In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), I want to take a moment to talk to you about how important cybersecurity is in the age of the Internet of Things. By now, it’s common knowledge that the interconnectedness that stems from the Internet of Things (IoT) brings with it a multitude of benefits that extend to businesses of all sizes and federal, state and local governments. By improving services, enabling analytics-based decision making, promoting a connected workforce and providing an openness and accessibility, we all are able to better serve our customers or constituents.
But like most things in life, the benefits IoT provides come with their own set of vulnerabilities. The fact that all of these devices are linked together creates a larger attack surface for hackers, with more attack vectors. Additionally, a lot of IoT-enabled devices are insecure endpoints; they have poor security posture, poorly written code and low-cost, production hardware and software. The network of IoT also brings complexity and fragmentation that can increase the risk for cyber attacks. The increased vulnerability due to IoT is a huge issue, since all organizations have so much valuable intellectual property and classified or private data at stake. Many are thinking, “Wow, this is too scary.”
So what’s an organization to do? Cybersecurity protection has traditionally been a point-in-time solution, where we protect the borders of our network by inspecting every file as it passes our entry points and determining if it is safe or dangerous. We have that one chance to make the right call. Unfortunately, threats can be designed to morph from good to bad, or they may be exploiting a new vulnerability to sneak through and into our environment. When we consider these possibly insecure IoT devices already connected to our network, and the large number of them that will be connected, there are also more opportunities for threats to get past our defenses.
A more holistic strategy accepts the fact that we will not always make the right call at every point in time and gives us the needed information to change our minds after threats have sneaked in. It would be what I call a “complete solution,” which is continuous and uses sensors throughout the enterprise to protect before, during and after an attack. Before attacks happen, organizations should discover resources on their systems, then restrict and grant appropriate access to all resources with network segmentation. They should then harden other security measures using tools such as identity and access management, next-generation firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs). During an attack, security measures should be able to detect, block and defend against the attack. Lastly, after the attack, we need to hunt down the malware which may have slipped by, remediate the situation and use the information gathered from that attack for future protection, including operating advanced malware protection and network behavior analysis.
This “complete solution” is platform based, threat focused and visibility driven – and most importantly, it’s always on. With IoT, it is more important than ever to be pervasive as well, covering everything from devices to the IoT connectivity platform to applications. These complete solutions help organizations harness all the benefits that IoT can provide while still allowing their information to stay safe. And when we are confident of our security and confidentiality, we are freed up to focus on the fun things like creating new services, increasing operational efficiency, making better decisions, providing better, more open access to information and, ultimately, making our customers say “WOW” in a good way.
About the Author
Peter Romness is a business development manager at Cisco Systems Inc., focusing on cybersecurity in the U.S. public sector. He is responsible for cybersecurity thought leadership, bringing cybersecurity solutions to market and developing new cybersecurity solutions for US governments. Though Peter has an engineering degree, his main goal is to make cybersecurity easier to understand and take action upon for non-technical business leaders. For more information about how Cisco can help with IoT and general cybersecurity solutions, visit the Cisco website.