The Internet of Things (IoT) is the term used to describe the network of connected sensors and sensor-driven machines utilizing wireless technology such as Wi-Fi and RFID. Popular examples include smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat or the Amazon Echo speaker. However, Industrial IoT applications that deliver value to enterprise-level commercial processes are increasingly entering professional spaces – which creates a whole new reality for network security.
IIoT devices are by definition constantly connected to a network, which means they represent potential entryways for hackers looking to gain access to data deeper within the system. Machines existing in an IoT network are new endpoints that have to be continuously monitored and cybersecurity experts have portrayed these applications as an inevitable nightmare for IT security practices. The good news is that network security in the wake of IoT is possible – it will just require a whole new level of vigilance.
The Entire Network is a Threat
Often the hardest concept for unaware users to grasp is that IoT devices effectively create a security gap that can span your entire system. They potentially remove the need for social engineering attacks and luck as the primary means to breach a network as these connected machines act like lighthouses guiding hackers to ports of entry.
Attackers that have previously broken into consumer-level appliances have relied on the security of those devices correlating with their individual value, meaning that they were protected only as much as they were worth by themselves. These applications can longer be treated as one particular system to be monitored, but as a node existing unceasingly within the whole network.
Common workplace security practices have still not caught up to the reality of every networked device being a danger. IoT raises that threat exponentially – now every machine is a vehicle that can be used to access its partners. This is how attackers have historically deployed botnet attacks such the one that affected networks across the US East Coast in 2016.
If utilized within an IIoT network, such an attack could cripple a business – or several. As cyber warfare becomes an increasingly viable option for resource-strapped nation states and terrorist groups, this will likely be tactic employed to attack American infrastructure through enterprise-level and mid-market manufacturers.
Even while the IoT network act as an ocean in the digital space, the reality is that the physical side of each device still exists in one place, and that is often what throws off businesses using contemporary security practices. IT units have gotten used to monitoring devices from a centralized data silo, which is what creates the reactive methodology that has produced so many data breaches in the past.
This strategy will be next to impossible maintain in the age of IoT as each appliance becomes a network unto themselves. The distribution of networked functions will require a distribution of security and cyber intelligence tasks in turn.
Commit to Monitoring Your Network if You Deploy IoT
IoT is one of the biggest cybersecurity concerns in 2019, and that concern will only grow along with its IT footprint. Yet the benefits of IIoT mean that businesses can capture significant value from deploying connected devices to optimize operational processes. Do not be afraid to consider an investment in IoT, but be ready to commit resources to keeping your network secure if you leverage this technology.
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