The Internet of Things is now inevitable – are you ready?
For the uninitiated, The Internet of Things, or IoT for short is the phrase used to refer to the growing network of connected devices popping up in our businesses, our homes, and our lives. These devices, traditionally ‘dumb’ and not connected to the Internet, are embedded with computer chips to make them more useful, more powerful, and more profitable. Mind you, IoT still has a ways to go before it becomes truly widespread – the majority of people still don’t even know what the term means.
“The term Internet of Things is sometimes used interchangeably with Machine-to-Machine Technology, the Industrial Internet, Internet of Everything, and probably a few other phrases,” writes Chris Neiger of The Motley Fool. “While there can be slight differences between the phrases, we’ll use Internet of Things as an umbrella term for all of them. Technology research company Gartner says the Internet of Things “is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”
As IoT continues to gain steam, we’re seeing everything from smart wall outlets to smart speakers to locks and much, much more. Connected to their own networks and cloud platforms, these devices have the potential to thoroughly enrich both our personal and professional lives. They’ve the potential to be nearly as disruptive as the cloud for business operations – perhaps even more-so.
“The myriad possibilities that arise from the ability to monitor and control things in the physical world electronically have inspired a surge of innovation and enthusiasm,” reads a June 2015 report from McKinsey on IoT. “The sweeping changes that IoT can bring to how companies manage physical assets, how consumers attend to their health and fitness, and how cities operate have also inspired visions of a very different future, as well as a good deal of hype.”
As always, there’s a grain of truth amidst that hype. Connected devices are making their way into the enterprise space with a near-alarming frequency. Case in point: according to a prediction by Gartner, by 2020 the number of Internet-connected things will reach 50 billion, with $19 trillion in profits and cost savings.
While IoT will undoubtedly bring positive change to the business world, it also represents a considerable security risk.
“According to a study from HP Research,” writes Davey Alba of Wired, “70% of the most commonly-used Internet of Things devices had serious security vulnerabilities. And this issue was a recurring theme at the Black Hat and the DEFCON hacker conferences this past year.”
Given that connected devices are soon set to include brake lines, steering columns, personal medical equipment, and much, much more; that’s pretty much unacceptable. According to the FTC, there are a few steps vendors and businesses alike can take:
- Bake security into your devices at the outset of the design process, rather than as an afterthought.
- Make sure that your business only uses devices with baked-in security.
- Update your Employee Awareness program to include IoT security training.
- Make use of multiple layers of security to defend against vulnerabilities.
- Monitor connected devices, and install security patches whenever possible.
The Internet of Things has the potential to disrupt the workplace in a fashion that’s not been seen since the cloud. Before it gains widespread acceptance, however, businesses must see to the security risks that go hand-in-hand with connected devices. Otherwise, it’ll be a nightmare for IT – no matter how useful it is to businesses as a whole.