It is estimated that there will be 30 billion connected devices by 2020, according to leading industry analysts. Manufacturers are creating devices to streamline everything we do — from our personal lives with workouts and grocery shopping to our professional environment with conference calls and automating office security systems. Although these devices were created to drive innovation and improve productivity, the concept of security is unfortunately an afterthought or, in some cases, not a thought at all.
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One of the bigger problems created by the ubiquity of IoT in the enterprise is the concept of scale. Consider individual devices. On their own, the risk, although still inherent, is somewhat minimal. However, consider the potential damage if every employee within a large enterprise connects three to four of their own personal devices to the network. The risk is tremendous. The problem with scale is that aggregated, infected IoT devices have the potential to take down an entire enterprise.
In October 2016, internet performance management company Dyn was hit by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack by the Mirai botnet. DDoS attacks work by creating a network of infected computers to bombard a server with traffic until it collapses under the strain. The Mirai attack on Dyn was the first major wake-up call to the risk associated with IoT, because instead of computers, the botnet infected IoT devices, such as digital cameras and DVR players, to bombard the servers of multiple organizations with an overwhelming amount of traffic. Here is where the problem of scale comes in. It is estimated that Mirai used 100,000 devices for the attack, making it twice as powerful as any DDoS attack on record.
Cause for concern
We’ve already seen new IoT botnets with Mirai-like qualities such as Persirai, which took advantage of open Universal Plug and Play ports on connected cameras to infect them. Or even so-called “vigilante” botnets used to protect against the bad ones, including Hajime and Bricker Bot. But regardless of the botnet’s design and capabilities, whether destructive or “protective,” these instances point to a larger issue that highlights that most organizations aren’t any closer to solving their enterprise IoT risk problem.
With that in mind, it is time for enterprises to ask: Just how many IoT devices are currently connected to our corporate network? According to recent survey data, 85% of IT and networking professionals are not confident about the number of connected devices to their network. The issue here is visibility; without proper visibility, organizations are unknowingly increasing their threat surface and enabling potential entry points for cyberattacks. Imagine if your enterprise fell victim to a Mirai scale-like attack — would your network combat the issue or would your enterprise fall flat in a matter of minutes? The good news is there are ways to combat this type of threat.
Where do we go from here?
Now that you know how harmful an IoT hack could be for your business, prevention is key. Visibility into your entire network is critical — after all, you can’t secure what you cannot see. Once you’ve achieved visibility into your network, the next step is control. Take action by setting and controlling security policies to protect these devices. You’ll also want a technology that allows for orchestration of information-sharing and policy-based security enforcement operations to automate security workflows and accelerate threat response. Overall, the solution to combatting the growing threat of IoT is agentless visibility and control of devices. Only then can you mitigate security risk across the growing threat surface.
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