Top 5 Threats IoT Devices Pose to Data Protection & Privacy

Gartner Inc. predicted that by 2023, CIOs would be responsible for over three times the endpoints they were responsible for in 2018 due to the rapid evolution of IoT trends and technologies.

With billions of physical devices worldwide connected to the internet today, this prediction is on its way to coming true. However, the rapid evolution of IoT technology has proven to be a double-edged sword from a cybersecurity and compliance standpoint.

IoT Devices

IoT devices produce immense volumes of various types of data that are stored, managed, and shared within an organization’s IT infrastructure. Hence, they add to the risk landscape more than one concerning cybersecurity, third-party risk, and compliance with data protection regulations.

Don’t let anyone tell you that securing IoT devices is only about securing the device itself. It’s also about ensuring the access that an IoT device provides. Besides looking at the device’s built-in vulnerabilities, you must also consider where and how IoT devices connect to your network, how they process and store data, and their user interface.

This blog reveals how hackers exploit IoT devices. First, the top 5 threats they pose to data protection and privacy. Next, why must you secure them from a compliance point of view? Please pay close attention so you can protect your business from security disasters and avoid penalties and lawsuits that could arise from non-compliance with necessary regulations.

How Can IoT Devices Be Exploited?

There are primarily three attacks vectors that compromise IoT devices.

  • The devices themselves: Often, cybercriminals exploit IoT device vulnerabilities in its memory, firmware, physical interface, web interface, and network services. Same as unsecured default settings, outdated components, and leaky update mechanisms.
  • Communication channels: Another way is by attacking the channels used to connect it with another IoT device. Security issues with the protocols used in IoT systems can put the entire network at risk, making IoT systems susceptible to network attacks like denial of service (DoS) and spoofing.
  • Applications and software: Nefarious cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in web applications and related software for IoT devices. For example, they will target web applications to steal user credentials or push malware.

Five Major Threats to Watch Out for

We must understand how a cybercriminal can exploit IoT devices to cause harm to your business.  Moreover, let’s now look at five major threats these devices pose to data protection and privacy.

Abundant and Unauthorized Data Collection

IoT sensors and devices collect enormous amounts of particular data about the environment, same as the users. They also store and share sensitive data without one’s knowledge or explicit permission. Therefore, as per the compliance regulations applicable to your business or industry, this data must be secured the same way any other sensitive data in your business’ network would. 

A Backdoor Entry for Cybercriminals

All it takes for a cybercriminal to ransack your network is a single IoT device that’s not fully secured. Even a malicious insider could carry out a full-fledged cyberattack on your business using an unsecured IoT device. Leaving these threats unchecked is unacceptable under any data protection regulation and hence warrants your immediate attention.

A Single Security Policy Doesn’t Cut It.

IoT ecosystems are complex and add to the complexity of your IT environment as well. Given their unique nature, it’s neither realistic nor currently achievable to implement a “one size fits all” security policy for all IoT devices.

The unprecedented surge in remote work has only amplified this challenge further. For example, while many businesses do not have personal devices in the office during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a  result, employees will work at home ( their new office).  Consequently, these two scenarios will happen; First, the hackers will exploit the device through business-related work. And then, they will access the device.  

Inability to Train Everyone on IoT Security

Security awareness training is a powerful way to curtail the likelihood and impact of cyberattacks. However, the lack of broad universal knowledge and awareness about IoT at the user level poses a potent threat to the protection of IoT data. It is an enormous challenge to train everyone on IoT functionality and the risks it brings to the table. Compliance regulations worldwide consider security awareness training a major piece of the data protection puzzle, which, if missing, could ensure a compliance audit doesn’t go in your business’s favor.

Threat to Privacy

It’s undeniable that IoT devices pose a direct threat to the privacy of both your clients and even their customers. With every bit of data they provide to your business through an IoT device, they surrender a bit of their privacy. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to protect your privacy and data. Failing to do so could cost you dearly. 

Facts You Should Know

  • About 60% of IoT devices are vulnerable to medium- or high-severity attacks.1
  • Over 95% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted.2
  • About 72% of organizations experienced an increase in endpoint and IoT security incidents last year, and 56% of organizations expect to know the attack via an endpoint or IoT-originated attack within the next 12 months.3

The Ponemon Institute’s 2021 Data Exposure Report stated that home networks are 71% less secure than office networks. Should your business fail to mitigate this threat, it could result in severe consequences when the compliance auditor comes knocking.

IoT Risks and Compliance

While there are no universal regulatory requirements or “standards” for the security of IoT devices, please do not assume that risks to IoT data and devices aren’t on the radar of regulators worldwide. This isn’t just a matter of cybersecurity but compliance as well. While investing in the right security solutions will enhance your business’ cybersecurity posture against IoT-related risks, you certainly need assistance in tackling this challenge from a compliance point of view.

Suppose you don’t take the necessary measures to mitigate these threats and maintain documented evidence of it. In that case, you can be penalized for non-compliance with at least one data protection regulation at some point.

Using our compliance process automation platform, we can help you detect IoT risks in regular compliance risk assessments, undertake remediation measures and produce automatically generated documented evidence of compliance. To top it all off, you will be able to prevent IoT-related risks associated with compliance standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, CMMC, and NIST CSF, as well as your cyber insurance policy. All you need to do is send us an email, and we can help you get started.



1 & 2: 2020 Unit 42 IoT Threat Report

3: 2020 Endpoint and IoT Zero Trust Security Report




Article curated and used by permission.