Recent advances in lightweight computing systems and cloud technologies have fueled a sudden and unprecedented rise in internet-connected devices. These developments have resulted in computing transcending our desktops, laptops, and mobile devices to give us internet connectivity across a raft of everyday objects. In the home, this might include systems like smart speakers or remote-controlled HVAC systems.
IoT is now making its way into the business world with such disruptive influence that it’s being hailed as one of the drivers of the fourth industrial revolution. In healthcare, for example, IoT has been applied to patient-tracking systems and remote diagnosis and treatment. In manufacturing, connected industrial control systems allow administrators to make changes from a safe distance. In retail, connected sensors and beacons can provide real-time customer insights.
But while IoT undoubtedly offers opportunities, it also carries substantial risk much like any new technology. Although the risks can be huge, the opportunities are often even greater, hence the need to find the optimal balance and avoid the adoption of questionable products and services that could leave your organization open to an attack.
Taking control over expanding attack surfaces
The proliferation of IoT has seen computing extend to a host everyday devices, all of which are small, embedded computers in their own right. And like all computing devices, they rely on software in the form of operating systems, firmware, and applications. All software can be exploited by an attack, and the more software and devices that make up your environment, the more potential entry points there are for cybercriminals or data leaks.
Not all IoT devices need to be connected to the public internet. Many are connected only to local networks as part of a private ecosystem. However, they still need to be able to transmit data throughout the network, which, by extension, is likely to be connected to the outside world. It’s naturally much harder to keep track of all your devices, software, and potential vulnerabilities if you have an enormous inventory.
Cybercriminals are already stepping up their attacks on poorly protected IoT systems, using them to find a way into servers and other systems housing or transmitting sensitive data. Even if the IoT devices they exploit don’t hold or transmit potentially sensitive data, any endpoint is a potential vulnerability. One of the most poignant examples of such an exploit was when a Las Vegas casino had its high-roller database hacked via an internet-connected fish tank.
Because of the risks associated with IoT devices, businesses must be extremely mindful of which systems and manufacturers they work with. Individual devices should also be configured in accordance with the principle of least privilege, whereby they have no elevated access rights to systems they don’t need access to. The entire portfolio of IoT devices should be centrally managed, monitored, and secured via a web-based dashboard. Devices that might be physically exposed need to be secured accordingly as well.
What’s more, the networks the IoT devices are connected to must be thoroughly secured and isolated from other data-bearing networks. This involves implementing next-generation firewalls, changing default passwords, and enabling encryption where possible.
Increasing efficiency with automation and monitoring
Despite the risks and the rise of low-quality and insecure devices, IoT has a lot to offer across a wide variety of industry sectors. For example, connected sensors in agricultural settings lets farmers monitor things like water and acidity levels in the soil. In the industrial sector, IoT offers remote control over systems to improve service life, carry out predictive maintenance, and improve worker safety.
Sensors can also be useful in logistics and retail for monitoring the status and availability of stored goods. The possibilities are endless, and within the next few years, there will likely be tens of billions of connected devices around the world. However, IoT will only be able to realize its full potential once information security has been implemented by design and default.
HERO Managed Services provides expert guidance and strategy to help your business benefit from new technologies without adding unnecessary risk. Schedule a free consultation today.