IoT security: Catch up to the threat and become unassailable

This World IoT Day (celebrated around the globe on Monday 9th April), I am particularly excited to see quite how far we have come with the Internet of Things. The IoT market is projected to grow from an installed base of 15 billion devices in 2015 to 30 billion devices in 2020 and 75 billion in 2025.

And so, IoT has become ubiquitous. Insights derived from data collected from connected devices are being used across industries to enhance productivity, solve problems and create new business opportunities and operational efficiencies. But there are also risks – and that is where security comes in, says James Murphy.

We can ill afford security to be an afterthought, as it perhaps once was for the earliest IoT applications, when ‘things’ were first coming online. We cannot allow the Internet of Things to become the Internet of Threats and must develop new strategies to mitigate against vulnerabilities in the network or cyber-security risks. Easier said than done. According to the 19th edition of the IBM Global C-suite Study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), respondents showed:

  • Limited awareness of IoT security. An incomplete understanding of the risks posed by IoT deployments, coupled with a lack of a formal IoT security program contributes to the gap between IoT adoption and the capabilities in place to secure it. IT-centric security frameworks and organisational structure are often not adequate to address reliability and predictability needs of always-on IoT equipment.
  • Slowly emerging IoT security standards. Established Centre for Internet Security (CIS) controls, operational and technical practices, protective technologies and IoT authentication must be implemented. CIS controls include authorised device and software inventories, deploying devices with built-in diagnostics and secure, hardened hardware and firmware.
James Murphy

The same report highlighted that 36% of executives surveyed say securing an IoT platform and its devices is a top challenge for their organisations. One of the biggest challenges is deploying IoT technologies at a faster pace than they are secured.

Only a small percentage of industrial and utilities organisations have fully implemented IoT-specific security technologies. Most are in the early stages.

So what can be done? 

  1. Establish a formal IoT security programme. Follow an operational excellence model of people, process and technology to build IoT security capabilities. Build a deep talent pool of cybersecurity skills within your organisation and increase employee visibility into IoT security operations.
  2. Understand each endpoint, what it does and who it talks to. Every IoT endpoint must be identified and profiled, added to an asset inventory and monitored. Define clear SLAs where there is reliance on partners and system integrators. Form a cross-functional security team made up of IT security, engineering, operations and a control system vendor.
  3. Know when and how to be proactive. To prepare an effective response to cyber attacks, carry out breach simulations, regular field and plant situational awareness and engage in security operation centre monitoring.

So, this World IoT Day I encourage you to put plans into action to catch up on the threat and become unassailable.

For more information and to download a copy of IBM’s 19th edition of the IBM Global C-suite Study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), please click here.

The author of this blog is James Murphy, global leader IoT, Security and Blockchain, IBM Watson and Cloud Platform

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow OR @jcIoTnow

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