Internet of Things devices like smartwatches, smart thermostats, and smart TVs are just some of the new devices that can make life easier and present new opportunities for business growth. However, IoT devices lack the same security heritage that’s found on personal computers. Hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities on IoT devices to break into your network and steal information from other devices like servers and computers. It can be complicated for your IT staff to find a balance between keeping your business network secure while allowing for IoT devices. While it might sound cruel, one of the most effective ways to handle security concerns with IoT devices is to segregate the devices across different networks.
Small Device Access, Big Device Problems
When poorly implemented, IoT devices can serve as an easy-to-crack back door onto the network. Isolating IoT devices on their own network makes it substantially harder for hackers to piggy-back off a less secure device to break into more secure ones. In a worst case scenario a device like a break room IoT refrigerator could serve as a hacker’s entry point onto your business’s network, which in turn could lead them to your financial records.
The Second Network
The FBI recommends running a secondary Wi-Fi network dedicated to IoT devices to keep the devices on your main network safe. That way if someone hacks into your network through an IoT device, the damage they can do is limited to only your other IoT devices. Setting up a secondary network can be accomplished two ways: by using two different wireless router access points or by utilizing a singular wireless router that can generate two different networks. The key in upkeep when running the secondary network is always to make sure new IoT devices aren’t configured to use the main network.
Widespread Security Issues
As IoT device security improves over time, it will make sense to include them on your main network. However, until the devices actually achieve that level of security keeping them separated from the rest of your network is a safe move because of how far-reaching IoT security problems extend. According to a 2015 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Study, a staggering 80 percent of all IoT devices running cloud and mobile applications raised security concerns by failing to require secure passwords. The same study found that 60 percent of IoT devices run user interfaces that are vulnerable to issues like weak credentials and persistent CSS attacks while 70 percent of devices transmitted unencrypted data over the network. These are major problems hackers can easily exploit.
The Update Issue
Unless your IoT staff is paying as much attention to IoT devices as employee computers, those smart devices could turn into a major network weak point. Even when developers identify and resolve security holes with IoT devices, those updates are useless if not installed. Unlike computers which typically run updates on a weekly basis, IoT devices tend to be configured once and forgotten about. In December of 2015, Trend Micro found 6.1 million smart devices running an old version of a code library with a major vulnerability that had actually been fixed in an update from three years earlier.
While keeping your IoT devices running the latest security updates makes them as secure as possible, it may not be enough. Configuring the second network can be a bit more expensive for a larger office, but the additional Wi-Fi network hardware is much less expensive than a major IT security breach.