Over time, the definition of IoT has changed considerably.
Today, IoT has crossed new boundaries and can be found in nearly every possible item. With its inherent network connectivity, it has become a major source of real-time data collection and exchange. As the world becomes increasingly connected, there is a natural six-degrees of separation between most devices on the global internet. From personal devices to commercial devices, and from wearables to healthcare – we’re witnessing the boom of IoT networks in consumer as well as industrial applications.
While the forefront of enterprise innovation can be seen in telemedicine and smart cities, the broader IoT ecosystem is expanding at lightning fast speed and will soon touch the lives of everyday users on a global scale. In a sense, these IoT networks are pure carriers of data which is essential in deriving beneficial outcomes using advanced analytics. Be it to exhibit new business opportunities, glean deep insights, or lower operational costs – IoT has a role to play.
However, these benefits also come with certain risks.
The rise in connectivity between devices is directly proportional to the rise in cybercrimes as it offers a much wider digital threat landscape
The rise in connectivity between devices is directly proportional to the rise in cybercrimes as it offers a much wider digital threat landscape. Securing these devices and ensuring undisrupted performance from cybercrimes are the key priorities for most businesses and institutions, that requires a proactive plan powered by effective and engaging policies and frameworks.
IoT Challenges and Opportunities
The largest threat to the growing global IoT networks are cybercriminals and rogue organizations who seek to exploit or damage these systems. Actors scavenge and exploit the weakest links in the IoT security system to achieve their goals. They target these links to introduce malicious software codes that can result in significant financial and data losses.
More than money – the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and national defense is at stake and can become a life-or-death issue. Recent studies suggest that the present security standards are insufficient and many IoT network device manufacturers are not incorporating adequate security measures.
It is no surprise then that the US government has taken a proactive step in issuing Presidential Executive Orders in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack to address the gap. However, this is only one part of the world. Enterprises that transcend national boundaries need to take a more aggressive stance in the face of these IoT challenges.
It goes without saying that the security and hardware standards for devices need to be made more stringent and should be well defined across the IoT ecosystem. While using personal IoT devices users often ignore cyber hygiene like changing default password or follow proper exit protocol from an app or device. To address these issues, leaders need to create a culture that is focused on educating and enabling proper cyber hygiene for their users.
Cyberattacks are not confined to the user’s device only; they can poison the entire chain of devices that are connected to the user’s device, causing immense financial and data loss in a very short time.
Cyberattacks target network systems by seeking out exploits in the hardware and software. More often than not, cybercriminals rely on users to ignore proper cyber hygiene which allows them easy entry. These loopholes have been exploited on numerous occasions – from engaging in industrial and national espionage, to targeting power grids, and ransoming corporations and governments.
Now every large corporation and government is faced with the daunting task of solving the challenge – “with whom the IoT security responsibility lies”.
Huge infrastructure like power grids, government systems, or legacy systems have challenges of merging and deploying IoT devices into their existing IT systems. The good news is, there have been large-scale successful deployments of IoT devices in telecommunication industry and the military.
The new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has furthered the need for such solutions.
As remote work and home offices become more prevalent, the threat landscape has continued to grow – from inside the office to inside each employee’s home. This remote model makes it all the more urgent that organizations scale up cybersecurity since IoT has compounded the vulnerability of each of these individual remote offices. A few of the key challenges facing IoT security include:
- Neglected compliance by IoT manufacturers
- Lack of skills and IoT security engineers
- Insufficient knowledge and awareness
- IoT device update management issues
- Shortage of physical hardening
- Vulnerability to botnet attacks
- Commercial espionage and surveillance
Act Now – Secure the Opportunities
The opportunities of IoT for uplifting society, catering to business and government needs are enormous. It can substantially reduce cost and increase access to healthcare and education, thereby improving quality of life. Moreover, it can also help to reduce carbon footprints and increase transportation safety. With the boom in digital transformation, the need for IoT security has taken center stage for business leaders and administrators.
All IoT devices and connectivity to the ecosystems need to be secured to leverage the immense opportunity it provides. Otherwise, any connected device with improper security can be compromised to seize control and steal the user's digital data. IoT manufacturers must adhere to strict security requirements and incorporate advanced security systems in their devices.
There should be air gaps in the operation, connectivity, and systems to prevent the spread of any cyberattack to other connected devices and systems. Immediate deployment of new sophisticated monitoring and cybersecurity technologies aided by machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) would enable for robust security of the ecosystem and allow for the limitless potential IoT promises.
In the wake of the pandemic, digital transformation has taken over in critical industries like healthcare and infrastructure. Moreover, it has also changed consumer dynamics and societal preferences for products and services.
Such transformations and changes in the market and consumer dynamics cannot be stopped. The reach of IoT is only poised to grow even larger. The question is whether leaders will be fast enough to get ahead of the curve and take proactive steps to protect themselves, their business, and their customers from cybercriminals.