The Internet of Things is an increasingly important technology for businesses to use, but it comes at the expense of cybersecurity. Luckily, you can implement IoT solutions and protect your network. Here's how.

We've long dreamt of a connected world, even before the internet totally revolutionized how we do business and socialize. Today, even our devices are more connected than ever, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling our old "dumb" machines to communicate intelligently.

What does that mean? Basically, we can now transmit data about virtually anything back to a central source, where it can be studied and contextualized by artificial intelligence. Then, these smart algorithms can provide recommendations and deep insights to human decision makers.

The benefits from this concept are clear. IoT offers humanity immense opportunity. IoT can inform us about energy usage, and where waste is coming from. It enables predictive analytics, allowing companies to respond before machinery fails and disrupts productivity. Data captured by IoT devices can tell us how to best position our retail displays. It can even inform us about consumer behaviors and lifestyle patterns.

There's just one problem when it comes to IoT: it creates more cybersecurity vulnerabilities. And failure to implement IoT means your company will be less competitive in the near future.

Why is IoT insecure?

What makes IoT devices so insecure? In short, they create more points of potential attack for would-be hackers. With more opportunity to worm their way into a network, the chances that an attacker succeeds increase greatly. So, while the ever increasing demand for contextualized data dictates a need for more widespread IoT implementation, companies risk the security of their networks as they build out these systems.  

Data breaches are bad enough as it is, but imagine a thief in your network once you're capturing immense troves of data enabled by IoT devices. Now you've got a centralized database detailing granular aspects of your whole business's operations. Whether the attacker is a competitor or simply wants to deploy ransomware on your network, that spells big trouble for your organization.

But ignoring IoT developments is a short-term solution that will eventually see your business fall behind. Instead of delaying implementation for fear of attack, you've got to address the security concerns head-on.

Rest assured, there is plenty you can do to help secure your network when implementing IoT solutions. Best of all, many steps you should take to secure IoT devices are the same security measures you should already be employing on your network (hint: if you're not, you might want to start after reading this article.)

Be selective when connecting.

You don't have to connect every single device just because it can be connected. Consider what devices you really need to draw data from, and what insights you're likely to get from connecting them. Will this information help further your business's profitability? If yes, then it's likely worth connecting, if not, it's an unnecessary device that would only create a new attack vector if connected. Keep it off your network.

Use strong passwords and differentiate them.

This is a universal rule that should always be followed, whether you're using IoT devices on your network or not. Your passwords should be strong, randomly generated strings of letters, characters, and numbers, and you should not be reusing them for different accounts or devices. The same goes for IoT devices.

Many of these devices come with factory set passwords that are relatively easy to figure out for the clever hacker. Make sure you change them to something secure. If you find it too hard to remember these secure passwords (note: it should be difficult,) you can look into password vaults that will help save, store, and even update your passwords.

Disable universal plug and play functionality.

These features make it easy for devices to recognize one another, which is useful for quick configuration, but also for hackers to identify and target your network. By disabling universal plug and play, yes you will have to configure your devices to your network manually, but you will also get the peace of mind that it will be harder for those with ill intentions to target your network as well.

Monitor everything, always.

Finally, you should be constantly visiting and revisiting devices to ensure they've not been compromised. If you don't have the technical capacity to do so, consider bringing someone on board who does. Outsourcing this service is also possible and, believe me, it is well worth the expense. If your network is compromised, you're going to wish you hadn't saved the money up front, because it's extremely costly to recover from a cyber attack.

Don't be afraid of implementing IoT. It's a wonderful tool than can help you conduct business in a smarter, more efficient way. 

Published on: Apr 30, 2018