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Has IoT increased our exposure to cyber threats?

Sandy Verma, Senior Director, IoT Strategy, Asia Pacific, AT&T | May 23, 2016
Cybersecurity is already top of the agenda for many corporate boards, but the scale and scope of Internet of Things (IoT) deployments escalate security risk, making it harder than ever for C-suite executives to protect their businesses.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

The rapid rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) presents organisations with the opportunity to improve internal efficiencies, provide better customer service, enter new markets and even build new business models. From healthcare to utilities, automotive, manufacturing and logistics, industries are already being transformed by IoT, and the expectation is that almost every sector will be impacted in the near future.

This has serious security implications. The scale of connected devices greatly increases the overall complexity of cybersecurity, while the scope of the IoT ecosystem amplifies these challenges.

 According to the AT&T State of IoT Security survey,  only 10 percent of respondents are fully confident that their connected devices are secure, and only 12 percent are highly confident about the security of their business partners' connected devices. The issue for today's CEO is not how to convince their board of directors that the risk is real, but how to identify the threats, design and implement mitigating measures and communicate this preparedness to win the full backing of their directors.

Where are the risks?
At the most basic level, a lot of the vehicles, shop-floor equipment and other devices now being IoT enabled were not built with Internet connectivity or security in mind. This leaves a lot of weak spots through which hackers and other cybercriminals can enter corporate networks. Over the past two years, AT&T's Security Operations Center has logged a 458 percent increase in vulnerability scans of IoT devices.

Furthermore, many IoT devices are not properly monitored. Nearly half of the AT&T survey respondents admit they are merely estimating the number of connected devices they have; only 38 percent use device management systems or software to identify connected devices and just 14 percent have a formal audit process in place.

 The security challenge increases as IoT devices begin to bridge the digital and physical worlds. Thousands of interconnected IoT devices already control physical infrastructure, such as production lines, supply chains and utilities, as well as airplanes and cars. For example, in the IoT-connected car, , IoT sensors gather performance data to monitor maintenance schedules, troubleshoot problems and analyze usage. Other sensors, paired with voice controls and mobile apps, add functions such as navigation and a variety of infotainment features.

 From an organisational point of view, any data breach can significantly damage share price, market position and corporate reputation. When your IoT deployments also carry a risk to human safety, no matter how small, the stakes are much higher. This adds an entirely new level of complexity to your information security strategy.

 

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