The Internet of Things (IoT) is a topic that’s beginning to gain quite a head of steam lately, particularly when it comes to security concerns that accompany it. Billions of new devices, most of which are in insecure locations. You don’t own them; oftentimes can’t see them; and you don’t control them in any way, shape, or form. Yet they’re sending petabytes of data through your network. It’s enough to make a security professional lose sleep for weeks at a time.


But while many security professionals are focusing on these challenges, there’s also a huge security benefit that will come in the form of IoT enabled security! Remember, IoT isn’t about the devices themselves, it’s about the network of devices – the benefits from having all of those devices work together to produce actionable intelligence. In a similar vein, securing IoT networks can’t be about the individual security devices, but rather the network of security devices, so that they can work together to produce comprehensive, actionable security intelligence in near real-time – increasing the organization’s overall security posture with little or no human intervention required.

manufacturing To get a better sense of what I’m talking about, let’s use a real-world example. These are complex, fast-paced environments that present extraordinary safety and security challenges. A typical factory floor consists of thousands of uncontrolled access points, and therefore requires multi-layer role-based security. Security controls need to identify the person and the machine to make a determination as to whether or not that person is authorized to operate that specific machine; they also need to validate that the person is who they claim to be, prior to granting access. Integrity of the safety system is also essential, so analytics need to play a major role to proactively recognize potential catastrophes.

Currently, the various safety and security systems don’t work together which limits visibility and control. It’s one thing to know that a piece of equipment is at imminent risk of failure, but without the ability to shut that equipment down automatically, human intervention is required which can take too long to be effective. This is where IoT enabled security can help enormously. By combining numerous systems, including cyber security, cameras, and sensors, IoT enabled security can improve employee safety and protect the entire system from the outside, as well as the inside.

Consider these IoT-enabled security responses for our connected factory example:

  • By combining IP cameras, video analytics, and sensors, intelligent, real-time decisions can be made about a person trying to gain access to sensitive systems or areas – by checking the picture on the ID badge and comparing it to the embedded ID sensor in the badge, the network-archived image of the employee, and the face of the person presently attempting access – access can be confirmed with a high level of accuracy. In the event that a breach is detected, those same systems can be disabled and an alarm state sent to security personnel for an appropriate human response.
  • Sensors on machinery and across the factory floor can determine if there is an increased risk of an accident occurring, and take proactive measures to avoid the incident.
  • The integration of IP cameras with sensors across the factory floor that detect security-critical noises, machine failures, or other dangerous events enable the cameras to automatically zoom in on the precise location of the disturbance and begin recording; meanwhile, an alarm condition can be sent to trigger the required human response.

So while IoT certainly has its security challenges, let’s not lose sight of the fact that if applied properly, those same IoT dynamics can dramatically improve safety and security capabilities, as well as response times!

Visit Cisco’s IoT Solutions site to learn more about how Cisco is addressing the Internet of Things.


Jeff Aboud

IoT Security Manager

Internet of Things Technologies