IoT SSL Certificates for Connected Device Security – All You Need to Know

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Can SSL for IoT address the security concerns surrounding IoT technologies? Let’s find out

If you’re here, it’s likely because you’re trying to find an IoT SSL certificate to secure one or more of your smart devices. However, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: There’s actually no such thing as an “IoT SSL certificate.” It doesn’t exist because it’s not a thing.

Although there’s technically no SSL for IoT, there is a certificate that achieves something akin to the mutual authentication offered by SSL certificates… It just goes by a different name: IoT device certificate.

Feeling confused? No worries. We’ll actually break down what an IoT device certificate is, what it does, and why people commonly refer to it (mistakenly) as an IoT SSL certificate. But before we dive into that, let’s understand why IoT security is essential.

Why We (Badly) Need IoT Security

If we asked you to point out the IoT devices around you, you likely wouldn’t even be able to identify many of them. And if you add the number of devices that are being added on a daily basis, we’re going to see A LOT more of those devices around us. How many exactly? Well, 20.4 billion by 2020, if you go by the numbers forecasted by Gartner. Now that’s a lot of devices, isn’t it?

While IoT devices are incredibly convenient and offer many advantages, they’re not perfect. They frequently come with little or no security. Some feature cryptographic technology that worked a decade ago, some don’t even feature basic security facilities such as authentication, and many of them can be hacked entirely if you have access to someone’s LAN (local area network)!

The pain-points of IoT device security don’t stop here. According to the 2019 Thales Global Threat Report, the primary data security concerns surrounding IoT technologies include:

  • attacks on IoT devices,
  • insufficient frameworks and control mechanisms, and
  • protecting sensitive information using tokenization and encryption.

In other words, many IoT devices aren’t equipped with the basic security and encryption features that should be standard.

If you didn’t already, now you can surely see why we need better security processes and technologies for IoT devices.

IoT SSL Certificates: A Game-Changer in Smart Technology Security

X.509 digital security certificates — the same security certificate format that’s used in SSL — fill three fundamental gaps in IoT device security: 1) encryption, 2) authentication, and 3) integrity.

Let’s explore how IoT device certificates help to bridge these gaps:

IoT SSL Certificates Encrypt Data in Transit

As we saw, the lack of encryption is one of the major gateways through which attackers try to attack IoT devices. When you install IoT device certificates, all the data sent and received by smart devices is encrypted using public key encryption. In other words, it’s converts your data into an undecipherable format — essentially, a bunch of gibberish that can’t be decrypted without the corresponding private key. Such security protects the information transmitting between systems, users, and appliances.

IoT SSL Certificates Authenticate Connected Devices

The thing about IoT devices is that they communicate amongst themselves a lot! And, most of the time, this communication takes place over a LAN network that can be captured or tapped in to easily by a rookie attacker. With an IoT security certificate in place, HTTPS is employed in communication. As a result, devices can identify trusted devices and servers. In simpler words, IoT security certificates help them know with whom (or what) they’re communicating.

IoT SSL Certificates Ensure the Integrity of Data

One of the critical security goals that an IoT device certificate accomplishes is keeping data-in-transit from getting tampered with, thereby maintaining its integrity. This is achieved because of the encryption of the data-in-transit. As the data remains in the encrypted (undecipherable) format, an unauthorized third party cannot even see the original data, let alone tamper with it. As a result, the data remains in the intended form and doesn’t get compromised.

Advantages of SSL in IoT

By now, you must’ve understood why IoT SSL certificates are needed to protect our sensitive data. However, these certificates not only help you achieve data security and privacy, they offer you some unprecedented advantages that any alternate system hardly offers. Here are some advantages of IoT SSL certificates that make it unique:

  • No need for tokens, password policies, or other static identities that can be exploited easily by hackers.
  • IoT security certificates can secure and in-transit data.
  • IoT device certificates solve three major security conundrums: authentication, encryption, and integrity.
  • The flexibility of IoT security certificates is particularly helpful considering that IoT devices vary significantly in terms of their utilization and implementation. 
  • IoT certificates are easy to implement and manage, can be revoked when necessary and also can be replaced without placing too much of a burden on your finances.
  • In ecosystems with a large number of IoT devices, IoT security certificates are easy to scale and can be managed easily using a reliable certificate management solution like Comodo Certificate Manager (CCM).
  • IoT certificates prove to be highly cost-effective, especially in high-volume environments.

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