Addressing Growing IoT Security and Networking Requirements

September 01, 2021

By Special Guest
Michael Wood, Chief Marketing Officer, Versa Networks,

With the world’s network of connected devices significantly expanding with each passing year, the Internet of Things (IoT) is advancing the technical lives of a growing population. From learning thermostats to smart hubs and even smart pet feeders, it looks like the sky is the limit when it comes to IoT consumer devices. In fact, by 2024 the global IoT market is predicted to be worth $1.1 trillion.

However, IoT also delivers significant benefits to organizations and has grown to be essential in terms of successful business transformation. For example, the benefits of IoT became abundantly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part due to its ability to be applied to a wide number of use cases, from managing distancing policies to facilitating remote operations.

Real-world Benefits of IoT

COVID-19 gave us some notable opportunities for the benefits of IoT to shine. With the National Football League season starting soon, an interesting example of what IoT can bring played out last season. NFL players, coaches and support staff were equipped with wearable connected sensors to safely manage their return with contact tracing. Last season, the NFL also mandated that players and personnel wear devices to record their location. Networked together, these devices collected continuous real-time information on the interactions and movements of these individuals at the stadiums. If a person tested positive for COVID-19, this information was used to quickly and accurately understand anyone they had been in close proximity with and who may also need to quarantine as a precaution.

IoT technology and devices also helped facilitate remote working in sectors such as agriculture, transport and manufacturing. Many organizations in these industries have already been using IoT control networks and sensors in their daily operations, and these connected devices became particularly important in facilitating more operations to be controlled offsite.

Office-based work environments have also seen benefits delivered by IoT. Applications such as heating and smart lighting can reduce energy usage and waste, while sensors can help organizations better manage their usage of space, from facilitating social distancing to booking meetings, as workers return to the office.

Beyond some of these recent benefits, moving forward IoT functionalities such as greater resource optimization and automation will clearly continue to prove valuable for organizations.

Enabling a Network for IoT

For those IoT applications tasked with performing functions or delivering data in real time, reliable and fast connections to the cloud are paramount. Because of this, networking issues such as jitter and packet loss can significantly deteriorate the performance of IoT systems.

For organizations to reap the greatest benefits that IoT advertises, they need to ensure their networks are capable of handling large amounts of data from different devices delivered at the same time. Especially as many staff continue to work remotely even part of the time, organizations should provide the same access to reliable connection speed for all users. Having the ability to scale up network capabilities will also be critical as the number and diversity of IoT devices continues to expand.

Addressing IoT Security Flaws

Despite all its benefits, organizations should be aware that IoT systems can unfortunately introduce a number of security risks. It’s not uncommon for connected IoT devices to lack basic security capabilities, such as authentication controls or data encryption. Cyber thieves often target poorly secured IoT devices for network entry points or enslaved as part of botnets for silent attacks down the road.

As a result, organizations should ensure that IoT systems being introduced into their networks are properly secured. It is also possible to compensate for these IoT security flaws if security functions are delivered through the network, as is seen with the secure access service edge (SASE) approach.

By delivering the same level of security and network management capabilities to all endpoints in an IoT system, SASE can be an effective way of securing a large IoT network and its connected devices. Uniform policies, such as limits on connection time or data access can be implemented and, if needed, sandboxing can be instituted to isolate and investigate suspicious connection attempts that may indicate a compromised device.

In addition to security concerns around specific connected devices, organizations need to maintain a high level of control over how devices connect to the network and what gateways they can access. For example, ensuring that data is maintained within a specific geographic region can be increasingly important for regulatory compliance.

Providing the Best Path for IoT

IoT has become a key component of business transformation plans for organizations spanning heavily automated industries such as manufacturing to everyday office environments. As evidenced by examples such as the NFL discussed earlier, even simple sensor devices can prove to be extremely valuable in monitoring, automating and managing a diverse variety of operational needs.

However, as IoT systems and devices continue to expand exponentially, organizations must ensure their networks can handle the increased demand for throughput and enable all devices to operate at peak performance. As digital transformation continues, the ability to easily scale up as needs change will also be an important factor in meeting dynamic requirements and reducing costs.

More importantly, organizations must keep their growing IoT networks secure. Attracted by the well-known security vulnerabilities in many IoT products, cyber thieves will continue to target connected devices as an easy entry point into networks. Adopting a cloud-based approach such as SASE will help ensure that strong security and network management are delivered to all endpoints without ramping costs, even as the wave of connected IoT devices continues to expand.

About the author:  Mike Wood is Chief Marketing Officer at Versa Networks. He is an entrepreneurial, creative, results-oriented and hands-on CMO, VP Product, Board Member, Advisor, and Investor with repeated success scaling incubation businesses and startups.  Mike has extensive expertise scaling products, businesses and processes to take a business from limited revenue to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.  In addition, Mike has deep expertise in networking as a service, virtualization, cloud, mobile, video and security. Follow Mike on Twitter (News - Alert): @WoodCast.

Edited by Erik Linask

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