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Hidden Dangers Lurking in Cellular Connected IoT Devices

What You’ll Learn (3-Min Read)

  • Understanding the hidden dangers in cellular-connected IoT devices
  • Realizing the financial and operational impact of IoT security breaches
  • Learning proactive strategies to safeguard your operations


The Looming Threat in the Shadows

An imminent threat might be going unnoticed in your cold chain operation:
compromised cellular-connected IoT devices.


Common Misconception

You may be thinking, “My IoT devices are secure enough. No need to worry!”

That’s a common perspective until an attack happens.


The Alarming Data

Last year, IoT device attacks surged 37%, according to SonicWall, and the average cost of a data breach globally jumped to $4.35 million, according to Ponemon Institute.

According to Check Point Research, 54% of organizations suffer from attempted IoT cyber attacks every week.

One in five companies reported being victims of an IoT attack in the last two years.


Case in Point: SolarWinds

One recent example highlighting the gravity of these issues is the SolarWinds attack, where cybersecurity vulnerabilities led to an extensive supply-chain breach. This incident prompted the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue a Wells Notice to SolarWinds executives, marking a shift in responsibility as the notice included the company’s chief information security officer.

Given the fact that IoT devices are typically built with multiple third-part components, an compromised component could affect easily affect millions of IoT devices, including yours. The vulnerabilities found in the ThroughTek SDK are said to have affected over 84 million IoT devices.

Attacks on IoT devices can lead to devastating effects such as shutting down operations, manipulated readings, and attacks on IT infrastructure.

However, there are ways to identify and contain cellular IoT-specific threats before they disrupt your cold chain. Consider this a heads-up about an emerging danger so you can take precautions now before it becomes an issue.


The Invisible Vulnerabilities

The cellular-connected IoT devices you use in your cold chain or operations — like trackers, sensors, routers, monitoring equipment, etc. — provide an attack surface for cybercriminals.

Here’s the concerning part: you may never even realize when your IoT devices have been compromised. You see, traditional IT security products can’t monitor the cellular behavior of IoT devices. So, if one of your devices contacts suspicious servers or participates in a DDoS attack, your existing IT security systems will not detect it.

It’s not your fault, though. IoT device security is an emerging field. Cellular connectivity offers substantial advantages for real-time data transmission. But it also introduces potential attack vectors that didn’t exist previously.


Recognizing the Risks

Let’s review a few ways devices can be compromised:

  • Supply Chain Attacks: Many IoT devices use software from various third-party vendors. If any vendor is compromised, so is your device.
  • Insider Risks: Disgruntled employees with device access could misuse SIM cards or intentionally manipulate readings.
  • Application Vulnerabilities: The applications interacting with your devices could provide an entry point for attacks.
  • Future Exploits: New vulnerabilities in device hardware and open-source software are constantly emerging.

Once compromised, the business impact could be severe. Attackers could:

  • Shut Down Operations: Ransomware could render all IoT devices inoperable.
  • Manipulate Readings: Spoofed data could lead to inventory loss, regulatory fines, and customer litigation.
  • Attack Infrastructure: Infected devices could be weaponized against you to attack your IT systems.
  • Harm Third Parties: Your fleet could unknowingly participate in DDoS attacks on others.
  • Irreparable Brand Damage: All of the above could devastate your reputation and customer trust.

Alarming, right? But don’t worry, there are ways to protect yourself, as we’ll discuss next.

Safeguarding Against Invisible Threats

Since traditional firewalls and antivirus can’t monitor cellular traffic, how can you secure cellular IoT devices?

There are some standard security best practices:

  • Secure by Design: Incorporate security into IoT devices from the start through careful architecture and coding.
  • Private APN: Use private Access Point Names for SIM cards to prevent cellular snooping.
  • Network Segmentation: Micro-segment traffic flows to restrict lateral movement and prevent command-and-control.
  • Device Authentication: Thoroughly authenticate device identities before allowing network access.

    While that helps reduce risks, they don’t fully address the core issue — visibility into cellular behavior. Without monitoring what devices are actually doing on the network, you’ll be unaware of any compromises.

The only way to gain proper visibility is to instrument the cellular network itself to retain metadata about device connections, destinations, volumes, patterns, etc. Then, this network telemetry can be analyzed using threat intelligence to detect anomalous activity indicating a breach.

Combined with the ability to immediately respond to incidents by blocking traffic or quarantining devices, such a solution enables early threat detection and rapid response. This minimizes business impact and prevents small issues from escalating into major problems.

Aeris Provides Free Consultation

We aim to educate, not alarm. Consider us your guide in navigating the challenges of securing cellular IoT.

To learn more about securing your cellular IoT fleet, feel free to schedule a security consultation at your convenience. We’re happy to answer any questions!

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