internet of things

How Ready are IT Professionals for Attacks on IoT Devices?

Less than half of cybersecurity professionals are prepared for cyber attacks on their own IoT devices, according to one study.

Attacks on IoT devices increased sharply in 2019. In fact, H1 2019 research indicates that there was a 9-fold increase in IoT attacks year-on-year. Bad actors are hard at work infiltrating network-connected devices across the spectrum. It's not only IoT devices at risk; process controllers are also in the crosshairs.

Between January and June 2019, a leading antivirus company reported seeing 105 million attacks taking place, emanating from 276K unique IP addresses. In H1 2018, the total number of attacks on IoT devices was 12 million. The study was conducted by Kaspersky, and they used a honeypot network. The main threat – Mirai - made up some 39% of all infections reported, with brute force techniques used to crack device passwords comprising almost 39% of all attacks that took place. Attacks were largely centralized in three countries: Egypt (12%), Brazil (19%), and China (30%).

What Are Companies Doing to Guard Against Cybersecurity Attacks?

Truth be told, the enterprise system of today already comprises the IoT. Internet security consultants may not be ready for the challenges facing the industry, but these exigencies are real. Many threats abound; cybercriminals are all too aware of the weak links in the proverbial chain vis-a-vis bring your own devices (BYOD), and smart technology systems. IT administrators continue to battle DDoS attacks, botnets, phishing and pharming scams.

It is estimated that the rapid and unprecedented adoption of smart devices will continue at a steady clip in 2020, reaching 5.8 billion devices by the end of the year. Consider that some 4.8 billion non-consumer IoT installations were operational by the end of 2019. Regular security updates, encrypted data, and sophisticated software are necessary to guard against bad actors.

Security professionals have an increasingly important part to play in the process. The prioritization of information exchange is a crucial component of the process. Cloud computing and mobile technology challenges are sacrosanct. Regulatory challenges are equally pressing, and best practice methodology is currently being hammered out.

There are many security challenges to consider, not least of which are the skill and ingenuity of IT security members. Other factors under consideration include the tools and resources for monitoring and securing these IoT connections. It comes as no surprise that there are significant challenges in the works.

This begs the question: How are enterprise-level IT professionals adopting IoT security protocols to safeguard secure assets including company servers and data against threats?

A leading company in IoT security solutions, Portnox estimates between 50-200 billion IoT connected devices will be operational by the end of the year. All of the challenges posed above are slated to increase in severity and urgency in the absence of viable IoT network security solutions. By implementing a feasible network access control solution, companies like this one are leading the way with effective solutions to security vulnerabilities.

These include options like Portnox CLEAR for on/off premise connectivity using cloud-based 802.1 X authentication, and Portnox CORE which automatically discovers IoT devices connected/connecting to corporate networks. Features include automated access control, maximum-security enforcement, and 100% transparency among others.

Companies Not Ready for Meeting Security Challenges of IoT Devices

A report released by Help Net Security in November 2019 indicated that just “47% of cyber security professionals are prepared to deal with attacks on their IoT devices,” citing a report by Neustar International Security Council (NISC). This is particularly worrisome, given that 48% of enterprises reported being hacked via their connected devices/equipment or IoT within the last year. A fraction of companies believe that their employees are skilled enough to guard against such bad actors, with just 38% of these companies in the process of developing action plans to combat cybersecurity challenges.

The IoT challenges exist for several reasons:

  • The existing infrastructure is vulnerable and all enterprises are at risk.
  • There are growing risks of phishing, pharming, DDoS attacks and ransomware heading into 2020.
  • In September 2019, the International Cyber Benchmark Index hit a new high of 26.9.
  • There are simply too many IoT devices being shared on networks, and there is minimal oversight and vetting for public Wi-Fi connections.
  • Many IoT devices are built by third-party vendors, and companies using them are blithely unaware of how they've been put together.

Examples of Major Initiatives with IoT Connectivity Issues

A classic example of IT security challenges in action is that of the 2016 city of Kansas City Missouri with its first-generation Smart City Corridor. This free public Wi-Fi region project was spearheaded by Bob Bennett, in tandem with Sprint and Cisco. The shift to cloud-based software proved to be the biggest challenge for the team of security consultants and tech aficionados. IoT is the way of the future, available in the present. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, the impact of the IoT ecosystem will generate up to $11 trillion within the next five years. IoT skills and network security knowledge are hot ticket items.

Cybersecurity professionals are increasingly demanded as Wi-Fi-enabled devices hook up to company networks, thereby raising the risks of massive attacks taking place. As such, salaries for IT security consultants are growing at an alarming rate, and for good reason. From the hardware and networking perspective, software defined networking technologies (SDN) are in high demand. Companies are focusing on increasing part of their budget on the IoT ecosystem and its core components. Synergy, security, and competency are therefore the core tenets of many new-age networks.

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