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What are Internet of Things (IoT) attacks?

What are Internet of Things (IoT) attacks?

An Internet of Things (IoT) attack is a malicious attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in internet-connected devices, such as smart home devices, industrial control systems, and medical devices. Attackers may gain control of the device, steal sensitive data, or use the device as a part of a botnet for other malicious purposes.


Understanding IoT attacks

IoT attacks refer to cyber-attacks that exploit the security vulnerabilities of IoT devices to gain unauthorized access to users' sensitive data. Attackers often install malware on these devices, manipulate their functionality, or exploit weaknesses to gain access to valuable company information. 

For example, an attacker could access an organization's temperature control system through a security loophole in an IoT device and manipulate the temperature settings of connected rooms.

Read also: Best practices for securing medical IoT devices 


The IoT attack surface areas

IoT devices are considered one of the weakest links in an organization's security chain due to their lack of proper security protocols. Let's look at the different attack surface areas where vulnerabilities can be exploited:



Various components of an IoT device can pose security threats, including memory, firmware, web interface, physical interface, and networking service. Attackers can use these weak spots, such as outdated components, to initiate an IoT attack.


Communication channels

The channels connecting IoT devices to each other must be secured to prevent unauthorized access. Attackers can easily initiate IoT attacks if these channels are not properly protected.


Applications and software

Applications and software associated with IoT devices can also pose a threat to the overall system security. Compromising the application or software can give attackers an entry point to access the IoT device.


Different types of IoT attacks

Now that we understand the concept of IoT attacks and their surface areas, let's discuss the different types of attacks that can compromise the security of IoT devices:


Physical tampering

Physical tampering involves attackers gaining physical access to IoT devices to steal data, install malware, or manipulate the device's inner circuits. By accessing the ports and circuits of the device, attackers can breach the network and compromise sensitive information.



Attackers can exploit weak connections between servers and IoT devices to intercept network traffic and gain access to sensitive data. This type of attack can also enable attackers to eavesdrop on conversations using the microphone and camera data from IoT devices.


Brute-force password attacks

Cybercriminals can attempt different combinations of common words to crack the password of an IoT device. Since many IoT devices prioritize convenience over security, they often have simple passwords that are easy to crack.


Privilege escalation

Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities, such as operating system oversights, unpatched vulnerabilities, or bugs, to gain initial access to an IoT device. From there, they can escalate their privileges, potentially reaching the admin level and gaining access to valuable data.


DDoS attacks

Zombified IoT devices and botnets have made distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks more prevalent. In a DDoS attack, a massive influx of traffic overwhelms a device, rendering it unavailable to the user.


Man-in-the-middle attack 

Cybercriminals can intercept and modify data packets transmitted between IoT devices and servers, exploiting insecure networks. This allows them to access and manipulate confidential data, disrupting communication. 


Malicious code injection

Cybercriminals can exploit input validation flaws in IoT devices and inject malicious code. When executed, this code can make unauthorized changes to the program, potentially compromising the device's functionality or security.

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See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide  

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