Do we all know what The Internet of Things (IoT) is by now? It’s having a refrigerator that can text you to buy milk, a smartwatch that instantly reflects your updated schedule when a meeting is postponed, and a dedicated button to order more coffee. These all boil down to a simple description: ubiquitous interconnectivity and a constant flow of data. The interconnected systems and the data flowing among them are used by individuals and businesses to improve lives, enhance performance, and raise efficiencies. And keep you from running out of coffee.
With connectivity exploding across an unprecedented number of formerly isolated devices, an avalanche of data has hit the Internet. And as networks increase capabilities to facilitate communication across dozens of devices per household, even more things are about to become possible.
First, network bandwidth in its current state will not support our needs; it’s simply too slow and already congested. Hence the much-hyped 5G, which promises lower power consumption, higher device capacities, bandwidth in the 20Gbps range, and lower latencies along the lines of 1ms – providing almost instantaneous communications. The added capabilities of 5G will be the main enabler of interaction among autonomous systems. Self-driving cars, anyone?
In 3 years’ time, the volume of network traffic generated by IoT devices is expected to be 39 times as much as regular traffic from data centers. This much data enables us to gain deeper insights faster, leading to lower overhead and more optimized processes. Bigger data lends itself to data analytics, AI applications, and more opportunities for automation than ever before. The good guys can use these data to improve medical diagnostics and treatments, pharmaceutical trials, economic prediction, financial analysis, predictive repairs on complex systems, error prediction and avoidance, tighter supply chains, and finely-targeted marketing.
Of course, constant interconnectedness and bigger data also mean new threats. From hardcoded passwords to untested software, most IoT systems are not designed with security in mind. Patches are difficult to come by, if they’re available at all. Central view, reporting, and policy enforcement across disparate and anomalous systems is unheard of. Suffice it to say that in a 3-month time frame last year, enterprises reported 130% increase in IoT botnets. Almost half of the enterprises surveyed reported the inability to secure their IoT assets. As unsecure IoT proliferates among enterprises, it is highly unlikely that an enterprise – much less an individual – will be able to detect security events before they hit critical systems. The Dark Web is full of bad guys salivating over the prospects of financial gains from selling personal data, corporate espionage, and state secrets. The attack surface and the volume of data are simply too big to ignore, considering the potential rewards.
How can you make your network support new technology without compromising security?
Security systems are already stretched, as they struggle to test and promote consistent authentication and credential management across so many diverse devices. Fortinet suggests the following:
- Security must be redesigned to provide seamless visibility across heterogenous networks in real time.
- Make security systems adaptable. Networks never stay the same, and a good security system must adapt to changes, anticipate threats, interpret and implement business language commands, share threat intelligence, and proactively coordinate responses to threats across all security devices and network ecosystems.
- View IoT as part of your broader security environment rather than as isolated units.