With the internet of things, which has been around for a while, IoT, sensors, or whatever we call them, the contentedness we have been enjoying, at the same time has resulted in the expansion of the threat landscape exponentially in the past few years.
While you are sitting and reading this article, you can have sensors in your eyeglasses, you have about dozens of sensors in your fitness band or smartwatch, and you can have them in your buttons or shoes too. In short, the Internet of things (IoT) has proliferated so much in our daily lives that they now literally surround us from all corners, and there are connected devices everywhere we go.
The enterprises these days, directly and indirectly, rely on connected devices for human resource management, production optimization, risk assessment, demand forecasting, and maintenance schedule. The biggest consumer of IoT devices is the healthcare sector. They use products and services from various IoT businesses to develop modern facilities in a connected environment tracking everything from records to registrations, patient vitals, to real-time monitoring of the pacemaker implants.
Where are we going with IoT devices?
We are not all secure, because IoT has some challenges, and we are dealing with an exponential increase in the threat landscape now. IDC has predicted that the number of IoT devices would proliferate beyond 41 billion by 2025. There is a need for extreme measures to secure these devices, or a simple breach could cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives depending on connected implants and machinery.
Luckily, the governments, such as the state of California take this matter seriously, and it is all set to pass its new IoT Security Law by January 2020. The laws like this protect connected devices by making it compulsory for the manufacturers to release their products equipped with some practical security measures out-of-the-box.
Since IoT devices are new to the world, the threats associated with are not known to everyone. Not everyone is as serious about them as the state of California, but it doesn’t mean the threats are any less chancy. In fact, the threat becomes even hazardous in the current scenario with all this lack of awareness about IoT devices security.
Most enterprises don’t yet understand the importance, probably they will after threats go widespread with time.
We must admit that manufacturers alone cannot implement all the required IoT devices security solutions.
Companies and organizations that deploy these devices in their premises and business process must also implement strict cybersecurity measures. While manufacturers ensure that products follow the security standards by design, the organizations must secure the operation of these devices on their local levels.
How organizations can secure their IoT devices?
Deloitte is one of the leaders in risk assessments and cybersecurity research. In one of their recent studies, they have recommended five critical practices for manufacturers, businesses, and organizations to secure their IoT devices at different levels. Based on that, here is inspired lists of steps you can adopt to better implement IoT devices security solutions.
1. Start taking the risks seriously
In a connected environment, the risk becomes exponential as compared to other environments. Attackers get access to a much larger expanse of your company’s surface by breaching even a single node in the network. A breach in any of your connected devices means the attackers have probably compromised the entire network itself.
Unfortunately, most of the CISOs don’t even realize the extent of linked devices in a routine within their business. They continue to ignore the vulnerabilities, thinking they would manage it in case of a compromise in the future. This happens because of a lack of awareness. Knowledge is the only way to avoid risks. Unless you are aware of the threats, you can’t think of the ways to avoid them or mitigate the losses in case of a disaster. Therefore, the first step is always taking the risks seriously and spreading related awareness in your organization.
2. Maintain a note of every device and node in your network
With every device added in your network, you give one more entry point for exploitation to the cybercriminals. In continuation of the previous point, it is also important for the organizations to stay aware of all the nodes, devices, and entry points within their network. Maintaining an inventory of current devices and new devices they are adding regularly would help CICOs to keep a track of all the endpoint footprints in a more organized manner.
While it seems very simple, most of the organizations still do not practice this fundamental measure. Besides, out of those who take IoT devices cybersecurity seriously, many organizations don’t have centralized control over all IoT devices and applications that are present in the premise. However, they can still acquire a respectable level of footprint tracking by auditing their network management tools, which are more likely to be present in most of the organizations.
Nevertheless, the studies recommend that there is a critical requirement for organizations to manage a centralized system to control all IoT devices. One of such studies by Gartner has speculated that organizations would spend over $ 541 million on IoT endpoint security by 2020. It is a soothing sign considering organizations can’t proceed with IoT devices security solutions unless they are aware of the devices they are using, and this is possible only when organizations maintain a centralized note of every device and node in their networks.
3. Align existing operations and methods with IoT Security measures
Except for some of the businesses whose primary business activity is linked to IoTs directly, most of the organizations adopt connected devices for operational efficiency. IoT devices do not make the entire business operations of most of the organizations. They rather support existing projects aimed towards digital transformation or regular business activities.
While undertaking the two activities simultaneously, most of the businesses maintain a dedicated set of measures for their existing operations. For example, the regular cybersecurity methods adopted by the organization to manage their regular IT operations. Unfortunately, most of these organizations do not spend even 10% of their conventional cybersecurity budgets on IoT devices security solutions.
The organizations must realize that IoT devices are part of their network. Even if they don’t pay much attention, the threats in IoT devices are equally riskier as the cyber risks. Therefore, enterprises must prioritize and device strategies with equal focus on the existing cyber risks and risks associated with the IoT devices. It is always advisable to align IoT security measures with chief stakeholders of the business process, such as business solutions, IT infrastructure, and cybersecurity protocols.
4. Know about everyone you are dealing with in the ecosystem
It’s an accepted fact that businesses can’t operate seamlessly without using third-party products or services in one of the other forms. Take your internet IT network for instance. Most of the businesses don’t manufacture the equipment and software required to manage these networks. The entire infrastructure of interconnectivity relies on numerous third-party hardware, software, and services.
With every third-party hardware, software, and service you add in your business process, you increase the risk of attackers leveraging unsecured IoTs to get into your system. Therefore, organizations need to consider auditing all these connected devices and inspect how, and up to what level, these third parties can access the network.
Organizations should consider auditing the contracts based on not just third party analysis but also how the third party connects to a fourth, and then to a fifth party for interdependent operations. In short, every organization, at their level, must address the requirement for security updates and patches for every risk associated with third parties, vendors, and other supply chain collaborations.
5. AI can help organizations spot the anomalies that humans can’t
AI could be your best bet to track and fix certain anomalies that humans cannot detect without help. Especially, when organizations have a huge network of IoTs along with existing IT infrastructure and numerous third-party vendors, human executives cannot have a track of everything without error.
That’s where organizations can rely on AI-based IoT devices security solutions, which suit uniquely for this purpose alone. These solutions can establish a baseline for normal behavior and set certain flags to send automatic notifications to the concerned authorities on detecting deviations from the normal trends. Many of these solutions can also initiate fail-safes on detecting some major anomalies, where a complete shutdown or quarantine becomes more critical. AI can be trained to analyze these situations 24x7 and take appropriate actions based on hefty calculations, which humans can’t do as fast as the AI can do.
Have you been doing this?
With these five critical steps, organizations can make sure that they are operating in a secure environment with all those connected devices around them. Nevertheless, there is no limit to both cybersecurity risks and risks associated with the IoT devices. There is a need for continuous updates in the measures you take. As IoT becoming mainstream, hackers are becoming more innovative with their approaches, and the risk is increasing exponentially. For what it’s worth, it is better to stay prepared with a fail-safe than doing nothing. Do you think that you are ready for whatever comes next?