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Missteps with IoT security causing corporate loss

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DigiCert’s 2018 State of IoT survey has revealed security as the top concern as IoT takes centre stage, with 91% of companies saying it will be ‘extremely important’ in the next two years.

A new study from DigiCert, Inc. has revealed that enterprises have begun sustaining significant monetary losses stemming from the lack of good practices as they move forward with incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into their business models. In fact, among companies surveyed that are struggling the most with IoT security, 25% reported IoT security-related losses of nearly £257,333 in the last two years.

These findings come amid a ramping up of IoT focus within the typical organisation. 71% of respondents indicated that IoT is extremely important to them currently, while 91% said they anticipate IoT to be extremely important to their respective organisations within two years.

The survey was conducted by ReRez Research in September 2018, with 700 enterprise organisations in the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan from across critical infrastructure industries. 

Top concerns

Security and privacy topped the list of concerns for IoT projects, with 82% of respondents stating they were somewhat to extremely concerned about security challenges.

“Enterprises today fully grasp the reality that the Internet of Things is upon us and will continue to revolutionise the way we live, work and recreate,” said Mike Nelson, vice president of IoT Security at DigiCert.

“Securing IoT devices is still a top priority that many enterprises are struggling to manage; however, integrating security at the beginning, and all the way through IoT implementations, is vital to mitigating rising attacks, which can be expected to continue. Due diligence when it comes to authentication, encryption and integrity of IoT devices and systems can help enterprises reliably and safely embrace IoT.”

Top vs. bottom performers

To give visibility to the specific challenges enterprises are encountering with IoT implementations, respondents were asked a series of questions using a wide variance of terminology. Using standard survey methodology, respondents’ answers were then scored and divided into three tiers:

  • Top-tier: Enterprises experiencing fewer problems and demonstrating a degree of mastery mitigating specific aspects of IoT security.
  • Middle-tier: Enterprises scoring in the middle range in terms of their IoT security results.
  • Bottom-tier: Enterprises experiencing more problems that were much more likely to report difficulties mastering IoT security.
IoT security missteps

Respondents were asked about IoT-related security incidents their organisations experienced within the past two years. The difference between the top- and bottom-tiers was unmistakable.

Companies struggling the most with IoT implementation are much more likely to get hit with IoT-related security incidents. Every single bottom-tier enterprise experienced an IoT-related security incident in that time span, versus just 23% of the top-tier. The bottom-tier was also more likely to report problems in these specific areas:

  • More than 12 times as likely to have experienced IoT-based denial of service attacks
  • More than 12 times as likely to have experienced unauthorised access to IoT devices
  • Nearly 16 times as likely to have experienced IoT-based data breaches
  • Six times as likely to have experienced IoT-based malware or ransomware attacks

These security incidents were not trivial. Among companies surveyed that are struggling the most with IoT security, 25% reported IoT security-related losses of nearly £257,333 in the last two years.

The top five areas for costs incurred within the past two years were:

  • Monetary damages
  • Lost productivity
  • Legal/compliance penalties
  • Lost reputation
  • Stock price

Meanwhile, although the top-tier enterprises experienced some security missteps, an overwhelming majority reported no costs associated with those missteps. Top-tier enterprises attributed their security successes to these practices:

  • Encrypting sensitive data
  • Ensuring integrity of data in transit
  • Scaling security measures
  • Securing over-the-air updates
  • Securing software-based encryption key storage

“When it comes to accelerating implementations of IoT, it’s vital for companies to strike a balance between gaining efficiencies and maintaining security and privacy,” Nelson said.

“This study shows that enterprises that are implementing security best practices have less exposure to the risks and resulting damages from attacks on connected devices. Meanwhile, it appears these IoT security best practices, such as authentication and identity, encryption and integrity, are on the rise and companies are beginning to realise what’s at stake.”


The survey points to five best practices to help companies pursuing IoT realise the same success as the top-tier performing enterprises:

  1. Review risk: Perform penetration testing to assess the risk of connected devices. Evaluate the risk and build a priority list for addressing primary security concerns, such as authentication and encryption. A strong risk assessment will help assure you do not leave any gaps in your connected security landscape.
  2. Encrypt everything: As you evaluate use cases for your connected devices, make sure that all data is encrypted at rest and in transit. Make end-to-end encryption a product requirement to ensure this key security feature is implemented in all of your IoT projects.
  3. Authenticate always: Review all of the connections being made to your device, including devices and users, to ensure authentication schemes only allow trusted connections to your IoT device. Using digital certificates helps to provide seamless authentication with binded identities that are tied to cryptographic protocols.
  4. Instill integrity: Account for the basics of device and data integrity to include secure boot every time the device starts up, secure over the air updates, and the use of code signing to ensure the integrity of any code being run on the device.
  5. Strategise for scale: Make sure that you have a scalable security framework and architecture ready to support your IoT deployments. Plan accordingly and work with third parties that have the scale and focus to help you reach your goals so that you can focus on your company’s core competency.

For more information on the survey, see

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