IoT
IoT. weedezign / Shutterstock.com

By Kabelo Makwane

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any object or device that is connected to the internet. This rapidly expanding set of “things,” which capture, send and receive data, includes cars, appliances, smart watches, lighting, home assistants, home security, and more. It’s predicted that by 2025, there will be 41.6 billion units of IoT connected devices worldwide.

Internet-connected devices can make us more efficient, save time and money, and allow us connectivity from almost anywhere, but they also require that we share more information than ever.

The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed. Once a device connects to the internet, it could be connecting to all sorts of risks. As the number of connected devices increases, especially as more people are working remotely with fewer security barriers at home, so do the possible entry points for cyber criminals. The IoT creates new security challenges for the IoT devices themselves, their platforms and operating systems, their communications, and even the systems to which they’re connected.

Protecting IoT devices, as well as their software, operating platforms and data, from the threat of a cyberattack should be a number one priority for businesses and individuals, but too often than not, we’re focused on the cost-effectiveness and convenience of IoT rather than its vulnerabilities. According to technology research firm Gartner, 25% of identified attacks in enterprises involve the IoT, although the IoT accounts for less than 10% of IT security budgets.

Simple steps in IoT security

The first step in device protection, whether it’s at home or in a business, is to identify the devices on your network and determine their risk profile. An IoT security solution with Next-Generation Firewall like that of the Palo Alto Network or Check Point IoT, can do this for you, determining which IoT devices are not running endpoint protection, and safeguarding all of them regardless.

Botnets can scan for easily identifiable usernames and passwords to take control of a device. Changing a device’s factory security settings from the default username and password to something unique and as long as possible is a simple precaution in IoT device protection. Strengthening access control mechanisms and user authentication can ensure greater security to the IoT framework.

Tamper-proof precautions for hardware can restrict entry points, stopping attackers from taking control of a device or reaching important data. They can also offer additional security features to software-based solutions.

Attackers are always finding new methods to gain access to data stores and systems. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, or other network devices, the best defence is to stay on top of things by updating to the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on.

Securing the network is important in preventing hackers form intercepting communications between the device and cloud application. In addition, device data should always be encrypted when it is being sent, to protect against attacks. Identity verification and multifactor-authentication to gain access to the network and the devices on the network, as well as the applications, ensure that communication is not compromised.

Businesses need to see the whole picture

Many organisations traditionally have a decentralised line of action when it comes to cyber security, differing their tactics according to region, department and even product. However, as the IoT connects all parts of an operation in various ways and at vast scale, collecting a huge scope of data (some accessed by third parties), a more integrated and holistic stance to IoT cybersecurity is needed.

IoT cybersecurity in a business needs to fortify every layer of IoT stack, at every level, and throughout a product’s life cycle, where there’s collaboration between other players and stakeholders in the industry to establish effective protection measures. Anticipating scenarios, prioritising points of risk, and having a ready-to-adapt response plan will also mitigate the fall-out of a potential attack.

Integrated solutions include Fortinet, which can provide security across an entire infrastructure. Vodacom Business has advanced reporting capabilities that when using the Fortinet FortiAnalyzer gives customers both real-time alerts and historic reporting to better understand the types of the attacks they are under and where they are being attacked from.

Cisco IoT Security Services Framework is another example of a solution that works through the entire value chain of a network, securing the technology (such as application, infrastructure and cloud security), the operational processes, and the people.

We can’t stop all cyberattacks from happening, but we can put proactive measures in place that mitigate threats to IoT devices, infrastructure, systems and valuable data. This is especially important in a business, where if IoT is secure, organisations can then truly maximise on the cost-saving, efficiency, and connectivity benefits of IoT.

  • Kabelo Makwane is a Managing Executive for Cloud, Hosting & Security at Vodacom Business

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