IoT Needs Physical and Network Security 4Earlier this year, the number of connected devices reached the 10 billion mark, surpassing the world’s human population, and experts expect that number to reach 50 billion over the next two years. This phenomenon, known as the Internet of Things (IoT), comprises a highly distributed model of connected objects, devices, and sensors that are used to communicate data. Everyday products can then use that data to analyze, plan, and make intelligent decisions. While IoT promises to fundamentally change our daily lives, arguably the most significant impact of IoT will be to the business world.

While consumers will enjoy new levels of connectivity with IoT, businesses will receive the lion’s share of the benefits. IoT will usher in a wealth of intelligence that businesses can use for planning, management, policy, and decision-making that will help them maximize productivity and efficiency while minimizing costs. In fact, some of these business applications already exist. For example, by connecting their cameras to the network, retailers can use analytics tools that can help them improve customer service, understand traffic patterns, and enhance inventory decisions.

However, as with all good things, there is also a potential downside. If not properly protected using a solid network security solution, those same cameras can actually aid cybercriminals to decrease safety and security. Consider for a moment a criminal wishing to get a closer look at the inside of company headquarters; or capture employee credentials to gain access to sensitive information; or peruse an oil refinery. Once upon a time, the thief would have to gain physical access to the site, at great personal risk. But now, thanks to the realities of IoT technology, he can do it from the comfort and safety of his own home by hacking into the site’s security cameras.

While IoT deployments can have a compelling ROI and maximize competitive advantage, they also dramatically increase the number and types of potential attack vectors for hackers and cybercriminals, so network security is absolutely essential. In fact, the best strategy for the deployment of any connected device is to integrate it with security. To take it a step further, and to tie directly with the issues raised above, when it comes to physical security components like connected cameras, the best strategy is to deploy a joint physical-network security solution. This way, the organization reaps the many advantages of the connected cameras – in addition to all of the exponential business benefits afforded by IoT – while also maintaining a high level of network security. Essentially, while it may be more expensive and complex during the initial deployment phase, a sound physical-network security solution can save the organization a great deal of pain in the medium- and long-term.

This thought echoes what John Stewart, Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer for Cisco said in Cisco’s 2013 Annual Security Report, that  “Cybercrime is no longer an annoyance or another cost of doing business. We are approaching a tipping point where the economic losses generated by cybercrime are threatening to overwhelm the economic benefits created by information technology.  Clearly, we need new thinking and approaches to reducing the damage that cybercrime inflicts on the well-being of the world.”

As I stated in my previous post, the takeaway is two-fold: integrate robust security throughout your IoT implementation; and layer that security for a comprehensive solution with no single point of failure. Physical and network security should always go hand-in-hand for a comprehensive security solution. As the old saying goes, ‘don’t use one without the other’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the widespread use of IoT – in both business and consumer use cases. It’s going to fundamentally change the world for the better, adding unparalleled efficiency to organizations and individuals, alike. However, if security isn’t an integral part of the implementation, you’re just asking for trouble. Think of it like fire. When used safely and appropriately, it keeps us warm and comfortable; when it isn’t, the consequences are often devastating.


Jeff Aboud

IoT Security Manager

Internet of Things Technologies