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Should I Segment My IoT Devices Onto Their Own Networks?

Understanding the criticality and importance of the device determines the level of segmentation.

Sean Tufts, Managing Partner for Critical Infrastructure, Optiv

August 17, 2020

2 Min Read
(Image:Funtap via Adobe Stock)

Question: Should I segment my IoT devices onto their own networks?

Sean Tufts, practice director, product security, ICS and IoT, Optiv: It depends. Some clients are very focused on determining whether a device is operational technology (OT), Internet of Things (IoT), industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or industrial-control system (ICS) and creating custom environments for them. I'm not really concerned about that. With segmentation, I'm more concerned with criticality and importance of the devices.  

The criticality of the device
An IP camera could be recording a parking lot. It could be recording an operating room inside of a hospital. You need granular details to define security policy. More importantly, you need flexibility for a policy to mold to different needs. The parking lot example might seem simple, but did you think about GDPR? License plates are considered personally identifiable information in the EU. It might be easy to lump an IP camera into an IoT bucket, but it's almost certainly more complicated than that.

The general question of "If the data got loose, would it end up on Reddit?" governs here. If so, it should not run on the general corporate environment. Segment it off. I see clients taking three broad measures:

  • Block the common smart device offenders. Strong network access control (NAC) is a good start here.

  • Create a safe place for new technologies to get access. This includes review by security personnel.

  • Measure risk and criticality to focus your IoT efforts on a smaller list of offenders. These include custom (and often segmented) environments.

The integration and importance of the device
Building maintenance systems is a good illustration of this. Some temperature sensors are irrelevant, but those inside a poultry processing plant are woven into the most important controls of the facility. More importantly, the range of operating conditions goes from freezing to boiling, so the architecture needs to be dynamic. No one wants warm, raw chicken breasts. Any IT configurations in the plant have an impact on these ranges. These IoT systems cannot be wholly segmented because of their importance in the ecosystem. This is a place to focus building bridges between security and production.


About the Author(s)

Sean Tufts

Managing Partner for Critical Infrastructure, Optiv

Sean Tufts is a former NFL linebacker turned cybersecurity leader with more than 10 years of cyber experience and 15 years of ICS experience. As the managing partner for critical infrastructure at Optiv, he heads a business unit responsible for identifying, modernizing and securing critical infrastructure clients' most vital business functions and operational assets. Optiv's IoT/OT team delivers strategic end-to-end security expertise, underscored by Sean’s hands-on knowledge of cybersecurity best practices for industrial and critical settings, including energy, oil and gas, and healthcare. Prior to Optiv, Sean had a hand in developing more than 3,500 MW of wind energy farms for a private EPC. His operations experience allowed for a smooth transition over to General Electric in 2015, where he joined the recently acquired Wurldtech Cybersecurity team. In this role, Sean embedded cybersecurity programs into the rotating machinery controls for GE Power, GE O&G (BakerHughes) and GE Renewables.

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