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IoT Access Control: Strengthening Cybersecurity


IoT devices are being deployed around the world in record numbers. There will be 41.6 billion connected devices, generating 79.4 zetabytes of data by 2025, according to IDC estimates. Due to this growth, the need for IoT access control arises.

With many of these devices running critical infrastructure components or collecting, accessing and transferring sensitive business or personal information, IoT authentication and access control have become even more critical.

IoT device authentication is key to ensuring that connected devices are trusted as they are. Thus, access control can police which resources can be accessed and used and in what context to minimize the risk of unauthorized actions.

The challenges of IoT access control

When it comes to deploying IoT authentication and access control mechanisms, there are many aspects that complicate the task. This is because most devices have limited processing power, storage, bandwidth and energy.

Most legacy authentication and authorization techniques are too complex to run on IoT devices with limited resources due to the communication overhead of common authentication protocols.

Another issue is that devices are sometimes deployed in areas where it may be impossible or impractical to provide physical security.

There is also an incredibly wide range of hardware and software stacks in use to consider. This leads to a multitude of devices communicating through various standards and protocols – unlike more traditional computing environments.

For example, the researchers identified at least 84 different authentication mechanisms in IoT environments that were proposed or put into production in 2019.

The lack of IoT-specific access control standards and models makes the task of keeping devices and networks secure more complex.

Approaches to improve IoT access control

Any centralized access management model that tries to manage thousands of IoT devices deployed everywhere will have its limitations, no one approach will be suitable for all scenarios.

Vendors looking to develop decentralized IoT access control services are examining how blockchain technology can eliminate problems caused by centralized systems.

Network administrators and security teams should stay abreast of the latest developments, as they could lead to truly scalable service offerings in the near future.

Until then, each IoT device must have a unique identity that can be authenticated when the device tries to connect to a gateway or central network.

Some devices are identified only based on their IP or MAC (media access control) address, while others may have certificates installed.

But a far superior way to identify any type of device is through machine learning.

For this, static features can be used, as well as behavioral analytics such as API, service requests and database to better ensure device identity.

The combined use of identity and behavior for authentication also provides the ability to constantly adapt access control decisions based on context – even for devices with limited resources.

This attribute-based IoT access control model evaluates access requests against a range of attributes that classify the device, resource, action and context. It also provides more dynamic access control capabilities.

Approval of actions and requests can be updated in real time, based on changes in contextual attributes.

However, it requires administrators to choose and define a set of attributes and variables to build a comprehensive set of access rules and policies.

How IoT access control strengthens a security strategy

Strong IoT access control and authentication technology can help prevent attacks. But it is only one important aspect of a larger, integrated security strategy that can detect and respond to suspicious IoT-based events.

For any authentication and access control strategy to work, IoT devices must be visible. Thus, critical device inventory and lifecycle management procedures need to be established, as well as the ability to scan IoT devices in real time.

Once an IoT device is successfully identified and authenticated, it must be assigned to a restricted network segment. There, it will be isolated from the main production network, which has security and monitoring controls specifically configured to protect against IoT threats and potential attack vectors.

This way, if a specific device is flagged as compromised, the exposed surface area is limited and lateral movement is kept under control.

These measures put administrators in a position where they can identify and isolate compromised nodes, as well as update devices with security patches and fixes.

IoT access control is changing its use and how IT security needs to operate. Security vendors are still trying to get up to speed with the size and complexity of IoT environments.

Ideally, the next generation of service offerings will better meet the demands of IoT identity and access management.

About Eval

Eval has been developing projects in the financial, health, education, and industry segments for over 18 years. Since 2004, we have offered solutions for Authentication, Electronic and Digital Signature, and Data Protection. Currently, we are present in the main Brazilian banks, health institutions, schools and universities, and different industries.

With market recognized value, Eval’s solutions and services meet the highest regulatory standards for public and private organizations, such as SBIS, ITI, PCI DSS, and LGPD. In practice, we promote information security and compliance, increase companies’ operational efficiency, and reduce costs.

Innovate now, lead always: get to know Eval’s solutions and services and take your company to the next level.

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