Internet Of Things: 3 Holiday Gifts That Will Keep CISOs Up At Night

If you think BYOD policies will protect your infrastructure from the January influx of mobile hotspots, fitness trackers, and Bluetooth, think again.

Chris Rouland, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Phosphorus Cybersecurity

December 9, 2014

4 Min Read

The Internet of Things (IoT), a term that was first coined back in 1999, has become a mainstream buzzword, and there is no sign of slowing in terms of most hyped technology (Gartner) and sales, which IDC predicts will grow from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3.04 trillion in 2020 -- and a whopping 30 billion devices.

In an attempt to capitalize on this exploding market, developers are racing to make every possible appliance and device “smart,” with little to no regard for the personal, organizational, and national security risks of doing so.

Even if security is a concern, there are currently zero (0) IoT regulations or standards for developers. As a result, the IoT is invading the mass-market at a rapid pace, with consumers buying up the latest gadgets like Fitbits, Google Chromecast, and GoPros. In addition, many of America’s largest corporations, and even some small businesses, are now deploying thousands of IoT devices, such as connected HVAC systems and smart light bulbs, to improve operational efficiencies and boast employee productivity and wellness.

Most companies mistakenly believe that their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies act as sufficient protection from threats affecting the IoT. However, these policies were built specifically for laptops and mobile phones, and do not protect personal devices such as hotspots, fitness trackers, Bluetooth devices, or the thousands of other IoT devices now on the market.

So, what will be coming into your organization after the New Year? Unfortunately, you will have no idea. There is currently no concept of intrusion detection, network access control, or vulnerability assessment in the IoT. In other words, IT security professionals do not have any visibility into what is coming in and out of the corporate airspace. What’s worse is that many IoT devices create their own mesh networks that can act as new paths into an organization’s most critical data.

According to a PwC report, one in three corporations experienced economic crime in 2014, with cybercrime making up 24 percent of the total reported frauds. With the proliferation of insecure and unregulated IoT devices, I predict cybercrime will be among the leading causes of data theft as early as next year.

Here are just a few examples of how organizations are making it easy for even amateur hackers to access critical data.

Employee wellness programs
Gyms, diet clinics, and fitness tracking providers love January. It’s that time of year when everyone begins their New Year’s resolutions of getting into shape. Corporations are joining in on this movement, too. Nearly 80 percent of organizations with more than 1,000 employees provide fitness tracking devices as part of their employee wellness programs, according to a 2012 survey by Automatic Data Processing.

A very diligent hacker could monitor where employees are going throughout the day via location-based signals. If a hacker can identify executives in the boardroom, a cyber security disaster is quite possible as connected devices create a new path into an enterprise’s network to exfiltrate sensitive data.

Hotspots vs. datacenters
Another potential risk for organizations would involve someone coming in as a guest, and leaving behind a 4G hotspot in the datacenter. This hotspot can act as a backdoor into the organization, where a hacker could easily gain access into the network through the device he or she left behind. The IT security team would not see this IoT device entering the airspace, and they cannot see whether it has left the airspace, either. The organization’s most critical data is left vulnerable to attack, and no one will know until it is too late.

Bluetooth in the boardroom
While most organizations have WiFi security controls in place, Bluetooth devices are considered part of the IoT and cannot be detected with traditional WiFi scanners. A hacker could break into the Bluetooth conference system in an organization’s boardroom and listen in on financial transactions or acquisition negotiations.

Without policies in place, government regulations, or visibility into the airspace, the proliferation of IoT devices is a major cause for concern -- especially for enterprise organizations. The bad guys are not going to wait on us to secure our networks, and the threats are only going to get more complicated. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

About the Author(s)

Chris Rouland

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Phosphorus Cybersecurity

Chris Rouland is founder and CEO of Phosphorus. He is a renowned leader in cybersecurity innovation and has founded several multimillion-dollar companies, including Bastille, the first to enable assessment and mitigation of risks of the Internet of Radios, and Endgame, the leader in endpoint security. He was also Chief Technology Officer and Distinguished Engineer for IBM and Director of the X-Force for Internet Security Systems. Chris holds 20+ patents and a masters’ degree from Georgia Institute of Technology.

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