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How IoT can increase your security risks

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The value of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices being used in homes reached more than $1 billion in 2019 and is set to reach $5.3 billion by 2023, according to industry analyst Telsyte.

And widespread adoption of such technology creates significant security risks if not managed properly, warns global cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks.

The benefits of IoT are enormous, opening up opportunities to increase safety, productivity, and convenience.

PwC’s report Australia’s IoT Opportunity: Driving Future Growth showed that IoT could achieve potential annual benefits of more than $300 billion per year over a period of eight to 18 years.

As both businesses and customers embrace this technology, Australia will be awash with IoT devices in the next few years. However, according to Palo Alto Networks, these devices can also create a significant security risk if not managed properly.

While consumer-facing risks are real, there are also more insidious risks that are often not considered in the IoT discussion. For example, if IoT devices controlling public utilities such as energy and water are compromised, the risks to public safety can be enormous, resulting in contaminated water or interruption to the electricity supply.

If businesses’ IoT sensors are compromised, the results can include huge compliance and legal issues, in addition to financial and brand implications.

“Organisations are increasingly relying on IoT devices to improve productivity and safety, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. However, it’s essential for these businesses to avoid becoming complacent when it comes to securing IoT devices,” said Palo Alto Networks, Vice President and Regional Chief Security Officer, Asia Pacific and Japan, Sean Duca.

“Just one unsecured device can create a gateway into the organisation’s network and cybercriminals can then have free reign to sabotage operations, steal information, create havoc, and damage organisations irrecoverably.”

How to protect IoT devices

One of the key security risks to be aware of with IoT devices and networks is that some manufacturers don’t tend not to include some basic security functions. Therefore, its mandatory for users to purchase and implement robust measures to protect their IoT devices.

Mr Duca said: “Securing IoT devices doesn’t have to be overly complex or costly. It’s simply a matter of including the IoT devices in an organisation’s overall security posture, which should already include the ability to detect IoT devices on their network, the risks associated with them and segmenting access and communication to them.”

He warns users to never leave IoT devices with the factory-installed username and password and to always assign new and unique usernames and passwords to new devices.

“It’s also important to be realistic about what things should be connected,” he says. “Some IoT devices are simply gimmicks that don’t offer the same tangible benefits as others. If a device doesn’t need to be connected, businesses should avoid connecting it.”

Mr Duca says IoT devices should be treated like any other endpoint device and secured accordingly.

“Network segmentation, zero-trust approaches, strong passwords and where possible, multifactor authentication, and preventing users from connecting personal IoT devices to corporate networks are all important IoT security hygiene.”

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