There’s no denying the allure of IoT devices, but don’t let the impressive opportunities they represent distract you from the IT security risks they introduce. If you’ve considered deploying these devices but worry they could turn your network into an instant haven for darknet threats, you’re not the only one concerned about IoT device security—and you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s take a look at why these devices have the reputation of being risky and, more importantly, how you can mitigate any potential dangers they could pose to your systems.
Discover the advantages—and risks—of IoT
You may be wondering if is IoT really worth the potential security risks. The answer, in a word, is yes. Despite the possible risks, IoT devices can grant your environment a greater degree of intelligence. By connecting otherwise “dumb” devices to the internet, you can unlock powerful benefits, including:
- more data
- better analytics
- increased control over your environment
But in addition to these benefits, it’s important to understand the inherent vulnerabilities you adopt by implementing IoT devices, including:
- more potential attack vectors
- increased system complexity
- greater risks related to privacy and compliance
At first glance, these points may not seem so different from the threats associated with adding any other device to your network. The difference with regard to IoT device security lies in the quantity and obscurity of the connected devices—not to mention their propensity for living on the fringes of firewalls and networks that may connect to critical infrastructure.
Here’s how you can boost your IoT security
Now that you have a general understanding of what risks IoT devices bring to the IT security paradigm, how can you go about mitigating them? This is, after all, a problem worth solving for the sake of bolstering your organization’s capabilities. Consider the following solutions:
For the issue of increased attack vectors
The more connected devices you have in your environment, the more paths there are through which potential threats can enter. How can you mitigate these risks while still investing in IoT?
You simply need to start small. In other words, you should begin with the individual devices that make up your IoT fleet. Each of these “pathways” should have localized features that handle access control and threat detection. This will likely require secure authentication measures that screen the permissions of any users who wish to access the given devices, as well as an active, local agent (think malware detection) that constantly scans inbound transmissions for potential attacks.
For the issue of increased complexity
To save IT staff from working overtime wrangling a fleet of faceless, connected devices, make sure you’re taking full advantage of autonomous capabilities. Take the time sooner rather than later to configure all the self-monitoring features you can—after some initial setup steps, many new devices can carry on unassisted, decreasing complexity even as the number of devices grows.
Let’s use printers as an example. These office tools are a necessary component of business, and most workplaces have several of them. As these devices get smarter and more numerous, it’s more important than ever to protect them from dangerous intrusions. Fortunately, the best printers come with built-in security features to detect and self-heal from malware, as well as the ability to self-manage.
These printers can determine their own configuration instructions on boot and automatically report on their activity to IT. This means you should never have to wonder whether your IoT devices are up-to-date and configured correctly. Timely updates and optimizations should be ensured by automatic processes, and your devices should be able to notify you when something is amiss.
For the issue of increased risk related to privacy and compliance
Compliance has always been and will always be a big deal in IT security. Any data that will pass through or be stored in your IoT devices must remain inaccessible to hackers.
The name of the game here is encryption of data—both in transit and at rest. Any new devices you add to your network should be able to utilize industry-standard secure protocols for communication. It’s worth noting that many standard IoT protocols, like Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT), aren’t inherently secure, as CSO Online points out. For this reason, you’ll want to look for devices that either maintain their own encryption of data at all times or leverage encryption at the transport layer.
In the end, effective IT security and the presence of IoT devices aren’t at odds—all that’s needed for the two to coexist is a little foresight when you add to your fleet of devices. With the right safeguards in place, you can manage complexity, plug attack vectors, and mitigate risk without losing a wink of sleep.