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How to Fortify Your Network for the IoT Revolution

5 minute read
Sheza Gary avatar

As more and more devices gain internet-connectivity, security measures have to change.

Experts estimate every person will own about 25 devices connected devices by 2020. Many of these items, such as refrigerators and televisions, will remain in the home. But some of them will make their way to the office.

Many employees already take tablets, smartphones and smart watches with them to work. These devices then try to connect to your business’s network.

Growth of the IoT

That can cause a number of security issues and may even lead to a breach. These threats will only increase as more and more people bring their devices to the office. That’s why now is the time to prepare for the Internet of Things Revolution.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a loose term that defines the continuously growing network of different appliances, equipment, and other objects that can connect to the internet.

All of these devices can have an IP address and connect to local networks via cable or Wi-Fi. This allows them to connect to each other and over the internet to other devices and networks.

The IoT began with computers, and then expanded to smartphones and tablets. But these devices aren’t always considered a part of the IoT now.

Instead, many people consider the IoT to include everything that’s not a computer. This includes things such as thermostats, appliances, security systems, alarm clocks, lights, speaker systems, and much more.

In 2015, there were more than 12 billion devices in the world that were a part of the IoT. By 2020, there will likely be more than 26 times that number.

Prepare Your Network for the IoT

Preparing for the IoT revolution means assessing your security protocols and measures now and not waiting for these devices to become a threat. You want to act against these threats preventively instead of reacting to them. Here are four ways you can do so.

1. Control Access to the Network

You should always have control of who can use your network. But with more employees bringing their own devices to work, you need to step up this type of defense. Any of these devices can contain viruses or other potential dangers that can infiltrate your system and leave your data exposed.

Even worse, many of the IoT devices are headless devices. This means that they cannot have software patches or updates installed to them. Any overlooked security vulnerabilities that predate the manufacturing of the connected devices will remain for as long as those devices are in use.

Your IT staff has to stay on top of devices found to be vulnerable. You’ll want to make sure that any device classified as high-risk is blocked from accessing your network. Unauthorized devices and any device that has been compromised will also need to be blocked.

In most cases, you’ll want to use a whitelist instead of a blacklist for this. Whitelisting a device gives it permission to connect to your network. It offers more security than blacklisting, although it does require you to add every device you want to allow to the whitelist.

2. Assume Your Network Will Be Breached

From the beginning, assume that you will be dealing with a security breach at some point. This way, you can prepare for how you’ll deal with this breach instead of naïvely assuming your security will be so good that a breach will never happen.

Learning Opportunities

You should create plans for how you’ll recover your data if it’s deleted or corrupted. You also need a plan for dealing with information theft. How will you handle compromised data? How will you deal with customers who may have had private information stolen? You need answers to all of this.

One thing you can do is use real-time network monitoring and protection software such as Snort. This type of program will scan your network constantly, and, if it detects an intruder, it will sound the alarm.

Snort will even watch for legitimate logins that are behaving oddly and report that behavior if the login begins trying to access things that it should not. This allows you to block attacks as they happen in real-time and not respond to them after the attacks have happened.

3. Segment the Network

Once someone has gotten into your network, they may have free reign of your entire system. This can be very dangerous because they can access any of your data, delete users, and leave viruses behind in any part of your system. One of the most important network security tips is to segment your system and stop this from happening.

By segmenting your network, you’re creating different secure areas. When one of these areas is breached, you can contain the attack, and you’re likely to experience only a small amount of damage. When the attacker tries to move into other parts of your network, it will be detected, and you can quarantine that segment and begin cleansing it.

4. Keep it Simple

If you’re a small business, you probably don’t have the funds to purchase multiple types of security programs, and your IT staff may be limited to only a few people.

The idea, then, is to use your money smartly. Often, the more security programs you get, the more complex your security becomes. This can lead to issues such as programs causing conflicts and your staff not even realizing what IT security systems you have.

A simple yet strong security system is the key.

You want programs that work together to create a strong security network that can be scaled as needed. By segmenting off your network into multiple layers and monitoring it in real-time, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on building up an incredibly strong firewall or other type of wall around your entire system.

Instead, you’ll have a smart system that detects, quarantines, and defeats attacks quickly and easily.

About the author

Sheza Gary

Sheza Gary is a technical director at Algoworks, a global IT service provider which operates chiefly in United States from its California office. She was previously a technical manager at CloudGenix.