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Network Security in the Age of the Internet of Things

 6 min read / 

There are a lot of changes taking place in the business world today. One of the things that all businesses need to go out of their way to keep up with is cyberattacks. Most of these target traditionally unconnected devices. As we enter into a new generation of using connected, intelligent devices in the workplace, businesses are growing more productive, serving customers in more efficient ways, and also expanding into new markets. While this is good news, as it happens it brings more smart devices into the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT). This transition has scrambled the historical notion of the corporate endpoint. Now the world has been forced to move beyond the realm of desktop and laptop computers. Modern life has also been forced to move beyond the use of mobile phones and tablets. Today, there are millions of “things” that are connected. These “things” populate enterprise’s far-flung networks. They also send and receive a lot of valuable data across the internet.

Understanding the Role of Digital Disruption

Although digital disruption is important and has its role in business culture today, it also comes with a price. This is because with each new device there is a potential entry point for cybercriminals. When this is viewed from a security perspective it is easy to imagine some very nasty sci-fi scenarios. Some companies even got a real life, sneak peek at one of these scenarios last year when they had their digital video cameras compromised by the Mirai botnet-powered massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that hackers launched against important parts of the internet. This incident stunned the security world. It made a lot of people stand up and take notice of how successful some cyber attackers were at finding new ways to infect devices that were not susceptible in the past. Symantec said this shows how enterprises are now faced with the threat of defending against attacks that start with hacks of management interfaces on devices that were not even connected to the internet in the past, things like video cameras, fish tanks, and coffee machines.

There are many new challenges that arise due to the emergence of the IoT. One of the main challenges is learning how to handle security when it comes to endpoints, networks, and data in a world that is now full of a lot more connected devices. Attacks on these things can come from any vector. In the connected world in which society exists today, it is important to be aware of these new vulnerabilities.

Living in the Age of Smart Devices

Today, most people realise that their computers and its software are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. As such, they will take adequate steps to protect these items. While this is great, at the same time they, unfortunately, seem to forget about all the different smart devices they have directly connected to the same network that their computer is running on. This is something that is important for people to never overlook though because hackers can find their way into those systems through a lack of attention. While cutting-edge technologies are helpful for business many of them were never designed to protect themselves against a digital attack. This is why they are so vulnerable to various threats, including malware and IoT botnets.

Many people do not understand what IoT botnets are though. This is because they are still relatively new, only having been first created in 2016. However, these are something that everyone should familiarise themselves with since there will be 6.4 billion connected devices by 2020. Every computer in this compromised network (along with any and all internet-connected device) was hijacked by these cyber attackers who are now using them for unapproved or illegal purposes, including denial of service attacks.

Botnets are not only growing in number today, they are also becoming much more advanced. This is because now they are able to target a lot more devices all at the same time. Today’s cyber attackers are able to use new code that lets them create new types of malware. These cyber attackers are now unleashing their attacks on new targets as well. This is because there are new, more obvious targets available. This includes things like Wi-Fi cameras and security systems, things that offer them an easier way in which to circumnavigate a lot of things, even when users have taken all the necessary, normal precautions.

Clearly, this means that IoT devices are much more vulnerable than those more traditional devices. According to Fortinet, there are two primary reasons why IoT devices are so commonly compromised. These include:

  • There is a lack of regulation surrounding the IoT industry today. While this may sound surprising to some people, it is important to understand how this will directly impact business instead of ignoring it or taking a “wait and see” attitude. This is something people need to understand because this means that many brands are not obligated to even think about cyber security threats and actions they can take to protect devices. Since this is the prevailing attitude today, many coders do not even think twice about using things like trash code, hard coded passwords, backdoors, or any other type of design flaw that could compromise them. In fact, they treat these things as though they are trivial.
  • Unfortunately, a lot of IoT manufacturers do not even have a Product Security and Incident Response Team (PSIRT) in place. Even those who do have one are not able to respond quickly to any new vulnerabilities that may arise. This means that even if they are able to detect a threat, they do not have anyone to whom they could report the issues, which means that not much can be done about them. As time goes on, this is going to become an even bigger problem, especially for businesses who should be taking a proactive approach to all of these things instead of waiting to simply react to them instead.

How to Protect Devices

The importance of protecting devices is not something that can be emphasised enough. This is growing more important today as new technologies are being deployed everywhere, in both homes and businesses alike. Many processes have also evolved recently as well, which is making modern life even more convenient but at the same time it is also placing users at an even greater risk of being “attacked.” This is not something that most people think of or pay attention to today.

When people have some of these devices linked up in a network, they need to take some time to prepare themselves for attacks. They can start by making sure that they have strong authentication set up at access points. This will let users see and track devices. They should also keep track of their devices, including their manufacturers and software versions, so they can quickly identify how vulnerable these devices are when they uncover a threat. Additionally, establishing network segmentation and micro segmentation strategies will help make sure that any devices that are at risk are kept separate from critical production resources. These steps will help ensure that businesses get back on track soon after any attack occurs.

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