Cybersecurity and the IoT: What You Need to Know
by Nicole Speciale in association with Ken Dulaney
Cybersecurity is defined as the protection or defense of computer systems as it concerns:
- The vulnerability of entry points for accessing computer systems.
- The means of spreading of malware across connected devices.
- The methods for removing malware and for returning systems to normal operation.
For personal devices, like laptops, many people take advantage of mainstream malware detection, notification, and mitigation software. Yet, with the expansion of computing environments to include thousands of IoT devices, many organizations have seen their abilities to protect their environments compromised by the limited scope of such products.
The Current State of Cybersecurity
Today, everything is connected and IoT devices, whether personal or enterprise, can be very weak against cyberattacks. When trying to gauge the security of interconnected systems, things are only as strong as their weakest link.
While the IoT offers many benefits, the big issue today is that—due to this network of devices—if a single weak element is compromised, then other things can be as well, including those that are supposedly more protected. An example of this was seen in the Target retailer security compromise where an HVAC machine was used as an entry point into the enterprise.
Understanding a Product’s Cybersecurity Capabilities
When buying a product, it is often difficult to tell what its cybersecurity capabilities are. This is because validation of any product’s capabilities can only occur when a security product is deployed in a particular environment over time. Attackers must be given time to “test it,” so to speak. Unlike most application products that can be tested against a set of specifications, security products are designed to combat both current threats as well as many unknown and undefined future adversaries.
Cybersecurity in the Enterprise
Currently, we are experiencing an influx of interconnected devices (IoT) for enterprises as organizations link together all of their digital assets, not just servers and personal endpoint computers. IT workers will be faced with growing challenges to control and enforce the protection of these huge, interconnected device systems. Because of IoT immaturity, serious compromises can occur. Yet the intuitive response to add more and more software protection under the theory that many layers are the best defense, may not always prevent an unwanted outcome.
Enterprises must begin to examine and demand more holistic security products that encompass a broader architectural view, including IoT. Furthermore, a move to the cloud may be in order because it will be the only solution that permits under-resourced security departments to enjoy the twin benefits of a) top flight security talent and b) input from a broad set of enterprise security needs that may not yet be in the view of a single organization.
Preparing for a Security Breach
Enterprises should plan on a security breach with 100% certainty and, therefore, it is crucial that CEOs are adequately prepared to issue a statement. The lack of preparation for when these events occur adds fuel to the fire for those companies that then suffer from a PR standpoint. Thorough and intelligent action plans are essential for maintaining enterprise integrity when a cyberattack occurs.
There are many ways that enterprises and individuals can help to minimize their chances of encountering a cybersecurity breach. Shifting focus to asynchronous environments—wherein applications are run when needed and disconnected when not—is one way to work smarter with continuously connected devices. Shifting to the cloud is another key method of improving cybersecurity. The cloud is a much better way to deal with certain elements of security in the same sense that we are safer in groups than on our own. The appeal of cloud security will likely draw more people to it and away from servers for data storage.