3/10/2017
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IoT & Liability: How Organizations Can Hold Themselves Accountable

To avoid a lawsuit, your company needs to better understand the state of your infrastructure and the devices and applications within it. Here are five areas on which to focus.



The number of devices with IP connectivity continues to grow at a breakneck pace. In the next few years, it's expected that we'll see tens of billions of devices with some sort of networking ability. The problem is that the number of skilled security professionals available for organizations to monitor and manage these devices will not scale to match. There just aren't enough people in the world to actively monitor all the bits flowing through networks.

It's not a hopeless battle, but organizations need to take steps to better understand the state of their infrastructure and the devices and applications within it. When the next Mirai-style attack occurs, you can bet there will be a team of lawyers ready to hold somebody responsible for their company's resulting loss of revenue, data, and reputation.

Take e-commerce as an example: When a retailer's website goes down for a couple of hours, it loses millions of dollars in sales and take a hit in customer trust. If the company discovers hundreds of hijacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices on your organization's network were partially responsible for its loss, a lawsuit will follow.

To prevent this scenario and adequately manage risk, IT teams need visibility into every IoT device on their company network, just like any other endpoint, including everything from Internet-connected coffee machines and security cameras to smart watches and exercise trackers. IoT devices aren't manufactured with security in mind, so it's the organization's responsibility to fill the accountability gap.

This increased level of visibility is no longer optional — it is a de facto requirement in today's networks to ensure you have the full risk picture and to prove compliance obligations in an increasingly regulated environment. It must include a comprehensive plan to collect and analyze event data, as well as monitor, discover, and react to assets as they appear on your network.

To make sure lawyers' fingers are never pointed at you, here are the five top areas on which to focus when making sure your organization is holding itself accountable:

  1. Effective asset and vulnerability management: You must be able to identify each device as well as its current status and state, including all the applications residing on each device. Both actively and passively scanning devices allows you to have a much better picture of the current state of your infrastructure.
  2. Monitoring applications: It's essential that you have a way to monitor the health of your applications and can respond immediately at the sign of an incident. Is your endpoint antivirus client still functioning? Has it been tampered with or uninstalled? Being able to see something (or someone) meddling with your endpoint applications can be a telltale sign of malware infection or attack, or a malicious insider attempting to do "bad things."
  3. Monitoring traffic: Keep an eye on traffic, applications, and devices for unauthorized connections to cloud services. While not always a sign of malicious or nefarious behavior, this can be an indication of "bad things" happening. This kind of monitoring can alert you that a device has been subverted and is being used to exfiltrate sensitive data — or worse, an employee who is exfiltrating the information themselves. This will allow your security teams to react in minutes instead of days or weeks after the damage has spread beyond the single device.
  4. Employee monitoring: It can be tough to convince employees that this level of monitoring is required, but the consequences of an incident can be catastrophic. A good baseline is a commitment that monitoring is only done by automated tools, and never viewed by an actual person unless absolutely necessary or in an emergency. Let your employees know that the monitoring is strictly for the protection of your assets, your data, and your customer information. It takes only one inappropriate incident by your trusted security staff to destroy the fragile trust of your staff, and it may take years for it to be earned again.
  5. Effective log management: Your log data at all levels often contains a wealth of useful information that can add color and clarity to your current security posture. If you're not currently using a modern solution to collect, scrub, analyze, and respond to anomalous log events, then start small. Focus on building solutions that target your most critical assets: devices belonging to C-suite executives and their assistants, your privileged accounts and devices belonging to administrators, and various system accounts that often have rarely changed credentials.

Life is filled with risks — and those risks can never be completely eliminated. No one lives in a bubble. No network exists in a vacuum. The single best way to minimize your organization's losses and liability is having the resources in place to mitigate risk and quickly respond when something does happen.

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Richard Henderson is global security strategist at Absolute, where he is responsible for spotting trends, watching industries and creating ideas. He has nearly two decades of experience and involvement in the global hacker community and discovering new trends and activities ... View Full Bio
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