The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a hot topic in today’s tech world. The benefits of IoT technology for businesses are well documented. Claims of increased efficiency and futuristic automations may be true, but they overlook a few things. As businesses implement IoT, there are some security risks to consider.
What is IoT?
IoT is an interconnected web of electronic devices, each of which communicates with others to create a system that can vary in size depending on your needs. For example, a small business may incorporate a connected network of security technology, such as smart locks to manage building access, security cameras to monitor activity, and temperature and climate control devices to monitor storage rooms filled with sensitive materials — all of which can be accessed and managed from any device.
For an enterprise business, connected devices can number in the hundreds, or even thousands. While IoT is undoubtedly useful for improving efficiency and communication across any network, it isn’t without risks. Every device is a potential point of access to the entire system.
Cybersecurity and IoT
Defending a digital network from cybercriminals requires careful access point management. The very nature of IoT means it has more access points than a traditional computer network, and each must be properly secured against malicious actors.
Because IoT is still a relatively new technology space, it has a few blind spots in areas where more established networks are protected. Security is by far the most serious of these. Few people stop to think about the cybersecurity risks associated with conveniences like office lights turning on when they enter a room, or automated notifications from a security system, but when these systems are tied closely together, the risks can multiply. The novelty and efficiency benefits of IoT technology has it gaining market traction despite its vulnerability to cyberattack.
The IoT makes it possible to connect to the system from the outside, which creates an even bigger risk for a business network that allows hundreds of employees to connect with their personal devices. The addition of one outsider might be lost in a sea of verified users. Outsiders might not even mean to connect, but an unsecured wireless network plus a smartphone’s auto-connect feature allows for unintended connections. Even without malicious intent, an unauthorized connection is a cybersecurity risk.
Manage the risks
IoT has already proven itself as a valuable tool to increase efficiency and make our lives easier. Its use will only amplify in the coming years, making it imperative for businesses to proactively manage the risks associated with this interconnected web of technology. While every IoT system is different, there are a few universal guidelines to follow, including:
- Understand the attack surface. IoT has a much larger attack surface than an average computer network, meaning there are more access points throughout the web of devices that could pose cybersecurity risks. Understanding the attack surface is the first step to defending it.
- Defend against known attacks and vulnerabilities. As with most things, research is your friend. If you know the common attacks against devices in your system, it’s easier to defend against them. It’s a good idea to get familiar with each device and its unique vulnerabilities.
- Detect and adapt to new threats. It’s critical to have a system in place for detecting cybersecurity threats. While some threats are predictable, cybercriminals are as quick to adapt as cybersecurity defenses are. Be aware, flexible, and adaptable to defend against new threats.
- Use automation to your advantage. Automated threat detection and defense against known attacks saves time and reduces errors. While it’s still necessary to have a person address new threats and maintain automated systems, automation can reduce the overall workload for your IT team.
- Implement zero-trust policies. Be sure to implement a zero-trust policy for IoT connections. Users should have access to what they need and nothing else. Managing access through password protection and user-based permissions is a good way to break the attack surface into more manageable, more defendable pieces.
Cybersecurity is one of the first things to consider with any new technology, and the Internet of Things is no exception. A large attack surface, numerous blind spots, and a tendency toward reckless adoption make IoT a risky investment when not managed properly. With the right implementation strategy that focuses on cybersecurity, IoT can become a powerful asset to any company.