The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of today’s most significant technologies, at home and in the workplace. Like with any disruptive technology, though, companies should approach IoT adoption slowly and carefully. For all of its advantages, enterprise IoT comes with some considerable cybersecurity concerns. There are more than 5 billion enterprise IoT endpoints in use right now, and that number’s growing. Every one of these devices represents another place where businesses can gather or apply valuable data. Simultaneously, each one, if not secured properly, can be a network security risk.
These potential cybersecurity concerns shouldn’t scare businesses away from the IoT, as it does offer considerable advantages. Enterprise IoT takes technologies that already benefit companies and expands what they can do. A level sensor can help increase automation and reduce error, but an IoT level sensor can enable businesses to learn how it could improve further.
IoT sensors gather data about how a machine or system operates that companies may not know otherwise. That data can then reveal shortcomings or areas to improve, helping businesses refine their approach. These insights can be as substantial as reorganizing an entire workflow or as straightforward as reducing energy consumption in one area.
IoT connectivity increases visibility, helping businesses keep track of all their operations. This visibility can improve virtually any process, from tracking product quality through the supply chain to highlighting areas of high resource consumption. With broader IoT adoption, these devices can communicate with each other, enabling streamlined operation.
As technology improves, the uses and benefits of enterprise IoT systems keep growing. Still, businesses should know these devices come with unique cybersecurity concerns. Most notably, creating more endpoints on a network increases the number of possible entryways for cybercriminals.
While a hacker may not be able to access a traditional security camera remotely, they could access an IoT camera. If they hack into the camera’s wireless system, they could spy on an area or turn the camera off. Cybercriminals could even use the device as an entry point to the business’s network, which could hold more valuable data.
These concerns aren’t hypothetical, either. In 2016, hackers launched a massive denial-of-service attack across multiple websites, using IoT cameras and DVRs to infiltrate them. While companies typically secure other endpoints like computers, IoT devices on the same network often go overlooked.
Businesses not recognizing the threat of increased endpoints isn’t the only problem. IoT devices typically have less functionality than other systems, making it challenging to apply high-level security standards. Similarly, many offer no information about their software or firmware status.
These threats don’t make enterprise IoT more dangerous than it’s worth. They do, however, mean businesses should take care to secure these devices as they implement them. The first step in securing these devices is becoming aware of their vulnerabilities.
While 44% of small business plan to invest in the IoT, just 20% plan to invest in cybersecurity software. Companies should avoid this trend and look into IoT security solutions with every IoT device they implement. In addition to IoT-centric security, businesses can take some steps in securing the network that supports these devices.
Tools like Cigent for Networks can offer professionally-managed protection that makes up for smaller companies’ lack of in-house resources. Running on the cloud and focusing on networks over endpoints makes it ideal for IoT security. Resources like this enable SMBs to reach a level of security far beyond what they could on their own.
Segmenting networks through virtual local area networks (VLANs) or software-defined networks (SDNs) will help isolate IoT devices, reducing their threat as an entry point. The further removed IoT endpoints are from sensitive files and services, the better. Other steps, like frequently updating all device software and employing strong passwords and encryption, are also recommended.
Without thorough cybersecurity, enterprise IoT systems are too risky to be entirely beneficial. If businesses took the time to secure these devices, though, they could use them without fear. Robust cybersecurity unlocks the full potential of the enterprise IoT.
Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com. She covers topics related to cybersecurity, smart tech and big data.