While the common belief is that the internet of things is inherently insecure, with the right security measures in place, the technology can be used to enhance network security. Indeed, with IoT visibility technology, safe authentication mechanisms and firmware updates in place, IoT is well-suited for a fruitful friendship with IT security professionals.
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Let IoT take the reigns
IoT devices are expert data collectors. Their capabilities to mine data on processes can streamline mechanical and manual processes in a way that not only automates them, but improves performance with machine learning over time. Indeed, IoT is a kind of intersection between the rapidly evolving worlds of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are key in helping reduce overhead from IT staff. If an issue arises with a mechanical arm on the factory floor, or the office HVAC system is bugging out, IT staff no longer needs to directly address the issue — they can use data from the connected device that controls them to better understand the issue and reach an appropriate plan of action. Being able to address these issues from “afar” not only saves time that could be devoted to more productive tasks, it helps solve issues so as not to affect immediate productivity. In addition, IoT devices can help paint a picture of potentially looming issues and vulnerabilities on the network, which can be factored into larger policy decisions and security strategy. While IoT security concerns should be considered, and steady awareness of potential vulnerabilities maintained, the devices can be used for IT benefit by saving precious time and reducing unnecessary effort.
Gain actionable intelligence
As IoT devices contain an array of valuable data, they can be used in an IT context to better understand the network and optimize security strategy. For instance, through an IoT device, it is possible to monitor network activity — which devices or appliances are taking up the most bandwidth, or where there may be a loophole in the network architecture. By analyzing and understanding the data provided by IoT devices, it’s possible to control for vulnerabilities before they ever occur, transforming that data into actionable intelligence. IoT can be used to provide intelligence all the way to the periphery of the network, as observed by Jim Gray of Microsoft who believes that IoT devices will start working as mini-databases, collecting information on everything from servers to sensors. Though there is the immediate difficulty of processing all of this data, with the right data management tools in place, early adapters of IoT-IT technologies could see drastic improvements in the areas of network and connectivity management.
Understand IoT’s potential and limitations
Any good friendship is based on a mutual understanding of value — the value that you bring to the friendship and the value that they bring to the friendship. While it may seem utilitarian to view friendship in this way, there is a subconscious understanding between good friends that their immediate and long-term value is what is hanging in the balance.
The same is exceptionally true of IoT devices and IT professionals. IoT needs IT to function correctly and safely, and in some cases to have all the data that it collects understood. IT needs IoT to increase efficiency, reduce overhead and provide actionable intelligence. However, an IT professional that blindly embraces IoT without taking its limitations or security risks into account is bound to be let down (as an IoT device is an inanimate object, it doesn’t really work the other way around). Therefore, a clear understanding of IoT security risks, such as low computing power, weak memory, specified OS and limited patch/firmware updates, is essential for the friendship to work and bear fruit.
The first step for IT professionals looking to appropriately embrace IoT technology is to integrate a detailed implementation plan. It may involve a slow “phasing in” of simple IoT devices, like a smart coffee machine or connected security cameras, which can help IT pros better understand what needs to be in place before full-force deployment. In addition, it provides ample opportunity to assess the company’s network security stack, ensuring that the right technologies are in place. Visibility, control and management systems are essential if IoT is to work and live up to its end of the bargain. Following a small-scale deployment, and with the proper device discovery tools in place, IT teams are likely to be ready for a full-fledged friendship with IoT devices.
When it comes down to it, IT professionals don’t have much of a choice when it comes to embracing IoT technology. According to the majority of projections, there will be at least 30 billion IoT devices connected by the year 2020. Any IT professional that cares about their organization’s culture of innovation and security would be wise to befriend IoT now, before they are engulfed by a wave of devices to integrate, see, control and manage. At this stage, IoT is essentially asking IT, “Why can’t we be friends?”
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