Defending Your Company’s Network Against IoT
You would be hard-pressed to find someone today who doesn’t own a smartphone. Internet connection, mobile apps, contacts – these are all constants in our lives, and they travel with us everywhere, including to the office. This BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) culture has already proven challenging for the healthcare industry and its compliance to HIPPA regulations, but it’s certainly not the only vertical affected. In fact, along with healthcare, higher education and IT have been identified as the three most BYOD-heavy industries, and potentially the most susceptible to challenges and security threats due to IoT.
A recent Information Week article discusses the challenges faced by these and other industries that are quickly adopting IoT. In addition to employees and guests of these institutions connecting outside devices to internal networks, there are also concerns regarding the buildings themselves. “Connected” offices offer remote access via mobile devices to internal operations like lighting and temperature control, and even windows and locks. Aside from enabling potential hackers to interfere with a building’s comfort settings or gain entrance into the facility, they can also gain access to the network itself, penetrating other connected devices or acquiring sensitive information. Even seemingly basic tools like printers and smart televisions can create unprotected pathways to the network.
Aside from security concerns, the more common issue with IoT is keeping connected devices up to date. Doing so can prevent further issues like connection loss, incompatibility with routers, and integration problems with other devices. Many of these IoT devices, however, are not easily customized after initial installation, leaving them running on outdated platforms. For example, a 2014 study revealed that the vast majority of ATMs in the U.S. were running on Windows XP, but it was unclear which machines had received the latest updates and security features. A machine operating on an older version of the software poses challenges to maintenance teams along with significant concerns for network security – for both the network in the local facility and in the central financial institution.
The best steps for avoiding these issues are proactive ones. First, explore more customizable devices that allow you to perform system updates and configurations throughout the product lifecycle and help them to best match your network protocols. Even more importantly, before introducing a fleet of IoT devices to your workplace, be sure your network is properly secured and monitored with a combination of inline tools for proactive threat elimination and out-of-band technology for intrusion detection (for more on this, see our story on improving network architecture). Once a solid network architecture is in place, you can increase your traffic-based monitoring with intrusion protection and detection devices, especially as the number of IoT devices continues to grow.
Connected devices have become critical to many industries, and will only continue to proliferate in the years to come. While they can create significant security and maintenance issues, proactive network security measures can help modern workplaces stay on top of these concerns. As one of the few remaining independent tap and NPB manufacturers, Datacom Systems can help develop custom solutions that will best protect your network and keep it running smoothly. Contact us to learn how your business can benefit from our expertise in network monitoring and access solutions.