It’s an amazing time to be alive. Technology continues to advance at an incredible pace, and things that a decade or two ago would have seemed like something out of science fiction are now becoming a reality. Several manufacturers are perfecting self-driving car designs. It’s possible to set your DVR to record a show from your phone, even from the other side of the country. Your thermostat can communicate with a smart carbon monoxide detector and shut down the furnace if it detects rising CO levels. It seems like everything is becoming connected.
This growing web of connections between devices, vehicles, buildings, and more is commonly referred to as 'the Internet of Things,' a term coined by Peter T. Lewis in 1985. The ability to have all of these devices communicate with each other offers almost endless possibilities. However, people often overlook the fact that these connections also bring potential security risks.
According to Robert Arandjelovic, Director of Security Strategy at digital security provider Blue Coat, we are already seeing examples of these security vulnerabilities being exploited. 'We’ve seen the connected car hack and various reports pointing out the vulnerability of connected hospitals and factories,' he says. 'Unless their suppliers and customers work together to incorporate adequate security measures, we will see many more successful IoT attacks.'
So what is it that makes this situation so inherently risky?
Reasons for the Risk
Each connected device is a potential point of entry
Having all of your devices, systems, gadgets, and networks set up to easily connect to one another is incredibly convenient. Doing so allows automation that was previously unheard of. Plus, physical location is beginning to matter less and less, allowing for more flexibility in workers’ schedules. The more systems that interconnect, the easier each task becomes.
That ease of communication is a double-edged sword, though. Each device that you or your employees can connect to is a device that someone with more malicious intentions could connect to. Each additional device you bring into your network is another vulnerability that could allow a hacker access to your network.
If you access the hub, you have access to everything
The problem grows when you realize that once someone has gained access to your network, each of the devices that’s connected to that network is also compromised. Essentially, once the hacker cracks into one device, that can lead him to the network, and like a crack spreading outward on a windshield, the breach grows. So even if only one device is unsecured, once it falls, even the secured devices can become vulnerable.
Convenience breeds complacency
One of the biggest risks that comes with the Internet of Things isn’t due to the technology itself—it’s due to human nature. As people become comfortable, they often become more willing to let things slide in order to preserve that comfort. They stop seeing the devices they’re using as access points that need to be shored up, but rather as something they can set up and then ignore.
How to stay secure
In order to keep your network secure while still reaping the benefits the Internet of Things offers, there are a few actions to keep in mind:
Keep Aware of the Risks
Knowing what to expect is always one of the first lines of defense against any threat. If you are utilizing IoT systems at your company, it comes as your responsibility to keep abreast of current and upcoming threats that may pose a risk to your company. Know the security trends and prepare to handle them.
Keep an Inventory of IoT Devices
It is important to take an extensive inventory of all of the internet-ready devices that will connect to your company’s network. Once IT is aware of all of the devices that will be connecting, they will be able to secure them against malware and other attempts to breach the network. The company should define which devices are permitted to connect to the network or internet. Some devices may seem harmless, and while the information they send may be innocuous on its own, it can be dangerous when combined with information from other sources.
The interconnectivity new technology permits is doing wonders to ease workers’ workloads, which is a wonderful thing. It’s just important to keep in mind the risks that come with those advantages. By keeping up to date on current threats and keeping protocols in place to defend from potential attacks, though, companies can enjoy the benefits of IoT connectivity without exposing themselves to additional, unnecessary risks.