Internet of Threats: Common IoT Device Vulnerabilities and How to Protect Them


The Internet of Things (IoT), i.e. the network of various devices connected to a local network or the Internet, is increasing exponentially. Business Insider projects that by 2027, there will be as many as 41 billion IoT devices, up from 8 billion in 2019. The IoT device vulnerabilities are growing fast, too.

This vast network of devices and the large volume of data it produces provides businesses with opportunities to create new value and generate new profits. But it also comes with a catch – due to its large attack surface, the IoT is particularly susceptible to network attacks and can be hijacked, breached, spoofed, and much more. 

Over the last decade, IoT devices have repeatedly been used in prominent cyber attacks in which thousands of devices, called botnets, become weaponized and aimed at a website or online service, leading to server crashes and outages. This is only one of several possible scenarios of how IoT devices can also constitute a security threat.  

This begs the question – how serious is the threat posed by IoT device vulnerabilities, and what can you do to secure them and protect yourself from attacks? 

The IoT is everywhere 

The IoT is largely invisible to the naked eye. However, at this stage of its development, it is already everywhere. Any device, be it consumer or industry-level (Industrial IoT – IIoT), that has built-in sensors and is connected to a local network or the Internet is effectively part of the IoT.  


One thing that distinguishes the IoT is the fact that it functions largely without the need for human input. Device sensors collect data, and communicate it back to a centralized source that processes and analyzes it, usually with the help of AI. This is eventually used to come up with ways of improving operations or creating entirely new products, services, or processes but a large part of the process is automated. 

Since it largely runs without human interference or input – that is to say, without constant oversight – the IoT presents a convenient and powerful target to parties who wish to use it for their own purposes. These can be attackers who want to hijack devices and use them as a weapon but also attackers who wish to disrupt operations or steal data.  

Such a disruption is no small thing. From hospitals and power plants to factories, tampering with IoT operations could create interferences that jeopardize human life and health and lead to significant financial losses. This potential for interference has led to the coining of the phrase “the Internet of Threats”. So how hackable is the IoT? 

How vulnerable is the IoT? 

IoT devices are vulnerable in a number of ways. On a basic level, many devices are inherently vulnerable due to the limits imposed on their computational capacity. Ordinary or low-end IoT devices are usually also low-power which does not allow strong in-built protection against manipulation. In other words, already at the outset, there is a significant number of IoT device vulnerabilities. 

Other IoT device vulnerabilities that are frequently present include: 

  • Use of default or weak and guessable passwords and firmware backdoors that can easily be brute forced as well as insecure default device settings 
  • Insecure network services that run on the devices and allow attackers to eavesdrop on communications between the device and its server or other devices 
  • Interfaces within the device’s ecosystem that are weak and easily penetrable and that enable access to the device due to lack of filtering, insufficient authentication, authorization, and weak encryption 
  • Insufficiently secure update mechanisms that allow for unauthorized and insecure software updates to be performed and exploited 
  • Vulnerabilities inherent in the use of insecure and outdated components such as the use of open-source or third-party software components whose supply chain cannot easily be traced 
  • Poor information security that exposes users’ personal data, along with insecure data storage and transfer  
  • Limited device management and support throughout the device lifecycle 
  • Insufficient physical protection that limits the possibilities for tampering with a device on-site 

These vulnerabilities create different opportunities for attackers. The most common goals of IoT attacks are data siphoning, data breaches, device hijacking, and device theft. Sometimes such vulnerabilities are also used to gain unauthorized physical access to certain premises – such as when a door is unlocked via hacking. 

To achieve these goals, attackers use a variety of approaches. Following are some of the most common ways in which IoT devices are attacked. 

Most common types of IoT cyber attacks 

Given the multiple attack surfaces that IoT devices provide, attackers have the option to launch several types of attacks against them – separately or in concert. The most frequent attacks used against such devices include: 

  • Physical attacks that range from physically tampering with the device and reading its memory, manually installing malware or ransomware or even just damaging the device 
  • Brute force attacks that rely on weak or default passwords that can easily be guessed 
  • Firmware attacks that make use of out-of-date firmware vulnerabilities or downgrade the firmware to exploit vulnerabilities in previous versions 
  • Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks in which attackers intercept communications between the device and server, or between different devices, and use this position to siphon data or perform code injections in an effort to spoof or hijack devices 
  • Botnet and DDoS attacks in which IoT devices are targeted by such attacks or hijacked devices are weaponized en masse to launch such attacks against other devices, websites, or services 
  • Radio frequency jamming attacks that disrupt radio signals in order to prevent devices from communicating with each other 

How to reduce the IoT devices vulnerabilities

While securing IoT devices presents a challenge, due to the varied vulnerabilities that can be found in them, there are many measures that can be taken to harden their protection and reduce the threat level.  

Following are some ways in which you can prevent the above types of attacks and increase the security level of your devices: 

  • Ensure physical protection by using tamper-resistant devices, including hardware-based security trust anchors that protect the microcontroller or flash memory 
  • Perform regular software updates  
  • Implement a strong firewall configuration 
  • Change default login credentials, use strong passwords and two-factor authentication 
  • Use strong encryption and pairing methods 
  • Avoid insecure WiFi connections, reduce network exposure to devices, and if possible – make devices undiscoverable 
  • Block unknown devices through the use of API security, and implement robust authentication mechanisms 
  • Limit allowed inputs and sanitize all data inputs 
  • Run regular antivirus scans and use DoS protection services 
  • Use anomaly detection and monitor unusual outputs 
  • When using AI, employ micromodels and validation datasets 
  • Introduce thorough device management and support throughout a device’s lifecycle  
  • Design a security infrastructure to monitor device behavior and status 
  • Utilize cloud infrastructure to guarantee greater data confidentiality and integrity 

By implementing a detailed and targeted security strategy, you can ensure the integrity of your devices and the data they store and transfer. Vulnerabilities are regularly being discovered as more and more devices join the IoT and as different technologies begin to interface and interact. The above measures will enable you to take preventive action and fortify your devices’ defenses! 

Stay ahead of hackers with the help of AMATAS 

Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving field that requires specialized expertise and focus. For many businesses, employing an in-house security team is not feasible, leaving them exposed to cyber threats.  

AMATAS can help you secure your IoT devices and implement an exhaustive security framework. Are you in need of a trusted cybersecurity partner? Contact us and let’s discuss how we can help you protect yourself! 

Related Articles

Scroll to Top