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ECommerceTimes.com

The IoT's Perplexing Security Problems

By Richard Adhikari
Jun 19, 2018 9:57 AM PT

Worldwide spending on the Internet of Things will total nearly US$773 billion this year, IDC has predicted.

The IoT will sustain a compound annual growth rate of 14.4 percent, and spending will hit $1.1 trillion by 2021, according to the firm's forecast late last year.

Consumer IoT spending will total $62 billion this year, making it the fourth largest industry segment, after manufacturing, transportation and utilities. The leading consumer use cases will be related to the smart home, including home automation, security and smart appliances, IDC said.

Cross-industry IoT spending, which encompasses connected vehicles and smart buildings, will gobble up $92 billion this year, and will be among the top areas of spending for the next three years.

IoT growth will get a boost from new approaches coming from firms such as China's Tuya Smart, for example, which combines hardware access, cloud services, and app development in a process that lets manufacturers transform standard products into smart products within one day.

Shadow IoT Devices on Enterprise Networks

One third of companies in the U.S., the UK and Germany have more than 1,000 shadow IoT devices connected to their network on a typical day, according to a recent Infoblox survey of 1,000 IT directors across the U.S., the UK, Germany and the UAE.

The reported shadow IoT devices included the following:

  • Fitness trackers - 49 percent;
  • Digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home - 47 percent;
  • Smart TVs - 46 percent;
  • Smart kitchen devices such as connected microwaves - 33 percent; and
  • Gaming consoles - 30 percent.

There were 1,570 identifiable Google Home assistants deployed on enterprise networks in the U.S. as of March, according to the Infoblox survey. There were 2,350 identifiable smart TVs deployed on enterprise networks in Germany, and nearly 6,000 identifiable cameras deployed on UK enterprise networks.

Shadow IoT devices are devices connected to the company network but not purchased or managed by the IT department, according to Infoblox.

"Often IoT devices are added to the network without the direct knowledge of IT," noted Bob Noel, director of strategic relationships and marketing for Plixer.

"Companies need to pay attention to the deployment of IoT devices, which are regularly put online with default passwords, legacy code riddled with known vulnerabilities, and a lack of defined policies and procedures to monitor them, leaving companies extremely vulnerable," he told the E-Commerce Times.

More than 80 percent of organizations surveyed said security was the top consideration in IoT purchase decisions, said Brent Iadarola, VP of mobile & wireless communications at Frost & Sullivan.

However, "the unfortunate reality today is that unknown assets and unmanaged networks continue to exist in enterprise networks and are often overlooked by vulnerability scanners and solutions that monitor network changes," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Still, "we have started to see some movement towards integrated IoT security solutions that offer end-to-end data collection, analysis and response in a single management and operations platform," Iadarola noted.

Security for the IoT

"IoT security is highly fragmented and many devices are vulnerable," observed Kristen Hanich, research analyst at Parks Associates.

"There are a large number of devices out there with known weaknesses that can easily be exploited by commonly available attacks," she told the E-Commerce Times.

Most of these devices won't receive protective updates, Hanich said, and "as most IoT devices are put in place for years or even decades, this will lead to hundreds of millions of vulnerable devices."

Cybercriminals have been launching newer and more creative attacks on IoT devices, either to compromise them or to leverage them in botnets.

For example, Wicked -- the latest version of the Mirai botnet malware, originally released in 2016 -- leverages at least three new exploits.

A new version of the "Hide-and-Seek" botnet, which controls more than 32,000 IoT devices, uses custom-built peer-to-peer communication and multiple anti-tampering techniques, according to BitDefender.

"We should be preparing ourselves for many years of attacks powered by IoT botnets," Sean Newman, director of product management for Corero Security, told the E-Commerce Times.

Cost is a problem with IoT security, Parks Associates' Hanich noted. "Security must be built-in from the onset, which takes time and effort. It also requires regular maintenance and updates after selling the devices, potentially for many years."

Many device makers are skipping security to keep their prices down, she pointed out, as security "does not drive unit sales of their products."

Medical Devices and IoT Security

The IoT's healthcare component includes connected medical devices and consumer wearables such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Medical device manufacturers increasingly have been incorporating connectivity to the Internet, but 53 percent of healthcare providers and 43 percent of medical device manufacturers don't test their medical devices for security, noted Siddharth Shah, a healthcare industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Few have taken significant steps to avoid being hacked, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Network-connected medical devices "promise an entirely new level of value for patients and doctors," said Frost & Sullivan healthcare industry analyst Kamaljit Behera.

However, "they also introduce new cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could affect clinical operations and put patient care at risk," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"The perceived risk from connected medical devices within the hospital is high, but steps are now being taken to prevent attacks," said Frost's Shah. "Still, there's lots to be done."

The risk to enterprise networks of being hacked through consumer healthcare-related devices "isn't a big issue," according to Greg Caressi, global business unit leader for transformational health at Frost & Sullivan.

"Personal devices are not commonly connected to private corporate networks other than healthcare IT vendors," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Google and Apple have been leading the charge of smart devices into the healthcare realm, with other companies, such as fitness device manufacturers, following suit.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.


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