network-wide basis.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. A regular contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine, she has over four years of experience writing articles in the industrial sector.