An escalating issue surrounding an "Internet of Things" infrastructure is how well its IoT security protects data. Streaming continuous data collected by sensors to improve a company's operations has many advantages, but it also opens the door to cybercriminals intercepting the data. Without the right data protection strategies and insurance, a company's net assets can erode quickly.
Here are reasons why businesses investing in IoT technology must take cybersecurity seriously.
Established Facts About IoT Security
Strategies for IoT security have shifted in recent years to adopt a zero trust policy, in which strict network access rules are enforced through requiring authentication. While recent debates on IoT security offer mixed perspectives, here are essential facts about IoT security that cannot be disputed or ignored:
- IoT devices exist in hostile environments - No matter where IoT devices are installed on a network, they face challenges that result from indoor or outdoor environments. IoT devices within a factory can be compromised by intruders or even insiders. Outdoor smart devices have risks involving climate and vandalism. Due to uncertain trust across the internet shared with cyber criminals, no flexibility should be allowed for requiring all devices to be protected.
- Software security diminishes in effectiveness over time - All forms of software security become outdated at some point unless the developer continues to support it with updates. The longer old hardware or software remains in service, the more security risks they pose. Systems no longer supported with security updates should be replaced.
- Shared secrets often spread online - Something that never changes even though the most rapid technological changes is that there will always be people who can't keep secrets very well no matter what they promise. Anything shared online, even on a private network, is potentially not very secret anymore. It's another reason for the adoption of zero trust principles and to ensure every IoT device on your network is protected.
- Default configurations cause vulnerabilities - Using default manufacturer settings persists, even though IT experts have warned clients how default configurations offer weak protection. Once a hacker sneaks onto a network with insufficient security, it's easy for them to penetrate computing devices on the network that also lack protection.
- Big data grows with exposure issues - The enormous amount of valuable data captured by IoT sensors is what attracts many businesses to invest in IoT architecture. As data accumulates in high volumes, it must be managed properly with strong security or it can leak into the wrong hands. Any business that adopts edge computing as a cost-cutting solution but doesn't secure devices on the network is investing in diminishing returns. All it takes is one cybersecurity breach to flood a business with expensive lawsuits.
Planning for the IoT Explosion
There are already billions of devices and objects connected to the internet. Imagine a decade from now how many more there will be due to widespread IoT adoption. Industry 4.0 companies with vast resources to pay for transformation to a digital infrastructure have already paved the way for smaller businesses to follow. Industries that have already successfully pioneered IoT include manufacturers, utilities and logistics firms.
The IoT market is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights. The most widely-used smart devices besides smartphones consist of Wi-Fi routers, internet hubs and smart TVs. Smart technology used by warehouse suppliers includes data monitoring systems that share data throughout the supply chain. Automation is a game-changing technology that has attracted the attention of innovative organizations as a sustainability strategy.
Managers must be aware that IoT is not a passing tech trend that will eventually fade like fax machines. It's a new paradigm that's here to stay due to the degree to which it empowers businesses of all sizes to streamline their operations. The current state of IoT adoption is already noticeable to the public among government, retail and healthcare organizations. IT experts have forecasted the number of IoT devices online by 2030 will surpass 24 billion.
A recent Forrester Consulting study in North America found that 69 percent of businesses surveyed have more IoT devices than computers on their enterprise networks. While only 16 percent of organizations surveyed said they had sufficient visibility of their data-collecting sensors, 67 percent confirmed dealing with a security incident involving an IoT device. The same survey found that 93 percent of respondents plan to boost security in their budgets for IoT and unmanaged devices.
Protecting Limitless Data
One of the biggest challenges IoT-based operations face in the future is how to protect limitless data. The more data that's sent through a wireless network, the more chances there are for the data to be captured by a hacker. Even if a hacker has no personal use for a company's IoT-generated data, the culprit can still sell the stolen data to other criminals who might consider it valuable.
The exponential growth of IoT devices means digital monitoring will be omnipresent and difficult to escape. That further means cybercriminals will have many more opportunities to discover security flaws in private enterprise networks. The more unprotected IoT devices on a network, the more paths of entry for hackers.
IoT Challenges Ahead
Business leaders need to be more vocal about addressing security issues surrounding digital infrastructures with hundreds or thousands of connected smart devices. There's a growing diversity of connected IoT devices, which creates further security challenges. Companies that manufacture smart technology products must take the initiative to embed security in their hardware and software or the government will likely intervene and demand it.
The next generation of IoT devices will be more integrated with other empowering technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) software. This synergy alone will make IoT much more sophisticated, as AI and ML will play significant roles in improving protection for all electronic devices. This blending of technologies will ultimately make network intruders much easier to expose.
Another monumental challenge for the IT industry will be for its leaders to adopt security standards for using IoT devices in edge or cloud computing. These standards will be developed by organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Center for Internet Security (CIS). In order for widespread adoption of a zero trust IoT environment, it will be necessary for all IoT-based players to address security as a major concern for all network devices.
The more the entire community of legitimate IoT operators work together, the faster response times will be to neutralize cyber threats. This collaborative effort will also improve device visibility and monitoring across enterprise networks.
No one can deny the importance of IoT security on an enterprise network. IoT devices without proper protection violate modern zero trust principles and are vulnerable to cyberattacks. It's crucial for IoT-based operations to work with IT experts who have a deep understanding of IoT security, its strengths and limitations.