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IoT devices have to be easy to deploy and use, but we should not forget that these devices are really just small computers
By: Darren Anstee
Nov. 18, 2017 11:00 AM
Layered Defense in the Connected World
The National Cyber Security Awareness Month is transitory, but many of the decisions we have made around the adoption of technology within our personal and business have brought with them risks that will stay with us for a while. A good example of this is the deployment and proliferation of ‘smart' or ‘connected' devices - IoT.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has promised us more personalized and automated services, optimized resource utilization, and added convenience, but we haven't always stopped to consider the risks that come with the benefits?
The number of connected devices has grown at an unprecedented rate with current estimates at between 6-12 billion devices. This number seems enormous but if you doubt it, I suggest you login into your home router and look at how many devices are registered - you may be surprised when you see your TVs, amplifiers and heating thermostats featuring on the list.
We already have cars that can drive themselves and buildings that can configure their environmental control systems based on your presence. The amount of machine-to-machine communication going on around us is growing all of the time, but in many cases we haven't considered ‘security' as part of our buying or implementation processes.
IoT devices, by their very nature, have to be easy to deploy and use, but we should not forget that these devices are really just small computers. How many of us would plug a computer straight into the Internet using the (old) original, un-patched version of an OS, with no firewall or security devices to protect it, using the default username and password? Not many, but this is what is happening in many cases with IoT devices.
The evolving threat-landscape
Many IoT devices have good connectivity on unmonitored network segments, and enough processing capability to drive a significant volume of DDoS attack traffic. Attacks from these devices are responsible for some of the increased scale and frequency of DDoS activity reported in Arbor Networks' annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report (WISR). And, DDoS is just one use-case for compromised IoT devices - more on that later....
Multi-layered defenses incorporate both an on-premise and cloud or ISP-based component. The on-premise component allows businesses to detect and mitigate attacks immediately, before there is any service impact. However, the on-premise solution can't deal with increasingly common, large attacks that can saturate Internet connectivity, and this is where the cloud or ISP-based service steps in - to deal with the higher magnitude attacks. The good news is that many more enterprises are adopting layered defense. Arbor's WISR showed that 30% of enterprise organizations had adopted this model in 2016, up from 23% in 2015.
Putting the right defenses in place does require investment, and there are many competing priorities in businesses for both an IT and security budget. But given the dependence most businesses now have on connectivity for interaction with customers, partners and suppliers, these kinds of defenses are essential. Incorporating availability threats into business and IT risk assessment processes can help to quantify the potential impact of a DDoS attack, helping to prioritize investment, and the WISR report shows that around two-thirds of enterprises have now taken this step.
A broader problem
The connected world brings with it huge potential, some of it good and some of it bad. IoT devices can be used to amplify existing threats and create new ones. One thing we can all do is try to avoid becoming a part of the problem, and the solution here is simply to implement good risk management process and IT security hygiene when we deploy IoT devices.
Improving the security of IoT devices and preventing their compromise are key goals of the security industry and the manufacturers of these devices, but until that is done (and it may take some time), everyone needs to protect themselves from the threats we know that are out there - and DDoS is a significant and growing threat.
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