IoT devices like smartwatches, AI-powered electrical appliances, voice assistants, and digital locking systems have made our lives much easier.
Today, you can count your steps, ask your assistant to switch on/off electrical appliances, and do not need to carry a key as your fingerprint is good enough to unlock your front door.
According to Statista, the global consumer spending on smart home systems will reach $170 billion. But, like technology, the bad guys also have advanced. Though these devices promise to change the entire global technology landscape, experts are worried about their security aspect.
Experts suggest that if you buy these devices, ensure they are protected by an SSL/TLS certificate.
So, how does an SSL help protect these IoT devices? Well, let’s talk about an IoT SSL first.
What is an IoT SSL certificate, and how does it work?
All IoT devices are synchronized with a web application through an API key that runs them. There is constant data transmission between the device and the web application.
The data can be as sensitive as a person’s heart rate, location, weight, height, and health chart. If the communication between the two is in decrypted format, a hacker can easily see and intercept sensitive user data.
Therefore, an SSL certificate is used to protect data that encrypts the communication and passes it over an HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure network.
A hacker will only see data in a scrambled form that is impossible to decode. In other words, they won’t be able to read the captured information.
Apart from encryption, an IoT SSL also provides user authentication for data access. SSL ensures that only a credible user is allowed to access the application.
SSL verifies user identity through the encryption-decryption technique. SSL contains a public key that encrypts all data packets. The private key can only decode these packets at the user’s end. A mismatch of keys will not allow the session to start.
SSL facilitates two types of encryptions: asymmetric encryption and symmetric encryption. The use of security keys for the encryption-decryption process varies in both types. For example, in asymmetric, the security keys (public, private, and sessions) are different, while in symmetric, the security keys are the same.
Therefore, IoT SSL certificate is much for data protection. They come in several types like single domain SSL, multi-domain SSL, wildcard SSL, etc.
Let us now talk about some of the benefits of an IoT SSL certificate.
Benefits of an IoT SSL certificate
SSL promotes data integrity
SSL does not allow users to enter the web application without verifying their identity. This ensures that no unsolicited user can access your data.
But hackers can also use MITM attacks or impersonate themselves as one of your employees to enter the application and steal vital user data.
To counter that, you can integrate a multi-factor authentication where an SSL sends a private key to the user’s device for data decryption.
SSL makes data undecipherable
Data security is essential to safeguard user interests. Therefore, an SSL certificate protects it by encrypting data communication.
Even if a hacker wants to intercept data, all they get their hands on is a set of undecipherable gibberish codes.
Hackers can easily steal sensitive data without an IoT SSL and sell it on the dark web. They can also give monetary blows to users by stealing their debit/credit and bank details.
Thus, SSL ensures that data cannot be seen as plain running text.
SSL verifies the device identity
Since many IoT devices connect to a web application, it is important to ensure that each one of them is trustworthy.
The lack of device authentication can lead to data theft and malware injection. Hackers can impersonate your device and obtain your personal data. Therefore, an SSL is installed to keep track of all the devices trying to connect to the web application. SSL certificate includes main certificate, root certificate, and intermediate certificate.
SSL allows only credible devices to connect to the main server through user identity verification.
Since SSL can provides better scalability to IoT applications to easily figure out the device’s credibility. The application does not need any security tools, passwords, or tokens for the authentication process.
As an app owner, you can easily change or remove the SSL. Every SSL comes with a certificate management dashboard that can be used to change/add a certificate.
SSL certificate is not a costly affair now. For example, if you have multiple web applications to protect, then you do not have to buy and install a separate certificate for each application. You can simply choose a multi-domain SSL. Moreover, if you have subdomains attached to your primary domain then you can get low priced wildcard SSL certificate starting from Comodo Wildcard SSL, RapidSSL wildcard etc., to secure all of them under a single SSL dashboard.
Some experts also talk about the importance of VPN over SSL certificates. That is true to a point, but there is a flaw.
VPN Vs. SSL
You must have used a Virtual Private Network to browse a site securely. A VPN is capable of hiding your browsing data through encryption.
Hackers may not be able to see what is getting transferred on the Internet. Also, VPN creates a fake IP address distant from your geographic location so that nobody can figure out who you are and from where you are surfing the Internet.
It all sounds hunky-dory, isn’t it? Well, there is a huge flaw here. VPN does not authenticate the website that you are surfing. Therefore, if you are surfing an unsolicited website through a VPN and it downloads a malicious file, you are doomed.
Therefore, experts advise using VPN only for those websites that are SSL encrypted. For app owners, VPN and SSL can work in sync to provide robust protection.
Security challenges in IoT Devices
Claims Vs. Realities
Though many companies claim they are using robust security measures to keep their IoT web applications and devices secure, we can see a surge in breaches. Last year between January and June, there were about 1.51 billion IoT data breaches, according to Kaspersky.
The lifespan of an IoT device is generally a decade long. They are specialized devices requiring specialized security measures. Traditional measures may not be of great value. Therefore, owners have to build specialized security.
Weak and exploitative components
IoT devices are a work-in-progress. Manufacturers and developers are still looking for new ways to develop bug-free software and hardware components. Therefore, hackers get a plethora of loopholes and backdoor vulnerabilities to exploit.
So, what are the security solutions for IoT devices? Where should they focus?
Well, device manufacturers must integrate embedded firewalls, robust authentication, data encryption, secure communication, secure boot, and security that can be managed and monitored.
IoT devices are making life easier for the global population. Today, you can ask a voice assistant to switch on the fan or lock the door.
Thanks to these devices, tracking your health and staying on schedule has become easier.
These devices can set the alarm for you, wake you up, send a text or place a call. However, they have their security challenges acting as roadblocks in their innovation journey.
The least application owners can do is install security protocols like SSL certificates to protect their user data from cybercriminals.