Network security in the age of the internet of things

Wireless devices and smart technologies are increasingly being brought into the workplace, and pose a growing risk to company data

The internet of things (IoT) is a comparatively recent invention. Ten years ago, we only worried about protecting our computers, and it was only five years ago when we needed to protect our smartphones. Now we need to consider protecting our fridges, heating systems and industrial machines in order to safeguard company networks.

The IoT is growing quickly. Researchers estimate that by 2020 the number of active wireless-connected devices will exceed 40 billion. These devices are becoming an increasingly attractive target for criminals, as more connected devices mean more attack vectors and possible vulnerabilities.The IoT is growing quickly. Researchers estimate that by 2020 the number of active wireless-connected devices will exceed 40 billion. These devices are becoming an increasingly attractive target for criminals, as more connected devices mean more attack vectors and possible vulnerabilities.

Once ignored, IoT security has now become an issue of great concern. Just last year, a US casino was compromised through hackers accessing its network through a smart fish tank. Over 10GB of data was leaked before the intrusion was detected and blocked. Likewise, smart fridges have been found to be part of botnets.

These are not isolated incidents. Colin Tankard, managing director of Digital Pathways, says: “People could go in and attack the heating and ventilation system, which is on the backbone of an organisation. From there, they could start to packet sniff what is on the network and find other machines or gain access to another system, simply because the systems are poorly secured and poorly managed.

“Each team involved in facilities management and network operations typically has visibility of each other’s systems; this creates islands of self-contained information. The problem is, should one system/group see an issue, it is only seen on their system. This lack of interconnected view is what hackers exploit.”

Read the full article in Computer Weekly 

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