The network’s role in IoT security

The Internet of Things is one of the biggest trends in the technology world today, growing by leaps and bounds. According to Gartner, an estimated 6.4 billion connected objects will be in existence by the end of this year, and approximately 25 billion IP-connected things may be around in 2020. Should these predictions come true, then the IoT installed base will have grown by more than 550 percent between 2014 and 2020.

“The hype is absolutely justified, and it’s backed up by the numbers,” Gartner’s Jim Tully said.

Examples of the IoT abound, and it’s easy to see the value provided by these connected endpoints. Smart thermostats learn a homeowner’s temperature and humidity preferences over time, which reduces energy usage. IP-connected electric meters enable utilities to always have accurate readings at buildings, which guarantees more accurate billing. The list goes on and on.

Will security be the IoT’s downfall?

But while the IoT is full of promise, it’s not without its problems. In particular, security has quickly emerged as one of the biggest issues with connected endpoints and the IoT more broadly. By allowing an item to connect to the internet, that object then becomes exposed to the myriad threats online. Hacks, DDoS attacks, ransomware and more can negatively impact a wider array of objects than ever before.

Businesses are all too aware of these problems as well. A 2015 survey conducted by Atomik Research found that fewer than 25 percent of professional IT staff members thought the IoT devices currently in use were at all secure. Further, of the more than 300 executives polled, 46 percent of them thought that IP-connected objects represented one of the biggest risks to their network.

“The opportunity for IoT is staggering,” said John Moor, a spokesperson for IoT Security Foundation, according to TechCrunch contributor Ben Dickson. “However, there are ever-real security challenges that accompany those opportunities.”

The network’s role in protecting connected objects

As the IoT grows – Atomik found that the average home network now has 11 IP-connected objects contained within it – its future depends on its security. After all, while the IoT has enormous potential, it won’t be able to live up to the hype if it’s insecure and constantly hacked.

One way to help protect the IoT is to ensure that the overall network underpinning all of this connectivity is properly secured. So long as cybercriminals cannot get onto the network, they won’t be able to compromise any IP-enabled objects.

“[T]he gateways that connect IoT devices to company and manufacturer networks need to be secured as well as the devices themselves,” Dickson wrote. “IoT devices are always connected and always on. In contrast to human-controlled devices, they go through a one-time authentication process, which can make them perfect sources of infiltration into company networks. Therefore, more security needs to be implemented on these gateways to improve the overall security of the system.”