Cisco has announced its intention to purchase Sentryo, a French company focused on device visibility and security for industrial control system (ICS) networks. According to Cisco, the addition of Sentryo's products and technologies will allow it to provide deeper visibility into Internet of Things (IoT) devices for security and performance purposes.
Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco IoT, says that Cisco's 65,000+ IoT customers are in different stages of deployment, but most share a need to understand precisely what is attached to their IoT network (or operational technology — OT — network, in the industrial control sphere), so that they can take the next step into proper segmentation for security.
"While we have many success stories, the big thing that's a roadblock is security," Centoni says. "We have the right tools in terms of segmentation in what we call the 'non-carpeted space,' but the biggest problem is visibility," she explains. "In the enterprise we've solved a lot of that, but customers say they may not know 30% to 40% of the assets on the IoT."
Part of the difficulty in seeing those assets, says Joe Malenfant, director of marketing for Cisco IoT, is the sheer variety in the ways that the devices talk to one another. "The reason IT can't solve [the visibility problem] is that we don't talk the protocols. There are more than 3,500 different, sometime proprietary protocols," Malenfant says, and Sentryo understands those protocols so that customers can identify the device and protocol.
Sentryo's products are focused on industrial control systems rather than the IoT of wearable technology and smart assistants. Centoni says that, over time, Cisco plans to integrate Sentryo's products with Cisco DNA Center and Identity Services Engine (ISE) to allow more control and segmentation, along with greater integration of OT system control into traditional IT operations.
The importance of protecting IoT networks when they are more tightly integrated into the enterprise network was highlighted by a US-CERT Alert showing critical updates to products in Cisco's IoT and enterprise network lines, updates intended to close down vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to gain entry to the network at the IoT endpoint and leverage that entry into an enterprise network attack.
Asked about a timeline for the integration of Sentryo products into Cisco, Centoni says it's too early to set a precise schedule for bringing the systems together. According to Cisco, the acquisition is expected to close before the end of Cisco's first-quarter fiscal year 2020 (October 26, 2019) pending all customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals in the US and France.