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Partner Perspectives

Survey Stresses Importance Of Securing The Internet of Things

If organizations monitor and deploy IoT devices with caution, they can stay ahead of the curve and continue to keep all of their endpoints protected.

Attack surfaces continue to grow, especially as businesses add endpoints and permit new Internet of Things (IoT) devices to connect to their networks, from point-of-sale devices to building security to wearables. That’s why it’s more important than ever to evolve security practices to meet today’s changing device and threat landscapes.

In this article, we drill down on our findings from the SANS 2016 Endpoint Security Survey and discuss how businesses should be thinking about securing IoT devices on their networks.

Survey Findings

For most of the survey’s respondents, the most common devices being wrapped in security are desktops, laptops, and servers. In fact, 86% of respondents consider desktops to be endpoints that should be managed and protected, and 74% include desktops and/or servers in their security and incident response programs. However, while 72% consider employer-owned mobile devices to be endpoints worth protecting, only 54% cover these devices with their security programs.

Desktops, laptops, and servers have been the most commonly exploited endpoints -- in the past 24 months, 85% of respondents reported compromised desktops, and 68% said laptops had been compromised. Breaches directly occurring through the exploitation of an IoT device are rare, but as the IoT landscape grows this will become a viable threat vector, as we saw with the Mirai IoT botnet DDoS attacks in October.

Securing IoT Devices

Seeing as many organizations have adopted non-standard devices, monitoring them will present some new challenges. For example, companies may rely on external infrastructure outside of their control. Questions such as “What type of data is emanating from an IoT device? Where is it going? How securely is that data transmitted?” have different answers depending on the device and manufacturer. However, it is important to know exactly where your data is going before deciding on the deployment of a specific IoT device.

Before deciding on where IoT devices are going to be deployed, organizations may need to perform a thorough hardware security assessment. Unfortunately, the required skills to perform such an assessment are beyond the reach of most. Just as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) devices have had undocumented administrator accounts with hard-coded credentials, some IoT devices may have the same vulnerabilities. Deployment will require factoring the cost of having such an assessment performed.

IoT devices should be treated as “unknowns,” and network segmentation should be used to isolate these devices in the network. Anyone who has managed a network should be familiar with those creaky endpoints that cannot be touched -- the servers that automatically get put on the “don’t scan” list when there’s a red team engagement and end up in the “out of scope” category because they perform a critical task and are so fragile that the lightest of scans will make them fall over. IoT devices initially belong in this “out of scope” category, separated from mission-critical systems, to ensure the greatest amount of security without abandoning functionality.

With the challenges introduced by IoT, any smart device could be used as an exfiltration point by cybercriminals for a long time before it’s detected. It’s encouraging to see that the SANS survey shows an awareness of IoT devices is present and growing. If organizations monitor and deploy IoT devices with caution, they can stay ahead of the curve and continue to keep all of their endpoints protected.

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