Internet of Things Security Looms Large for Small Business - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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Internet of Things Security Creates Increased Concern

But with so many ways to connect such a diverse set of devices, Internet of Things security concerns are growing. After all, we are not talking about a few extra avenues of attack into the enterprise. According to IT analyst firm Gartner, the IoT will grow to 25 billion connected "things" by 2020. That includes wearable devices for fitness, as well as the growing number of wearables designed to monitor health. And some employees are connecting these devices to small business networks.

"Many IoT devices, such as smart appliances, wearables, connected medical technologies, and sensors, have little to no security, which makes them more vulnerable to attack than your typical PC," said PSP's Olan.

A just-released Spiceworks IoT survey of small business IT pros found that while nearly 90 percent believe the influx of connected things creates security and privacy issues in the workplace, only one in three organizations is actively preparing for the impact IoT security issues could have on their business.

Two years ago, Spiceworks discovered that small business IT pros considered insufficient bandwidth to be the main barrier to IoT adoption. But IoT security has become the top concern (65 percent), followed by equipment issues (42 percent). Insufficient bandwidth now ranks third (37 percent). Small business IT pros worry that IoT devices offer more entry points into the network and that many lack adequate IoT security measures.

"As the demand to put more IoT devices on networks increase, IoT security concerns are certainly increasing," said Sanjay Castelino, vice president of marketing at Spiceworks.

The survey also revealed concern over the sudden influx of wearables. Spiceworks found that the number of organizations that connect wearables to their network increased from 13 percent to 24 percent in the past two years. Other connected devices, including video equipment, electronic peripherals, sensors, and appliances have also increased in many small businesses. Fifty-three percent of the survey respondents view wearables as the most likely source of an IoT security breach, followed by video equipment (50 percent), physical security (46 percent), and appliances (45 percent).

The Internet of Things

Internet of Things Security Tips

As the volume of IoT devices grows, and as more companies focus on securing IoT, easy-to-deploy tools will become more available. For example Cigital, an application security company, provides services for securing the Internet of Things—from product assessments to program creation.

"Internet of Things security is a key challenge," said Dan Lyon, principal consultant at Cigital. "When businesses bring devices into their networks, the devices may have associated security risks of which the business is completely unaware."

Small businesses, in particular, struggle with this because they often lack the resources to identify and resolve those IoT security risks. For example, many IoT devices include capabilities that remote hackers can exploit to access either the device's data or the business network directly, thus placing the business at risk for a data breach.

Lyon offered the following advice to anyone thinking of implementing IoT devices; do not skimp on cost when it comes to security. While most businesses are unwilling to pay more for advanced security features, Lyon noted that there's an increased cost to the vendor to implement IoT security. Additionally, many IoT devices have long lifecycles and may not receive manufacturer updates for known security vulnerabilities.

His advice: make IoT security and update plans part of your product evaluation process. "IoT opens up many possibilities for small businesses, but you need to balance these opportunities with a solid understanding of the associated risks," said Lyon.

What's the best way to familiarize yourself with the possibilities IoT may hold for your small business? Olan advised: pick up a couple of IoT devices and play with them. Discover what they can and can't do, how to integrate them into your business, and how to keep them secure.

"The best way to understand something is to use it and see what it can do," said Olan. "It also helps to be active in the online communities."

Many IoT vendors—like Ubiquiti Networks—have active IoT community forums where the people who use their systems talk, problem solve, and exchange ideas. These forums provide a great way to see what other people use IoT technology.

The Spiceworks survey highlighted several ways in which small business IT pros are preparing to support IoT:

  • Educating end users about IoT security risks (68 percent)
  • Investing in security solutions (47 percent)
  • Investing in infrastructure (43 percent)

While only 12 percent of organizations currently invest in new management tools for IoT devices, nearly 50 percent plan to do so within the next 12 months. Each area is worth investigating by any small business considering IoT technology.

Above all else though, Olan advised caution when it comes to network access. "We allow certain IoT devices on our network, but we always take security into account first when planning an IoT deployment," he said. "The market is currently plagued by devices with little-to-no IoT security—pushed by vendors eager to capitalize on the hype."

When you think IoT deployment, think security first.

"As IoT grows both in scope and in capability, it will be easier to implement," Olan said. "And we'll small businesses using it in lots of creative, unique ways.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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This article was originally published on April 26, 2016
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