Keeping Expanding IoT Networks Secure

Expandierende IoT-Netzwerke sicher halten

Vulnerability Internet of Things

By Michael Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Versa Networks

Michael Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Versa Networks

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technical relief for millions of people. Therefore, the network of connected devices is becoming denser every year. From the toothbrush to the toaster, the IoT has reached a new high in consumer devices. In addition, however, the IoT is an important innovation for companies and an essential component for a successful realignment of business.

The IoT space continues to experience steady growth, and the global IoT market is expected to be worth $1.1 trillion by 2024. As in many other areas of technology, the benefits of IoT quickly became apparent over the course of the COVID pandemic thanks to its ability to support a variety of use cases – from facilitating remote operations to managing distancing policies.

Practical applications for the IoT

The pandemic has led to some very interesting examples of what the IoT can do. A particularly prominent example was the NFL, which made extensive use of wearable networked sensors to make the return of players, coaches and supervisors safe with contact tracing. In addition to standard practices such as the use of masks, distance rules and the restriction of contacts, the NFL required all players and supervisors to wear lightweight distance measuring devices. These devices were networked with each other and continuously provided real-time data on the movements and interactions of people on the stadium grounds. If a person tested positive for COVID, the data could be used to determine exactly who they had been in the immediate vicinity with and who might have had to be isolated as a precautionary measure.

Connected devices also play an important role in facilitating remote work in areas such as manufacturing, transportation and agriculture. Prior to the pandemic, most companies in these sectors had already increasingly used IoT sensors and control networks as part of restructuring and automation efforts. These skills are especially valuable when it came to managing more operations outside the company.

Although little is known yet, the IoT can also be used very effectively in the office. Applications such as intelligent lighting and heating can effectively reduce energy consumption, while sensors can be used to better manage the use of space, book meetings or comply with distance rules. All these functions have proven themselves during the pandemic, but will also be of great importance for companies in the future for greater automation and resource optimization.

Managing a growing network

Most IoT applications depend on a fast and reliable connection to the cloud. This is especially true for those who can provide data or perform functions in real time. Therefore, network problems that lead to transmission impairments or even data loss can drastically limit the performance of IoT devices.
Similar to real-time communication, companies need to ensure that their network can handle a large number of different devices at the same time. In addition, all sites must have equal access to a reliable connection speed, especially if employees continue to work in different places.
The flexibility to expand network capacities will also be crucial as the number and variety of devices continue to increase.

Dealing with security risks

Unfortunately, the IoT sector has a well-founded reputation as a security risk. It is still common for networked devices to lack security features such as data encryption or authentication controls. Poorly secured IoT devices are a popular target for attackers and can be used as network entry points or misused as part of botnets for later attacks.

Accordingly, in their transformation, companies should be careful about the choice of devices and ensure that everything that is connected to the network is adequately secured. It is also possible to compensate for these vulnerabilities when network and security features are deployed over the cloud, as is the case with a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) approach. SASE can be an effective way to secure a large IoT network, as all endpoints get the same level of security and network management capabilities. Controls such as restrictions on data access or connection time can be implemented. Sandboxing can also be used to isolate and investigate suspicious connection attempts that might indicate a compromised device.

Apart from the choice of devices, companies must also have a high degree of control over how connected devices access the network and which gateways they have access to. Ensuring that the data is limited to a specific geographical region is becoming increasingly important, for example, for regulatory compliance.

Keeping up with the pace of IoT

From highly automated industries such as manufacturing to everyday office environments, IoT has become a key component in the transformation of business areas. As the NFL example shows during the pandemic, even simple sensor devices can prove to be extremely useful for monitoring, managing and automating a variety of operational needs.
However, as the number of IoT devices continues to grow exponentially, companies need to ensure that their networks are able to handle the increased data traffic and at the same time operate all devices at peak performance. The ability to easily scale with changing requirements will also be an important factor in reducing costs in the course of digital transformation.

Even more crucial, however, will be that companies are able to keep their growing IoT networks secure. Due to the low security standards of many products, potential attackers will continue to target networked devices as easy prey. Adopting a cloud-based approach like SASE can help provide strong security and network management to all endpoints without driving up costs, even as the number of connected devices continues to grow.

About the author

As CMO, Michael Wood leads Versa’s marketing organization. His responsibilities include brand awareness, messaging, positioning, product marketing, demand generation, engagement with analysts, press relations and corporate communications. Wood is an industry veteran with 30 years of experience in marketing, product and technology at companies such as StrataCom, Cisco, Akamai, VeloCloud, VMware and Apstra. He holds a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering (Computer Electronics) from San Jose State University.

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