Wireless • Last Updated 2/6/2024

IoT hacking explained: Safeguard your connected devices

Explore the dangers of IoT hacking and learn how to protect your smart devices in our comprehensive guide.


By Emily Bowen

Mundane appliances like our coffee machines can now do things like download the latest brews. Our refrigerators can order groceries. And our ovens can tell us the right temperature and time to cook our foods.

From smart thermostats to industrial sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices have woven themselves into the fabric of our existence, making life easier and more interconnected. However, this interconnectedness also opens the door to cybercriminals who exploit these devices for data theft, surveillance, and other malicious activities. IoT hackingis a threat that lurks in the shadows of our smart homes, offices, and even in the larger framework of our cities, waiting to exploit any vulnerability it can find.

A cyberattack, on average, costs an organization $250,000. Yet, only 3% of organizations have sufficiently secured their IoT devices to protect against hacking. Understanding the nuances of IoT hacking isn't just a matter for tech enthusiasts. It's a critical issue for anyone who uses these devices—essentially, all of us.

In this article, we'll dive into IoT hacking, exploring why hackers target these devices, their common methods of attack, and the potential consequences that can ripple through our personal and professional lives. Most importantly, we'll arm you with the best practices to safeguard your IoT devices against these ever-evolving cyber threats. Whether you're a tech guru or just a casual user, this article will shed light on the dark side of IoT and how you can protect yourself in this connected world.

What is IoT hacking?

IoT hacking is the unauthorized access, manipulation, or exploitation of IoT devices.

These devices encompass a broad range of internet-connected objects, from everyday household items like smart thermostats and refrigerators to more complex systems such as industrial sensors, healthcare monitors, and smart city technologies. Given their connectivity to the internet and often minimal security features, they’re prime targets for cybercriminals.

IoT hacking typically involves identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities within these devices or their networks. These attacks range from simple tactics like guessing default passwords to more sophisticated methods like exploiting unpatched software vulnerabilities.

“Every week, on average 54% of organizations were targeted by these attack attempts, with an average of almost 60 attacks per organization per week targeting IoT devices.”

Why hackers target IoT devices

Hackers have various objectives when targeting IoT devices:

Data theft

Many IoT devices collect and store vast amounts of personal or sensitive data. Hackers can steal this data for identity theft, corporate espionage, or selling it on the dark web.

Surveillance and spying

Devices with cameras and microphones, like smart home security systems, can be hijacked to spy on individuals or organizations covertly.

Creating botnets

Compromised IoT devices can be enslaved into a botnet, a network of infected devices used to launch large-scale cyberattacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, against other networks or systems.

Resource hijacking

IoT devices can be used for cryptocurrency mining or as part of a larger network for executing complex computational tasks, unbeknownst to the device owner.

Ransomware and sabotage

Attackers can use a type of malware called ransomware to lock users out of their devices or render them inoperable until a ransom is paid. In industrial settings, this could mean taking control of critical infrastructure to cause physical damage or disrupt services.

Disrupting operations

In a business or industrial environment, hacking IoT devices can lead to significant operational disruptions, affecting productivity and safety.

Given the pervasive nature of IoT devices in personal and professional settings, the risks associated with IoT hacking are significant. As IoT technology continues to evolve and integrate more deeply into our lives, understanding and addressing the security challenges it presents becomes increasingly vital for consumers.

Common methods of IoT hacking

As we increasingly interact with IoT devices, understanding how they can be compromised is essential. This understanding enables users and manufacturers to better safeguard sensitive information, maintain functionality, and protect against potential financial and reputational damages. Awareness of these vulnerabilities also promotes the development of more secure technologies, ensuring we can enjoy the benefits of IoT without compromising security and privacy.

Brute force attacks

In brute force attacks, hackers attempt to gain unauthorized access by guessing login credentials through trial and error. This method targets IoT devices that often have default or weak passwords, leveraging automated software to generate many consecutive guesses. IoT devices are more susceptible to such attacks because of the frequent absence of account lockout policies, allowing unlimited password attempts.

Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks

MitM attacks involve hackers intercepting and manipulating communications between two parties. In the IoT context, this attack can take the form of packet sniffing, where hackers capture and analyze packets on unsecured networks, or IP spoofing, where the attacker disguises as a trusted device to intercept data. Another form is session hijacking, where the attacker steals the session cookie to gain unauthorized access. These attacks are particularly dangerous for IoT devices involved in sensitive applications, like health monitoring or security systems.

Malware attacks

Malware attacks on IoT devices involve introducing harmful software such as viruses, worms, or ransomware. These attacks can happen through unsecured network connections or malicious attachments. Once an IoT device is infected, attackers can remotely control it for:

  • Data theft.
  • Participation in DDoS attacks.
  • Executing ransomware.
  • Encrypting data and demanding payment for access.

Unsecured network connections

Connecting IoT devices to the internet via unsecured Wi-Fi networks poses a significant risk. These networks often lack encryption, allowing data transmission in plain text, or use outdated encryption standards. Furthermore, sometimes IoT devices aren’t segregated from the primary network, which offers a potential entry point to more secure areas. Hackers exploit these vulnerabilities to intercept data, introduce malware, or gain unauthorized device access.

These common hacking methods underline the critical need for enhanced security measures in IoT devices and networks. By acknowledging these risks, users and manufacturers can take more informed steps toward enhancing security and protecting against these cyber threats.

Potential consequences of IoT hacking

The ramifications of IoT hacking extend far beyond unauthorized access. They pose significant threats to individuals, businesses, and even national security. Let's explore the potential consequences that can arise from such breaches.

Data breaches

A primary concern in IoT hacking is unauthorized access to devices, which can result in substantial data breaches. These breaches often involve the theft of sensitive information, such as personal identity details, financial records, and proprietary business data. These breaches can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and a loss of trust in businesses that fail to protect customer data.


When IoT devices are compromised, they can become gateways for larger-scale cyberattacks. Hackers can use these devices as a foothold to penetrate deeper into network systems, targeting individuals, corporations, and even critical national infrastructure. The impact of cyberattacks can range from significant financial losses to disruptions in critical services and national security breaches.

Physical damage

IoT hacking can sometimes have tangible, hazardous physical consequences—especially when IoT devices control or monitor physical systems, like industrial machinery or healthcare equipment. Hackers can manipulate these devices to cause operational malfunctions, potentially leading to physical damage, safety hazards, and even life-threatening situations.

To mitigate these risks, Telnyx MFF2 SIM chips offer a secure alternative. Designed to be physically soldered into the circuitry of IoT devices, these chips provide the same functionality as traditional IoT SIM cards but with enhanced security. Their integration makes them more tamper-resistant, as they cannot be easily removed like SIM cards that fit into standard slots. This feature is crucial for ensuring the integrity and reliability of IoT devices, especially in environments where tampering could lead to significant physical harm.

Understanding these consequences highlights the importance of robust security measures in the IoT ecosystem.

Best practices for securing IoT devices

To effectively safeguard your IoT devices against sophisticated cyber threats, a proactive approach to security is essential. Here are some best practices to add to your arsenal:

Implement strong passwords

Beef up your IoT device security with robust password protocols. Create complex and unique passwords that combine alphanumeric and special characters, and steer clear of common words or phrases. Setting minimum length requirements is also vital. Where possible, add an extra layer of defense by implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). This step is key in significantly reducing the risk of brute force attacks.

Keep software updated

You must regularly update your IoT devices' software and firmware to mitigate vulnerabilities. Doing so will ensure you apply patches promptly and verify the authenticity of your updates. Use automated update mechanisms, incorporating checksum verification to ensure the integrity of the updates. Keeping a log of update histories and conducting regular vulnerability assessments will aid you in identifying potential security gaps.

Secure your network

To secure the network environment for your IoT devices, implement multiple layers of protection. Use WPA3 encryption for your Wi-Fi, set up effective firewalls, and consider segmenting your IoT devices into a separate network VLAN to isolate them from the main network. Implementing a VPN is crucial, especially for managing devices remotely, as it ensures end-to-end encryption of data in transit. Continuously monitor your network traffic with intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to thwart unauthorized access.

Monitor device activity

Adopt a sophisticated approach to monitor your IoT device activity. Use tools like security information and event management (SIEM) systems for real-time analysis of security alerts. Keep an eye out for both obvious anomalies and subtle irregularities in device performance or network traffic, as these could signal a security breach. Conducting regular security audits and using advanced analytics are effective ways to detect potential threats early on.

Stay informed

Staying current in IoT security means actively seeking out the latest research and developments. Subscribe to specialized cybersecurity publications, participate in IoT security workshops and conferences, and follow updates from cybersecurity firms. Awareness of the latest threat vectors and defense mechanisms is crucial for the timely adaptation of your security strategies in response to evolving threats.

By integrating these technical strategies into your IoT devices' security protocol, you can significantly minimize the risk of cyber threats. Remember, IoT security is a dynamic field, requiring continual updates and improvements to these practices to stay ahead of potential cyber threats. Implementing these measures ensures a robust defense mechanism, protecting your IoT devices from the ever-changing cyber risks.

Elevate your IoT security with Telnyx IoT SIM cards

Although IoT devices are becoming increasingly prevalent, they present a broad spectrum of security vulnerabilities that make them prime targets for cyberattacks. It's not only the devices that need protection. The networks they connect to are equally crucial. A compromised network can leave your IoT devices vulnerable to malicious access and exploitation.

The alarming trend toward increased IoT hacking underscores the need for a reliable IoT connectivity provider that prioritizes security at every level. That's where Telnyx comes in. Telnyx's IoT SIM cards provide robust, end-to-end data encryption, ensuring your IoT data remains secure and private.

Through our global private IP network and patented, cloud-based, IoT-optimized mobile network, along with the option to use Private Wireless Gateways (PWGs), we provide mechanisms to shield your IoT data from the public internet, significantly reducing the risk of cyber threats. Our expansive data coverage, spanning over 180 countries, means your IoT security is global, providing consistent protection no matter where your devices are located.

To further enhance your IoT security, Telnyx offers the option to integrate with Private Wireless Gateways. This powerful feature adds an additional layer of protection, creating a secure, private network for your IoT devices that reduces their exposure to the public internet and the threats that come with it.

By choosing Telnyx IoT SIM cards for your IoT devices, you're not just connecting them. You're fortifying them against the ever-growing tide of cyber threats. Don't leave your IoT security to chance. Make the smart choice and protect your devices with Telnyx.

Talk to our team of experts to discover how our IoT SIM cards can keep your devices connected and secure, no matter where they are.

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