Internet of Things (IoT) email authentication is becoming increasingly important in the connected world of devices and applications. Discussing the IoT, everyday items like smart appliances and wearable technology come to mind. Still, IoT goes way beyond everyday consumer gadgets. In fact, enterprise and industrial IoT is far more developed.
This means that IoT authentication and security can have a larger attack surface. One breach could stop huge factories for days or damage operating systems in large corporations. IoT email vulnerabilities could bear more security risks for businesses and their network security.
This article focuses on the benefits of email authentication for IoT. Let’s explore how IoT companies and businesses that use IoT ecosystems can ensure brand and customer protection from email-borne attacks.
IoT Email: Use Cases, Risks, And Challenges
Email is one of the most efficient communication methods for any company. It’s a way to nurture customer relationships, sell, and, for IoT, make devices work as they’re supposed to. Wouldn’t a home surveillance system be useless without a login capability?
However, with this connectedness comes the concern of email-based threats. DDoS, password, and physical attacks are more common for IoT devices. Still, phishing and spoofing attacks are up there among the breach tactics.
Let’s not forget that these attacks can act as efficient entry points for other, more sophisticated attacks. A phishing email can kickstart:
- Malware or ransomware distribution
- Man-in-the-middle attack
- Account takeover
- Data breaches, etc.
Below, we’ll speak about the challenges and risks of email-borne cyberattacks. But before that, let’s pinpoint where companies and customers use email while dealing with IoT networks and devices.
Why Is Email Important For IoT?
Email is crucial in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. It serves various purposes for customers, enterprises, and device manufacturers. Additionally, communication with the device also happens via email.
Email allows customers to:
- Monitor and control devices remotely
- Receive important notifications, support resources, product updates, and troubleshooting guides
- Send feedback
Enterprises use IoT-enabled email systems for the following:
- Efficient operations and communication
- Collaboration and streamlining data-driven decision-making
- Incident management and security alerts
- Simplifying IoT device connectivity with enterprise systems
Device manufacturers rely on email for:
- Device configuration, management, and updates
- Device monitoring, maintenance, and diagnostics
- Sending update and support emails to customers
- Sending email marketing campaigns for promotion and engagement
As you can see, email is vital for IoT networks, service providers, and users. Now, let’s dive into why its vulnerability could be potentially devastating for all the involved parties.
IoT Cyber Security and Email Security Challenges
IoT devices are difficult to secure for several reasons. One is that the devices cover a wide range of use cases. Thus, it takes a lot of work to standardize protocols and regulations.
The short deployment cycle is another issue. Sometimes manufacturers and developers need more time to test and troubleshoot products. As a result, they are left vulnerable.
Good standards of cyber security for IoT also need stable performance and computational power. Some IoT devices don’t have that. As a result, robust protection might slow them down or otherwise impact performance.
IoT Email Security Challenges
Email security is a big chunk of the usual operation and secure authentication of IoT devices. However, more obstacles remain here:
- Email Spoofing and Phishing Attempts: Users might not have enough knowledge and training to combat these attacks. Manufacturers and businesses require more effort to combat social engineering attacks that could lead to unauthorized access or data compromise.
- Insufficient Email Authentication: Most businesses are unaware or unwilling to set up email authentication (DMARC, SPF, or DKIM). Weak email authentication in smart devices can lead to unauthorized access and misuse of email functions.
- Weak Email Encryption: IoT devices that send sensitive information via email may lack proper encryption. This fact puts data at risk of interception and unauthorized access. The latter can lead to privacy and confidentiality risks for individuals and businesses using IoT devices.
- Firmware and Security Updates: Many IoT devices rely on updates to address security risks. Without properly secured email communication, attackers can intercept these updates or send malicious firmware updates, compromising the IoT devices.
Addressing these challenges requires a holistic approach involving collaboration among device manufacturers, industry standards organizations, and policymakers.
The only way to combat IoT security authentication attacks is to work together and walk toward the following goals:
- Robust security practices
- Standardized protocols
- Regular software updates
- IoT security and email-related risks training
What is Email Authentication?
Email authentication is a set of techniques and protocols that prevent unauthorized access, spoofing, and phishing attacks. In the context of IoT devices, they ensure the authenticity and integrity of sent emails.
SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are outgoing email authentication methods that protect businesses and device manufacturers from business email compromise, impersonation attacks, and account takeovers.
Benefits of DMARC For IoT
Once implemented, email authentication protocols ensure no unauthorized email gets through the domain environment. Here are a few benefits of authenticating your IoT email:
- Stronger Email Security: DMARC improves the security of emails sent by IoT devices. Recipients will never get unauthorized emails.
- Trust and Brand Protection: Customers and partners can trust all the emails they receive from IoT devices. Avoiding scams eliminates the risk of brand reputation damage.
- Reduced Risk of Data Leaks: DMARC helps prevent sensitive information sent via email from falling into the wrong hands.
- Visibility and Control: DMARC provides valuable information about email traffic. Once the enterprise or IoT manufacturer knows about suspicious activities, they can take prompt action.
- Compliance with Industry Standards: DMARC aligns with industry best practices, ensuring IoT devices meet email security regulations.
- Easier Integration with Enterprise Systems: DMARC makes connecting and trading emails with enterprise systems and workflows easier for IoT devices.
- Customer Confidence and Loyalty: By using DMARC, IoT professionals show their commitment to email security, earning customer trust and loyalty.
- Protection Against Email Fraud: DMARC helps block fraudulent emails, preventing users from falling for scams or giving away sensitive information.
- Cost Savings: Implementing DMARC can save money by reducing the risk of security incidents and data breaches.
- Continuous Improvement: DMARC reporting and analysis allow IoT companies to improve email security. IoT ecosystems become more resilient against email threats.
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Email Authentication for IoT Security: Step-By-Step
Implementing DMARC for IoT device authentication is similar to deploying it for any other company. You need to go through several motions, including SPF and DKIM implementation. Let’s see how the process goes.
1. Add and Configure the SPF Record
- Create an SPF record and set it up in your Domain Name System (DNS).
- Collect all your sending sources (IP addresses and servers) and specify which of them can send emails on your domain’s behalf.
2. Setup DKIM
- Generate a unique cryptographic key pair for your domain.
- Add the public DKIM key to your domain’s DNS records.
- Sign outgoing emails with the private DKIM key to validate the sender’s authenticity.
- Symmetric keys ensure that the messages can’t be tampered with in transit.
3. Deploy DMARC
- Publish a DMARC record in your domain’s DNS settings.
- Set the DMARC policy to “none.”
- Configure an email address to receive DMARC aggregate and forensic reports.
- Monitor the reports to get enough information about your domain environment.
4. Enforce DMARC Policies Gradually
- Analyze DMARC reports to identify legitimate and unauthorized email sources.
- Adjust SPF and DKIM settings to ensure alignment with your domain.
- Enforce DMARC policy to “quarantine.” This mode instructs email providers to deliver suspicious emails to the recipient’s spam folder.
- Continue monitoring your domain and analyzing reports.
- Once confident in SPF and DKIM alignment, move the DMARC to “reject.” This policy instructs emails that failed authentication checks not to be delivered into any folder.
IoT Email Authentication Considerations and Best Practices
As we mentioned above, IoT devices have a few specifics that can act as roadblocks during device authentication in IoT. Below, we review some of them and give you the workarounds and best practices.
- Pay attention to device compatibility and ensure that DMARC deployment is feasible.
- Ensure to accommodate the email sending mechanism for the given device.
- Configure the IoT ecosystem (gateways, cloud services, etc.) to adjust DMARC alignment.
- Ensure that firmware updates don’t impact DMARC alignment.
- IoT devices generate a lot of emails. Analyze reports to keep up with authentication and authorization issues.
- Older IoT devices might not support authentication protocols. You’ll have to find workarounds and alternative solutions to achieve the desired result.
- Some IoT devices don’t have a dedicated email client or server for outbound emails. DMARC setup, in this case, requires careful consideration.
- IoT devices often use third-party services for email delivery and data processing. Consider this during DMARC deployment.
- DMARC implementation should be scalable and grow with the IoT system requirements.
- Last but not least: take your time with DMARC policy enforcement, as it can cause issues with email delivery. Ensure you’re thorough during the process and don’t skip any steps.
The Future of Security of IoT Email
The presence of connected tools and gadgets has grown in recent years. Now even cat litter boxes and vacuum cleaners have network connectivity capabilities. Recent years have seen growth in IoT adoption in everyday life and business. Still, IoT cybersecurity remains a field with many challenges involved parties need to address.
IoT email security is evolving in terms of awareness and effort of consumers, businesses, policymakers, and certificate authorities. Indeed, only a concerted effort and open conversation can bring innovation and ensure security for all parties.
We’ve identified the top 3 aspects of IoT email authentication and security that shows strong trends in shaping the future:
- Standardization and compliance will take the lead. Adopting existing email authentication protocols will establish a more secure email environment within the IoT landscape. Encryption standards and algorithms will continue to improve as well.
- Automated security measures will change the way users integrate with connected devices. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning against email-related threats will prove efficient.
- The “Security by design” approach will become prevalent. Device manufacturers are becoming more conscious of IoT cybersecurity issues. They use this methodology to integrate security features into the device during manufacturing. This method produces devices with more resilience against threats.
We also believe that collaboration between interested parties will bring a more innovative approach to email traffic monitoring and anomaly detection in IoT.
The importance of email in IoT cannot be overstated. Whether in a home or enterprise setting, the communication channel will likely stay the same. Email will remain the main way most manufacturer communications, device notifications, and customer feedback go through.
This is the reason email authentication for IoT is so crucial. Implementing email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC is the only real method to avoid phishing and spoofing attacks. Brands should build a reputation and customer trust based on consistent values. Thus going through DMARC adoption pays forward.
Follow our best practices and recommendations to ensure your IoT email security.