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Why Businesses Must be Aware of the IoT Trojan Horse

By Michael Segal March 06, 2017

Over the last 12 months alone, the scope and depth of IoT has grown at an astonishing rate. Connected devices and complex networks have penetrated a wide range of industries, all keen to capitalise on the automation, cost savings and efficiencies the ecosystem enables. From consumer gadgets and wearables, to connected cars and smart homes; awareness, understanding and adoption of IoT is growing quickly. Fields as diverse as healthcare and manufacturing are becoming more dependent on IoT communications to drive business processes and missions critical systems.

The automation of industrial processes, benefits to healthcare and an ever more connected society are all signs of a positive impact from IoT. However, like the Greeks’ ambush of Troy, aided by their hiding in a wooden horse, the IoT conceals a significant threat. Progress will be hampered by a new breed of malware threats that use IoT devices as hosts and their respective networks to propagate and run amok in factories, hospitals and even smart homes.

To date, innocuous devices such as thermostats, webcams, and even printers, have been used as bridgeheads for nefarious hackers and botnets. These unsecured devices have in a number of instances – and unbeknownst to owners – harboured malware botnets such as Mirai. When hackers choose to strike, these devices can be used to launch DDoS attacks, overloading servers with internet traffic. As the number of connected devices increases, we are likely to see more of these types of attacks going forward. As enterprises increasingly take advantage of IoT, attacks will intensify in scale, with hackers targeting commercial applications for bigger gains. As botnets become more sophisticated, attacks will carry a much higher risk and may move on to bigger targets such as transport networks and power grids in the future.

This is not just a security issue for IoT adopters, however. There will be serious consequences for both enterprises and public sector organizations that do not keep their IoT networks in check, as well as other enterprises that will become more susceptible to DDoS attacks and other security threats from IoT devices they don’t own. Enterprises can only protect themselves effectively if they have a real-time and historic view into performance of their business services and infrastructure. This is only possible through continuous monitoring of all aspects of IT across the estate, which will spot and isolate any anomalies that may present a hindrance to business performance. This aspect of business assurance, which encompasses both service performance and security management, is bolstered by real-time smart data that translates into actionable insight, which is of huge strategic value to the enterprise both in terms of productivity and revenue. To conduct monitoring and data analysis in real-time requires a continuous, rather than sampled, data source, such as network traffic data. This is vital when you consider the need to identify IoT-based threats quickly in order to resolve service performance issues and neutralize network incursions.

There is no doubt that IoT developments are set to accelerate, becoming more integral to industry and business. Enterprises are accelerating their digital transformation strategies in an attempt to catch up, but this should never come at the expense of implementing business assurance, data analytics, and end-to-end visibility of infrastructure. Organizations need to remember that IoT devices could well become conduits for malware, providing the Trojan horse within which to conceal 21st century attackers: denial of service, botnets, and advanced threats. That is unless adequate measures are put into place to neutralize threats and ensure the smooth running of IoT devices and their infrastructure.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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