Endpoint

The IoT Blindspot

Confusion over whether IT staff or line of business professions are responsible for IoT management and security plays big role in a lack of visibility into those devices.

IoT devices are rapidly populating enterprise networks but 82% of IT and line of business professionals struggle to identify all the network-connected devices within their enterprise.

According to a new Forrester study that queried 603 IT and business decision-makers across the globe with 2,500 or more employees, a key contributor to the IoT visibility problem may be confusion over who is responsible for IoT management and security.

While 50% of survey respondents - which include line of business (LoB) and IT security operations center professionals - say the SOC is responsible for default configurations and management of the devices, confusion exists when it's time to configure the devices, according to the survey, which was commissioned by ForeScout Technologies.

LoB personnel, who are responsible for operational technology (OT)  that runs specific lines of business, often find their role falling under the broad category of connected devices, or IoT.

But when drilling down further on the question of which job titles should be responsible for IoT default configurations, 54% of LoB survey respondents feel it should be overseen by device manufacturers or LoB staff. And 45% of IT respondents agree.

As a result, according to the report, LoB users are deploying devices under the assumption all proper controls are in place without touching base with the SOC. Without SOC professionals involved in the initial setup of the IoT devices, it's difficult to get a clear view into what devices are actually riding on the network.

"There is a lot of confusion and lack of clarity of who should own the security of IoT devices and determine what should happen," says Pedro Abreu, chief strategy officer for ForeScout. "LoBs, like plant managers, have a lot of devices that connect to the network. But they tend to think of health and safety first and not security."

Old Tools vs. New Tools

IoT visibility on the network is also impaired by the use of older security tools that do not scale in an IoT environment, says Abreu.

With traditional security tools, an agent can be installed onto a machine, which then communicates back to the SOC what it is seeing, he notes. But with a number of IoT devices, the ability to add software, let alone security updates, is impossible because the devices are closed in their design, especially in the healthcare industry, Abreu says, pointing to insulin pumps as an example.

"They  [insulin pumps]  connect to the network, but you can't install a network agent on them," Abreu says. "We call this a visibility gap."

He advises companies to just not rely on IP addresses to identify devices that are on their network, but to also have an understanding what the device actually is.

"I need to know if it's a Windows server or an MRI machine built using a Windows server," he notes. "The second step would be to set policies around each device and limit what it can do on the network."

Anxiety and Denial

While 54% of survey respondents feel anxious over the security of their IoT devices, line of business respondents have a somewhat higher degree of anxiety, 58%, compared to 51% for IT counterparts, the survey found.

The disconnect between the two groups may be in part due to LoBs having a greater understanding of the magnitude a breach can have on business operations and their concerns that IT can't provide assurances that IoT devices are secure. Despite these anxiety levels, 59% of survey respondents are willing to tolerate medium- to high-risk levels in fulfilling IoT compliance requirements, the survey found.

And companies often miss the mark in meeting IoT compliance requirements.When a compliance auditor evaluates a company for all the IoT devices on their network, it's fairly common to discover 30% to 60% more devices than the company knew they had, Abreu says.

Srinivas Kumar, vice president of engineering at Mocana, says he was shocked by the study's findings. "The tolerance of risk should be a lot lower," Kumar says. "I think it should be in the single digits of 10% or less [for] who would be willing to tolerate medium or high risk. The consequences could be the loss of life if it were an IoT device like a pacemaker. If safety is an issue or loss of life, then there should be zero tolerance."

In the meantime, 90% of survey participants expect the volume of IoT devices on the network will rise over the next year to two years, the survey found.

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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