Most of you know Sting, the Grammy-winning solo artist and singer/bassist for English rock band The Police. So many great hits over the years. But how many of you know his late-80’s song “Englishman in New York?

I’m an alien

The song opens with Sting, the Englishman, feeling somewhat out of place in New York City: His accent when he talks, a preference for tea over coffee, the walking cane by his side on Fifth Avenue. All of these differences make him an “alien” because he’s an Englishman in New York. If you haven’t heard the song before, you should check it out. It’s very well done, and Branford Marsalis is absolutely spectacular on the sax.

Okay, full disclosure. The Englishman in the song is really supposed to be about someone else, not Sting, but let’s just roll with it for now. No, scratch that. Let’s say that you’re the Englishman, and you’ve moved from London to New York. Since you’re not Sting — no chauffeured Jaguar for you — then you’ll need to learn the city’s subway system. Now let me ask you: How much help will your London tube map be as a guide through New York City?

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety

I should probably acknowledge that there’s simply no agreed-upon definition of IoT. It means different things to different people. But it’s worth taking a very close look at those “things” that are connected specifically with the Internet Protocol (IP) – you know, the language of the Internet. Everything from web pages to email to mobile apps and social media sites use IP.

Of course, connecting things with IP is nothing new. At Cisco we’ve been connecting things this way for decades. What’s new under the “IoT” guise now is the wide variety of devices — new and old — that are being connecting to IP networks. Not just traditional servers and workstations, and not just mobile phones and tablets. We’re talking about connected factory floors, connected medical devices, connected utility equipment. Pumps, gauges, lighting… all kinds of things.

So where’s the risk in that? Great question. Let’s talk about how these modest and proper devices can become notorious on your network.

Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can

Without proper planning, these IoT devices can actually become your enemies. Many of them lack critical security protections that leave them vulnerable to threats made possible by the openness of IP and the prevalence of the Internet. No doubt the ever-changing threat landscape will bring new risks in the future. Who knew ten years ago that a thermostat would be based on a small Linux server someday? Or that someone could exploit a thermostat vulnerability and use it to launch a cyberattack?

It’s obvious by now that Internet-borne threats have evolved rapidly over the years. It’s also becoming clear that there’s a lot of incentive for hackers to turn their skills against these newly-IP-connected things. We aren’t suggesting that you avoid IoT devices because of the risk. We’re saying that you can confront the risks and successfully manage them.

He’s the hero of the day

Are you changing the way you’re connecting existing things? Are you moving them from legacy methods to IP-based networking? If you’re connecting all-new things to IP networks, then you can’t rely on your old London tube map to secure them. You’re in New York now, and you need a new map to guide you to truly effective IoT cybersecurity. Enter Cisco IoT Threat Defense, the map you so desperately need.

Sting’s lyrics include a line that says “At night a candle’s brighter than the sun.” Well, if you’re still feeling in the dark about IoT security, then please join us for a candle or two at our upcoming IoT Threat Defense webinar. We’ll take you through everything you need to know. You can be the hero by leading your organization through the cybersecurity maze yet still reaping the benefits that IoT promises.

And Sting, don’t worry. We’ll have your toast done on one side.


Steve Caimi

Industry Solutions Specialist

US Public Sector Cybersecurity