Gone are the days when a computer was our only way of getting online. These days, the web is an entire ecosystem that connects mobile devices, vehicles, home appliances, sensors and more. Known, rather reductively, as the Internet of Things (IoT).
In the broadest sense of the term, IoT encompasses any device that connects to the internet, but it is increasingly used to describe items that interact with each other, from heating systems to wearables to smart phones to toothbrushes. If it has the ability to communicate, then you’re looking at IoT.
We already know what this means for our homes. It means we can adjust the thermostat as we travel home from work or turn the lights on when we’re away for the weekend. But what does this mean for business? The implications are likely to be huge, with a host of obvious benefits and more than a handful of unique challenges. Let’s start with the good…
Five ways IoT could help your business
If it hasn’t got there already then very soon IoT will affect virtually every business. This unique ecosystem offers unprecedented opportunities for gathering data and automating processes. Here are a few of the ways that IoT could positively impact your business.
- Greater access to data
With IoT, businesses have access to more data than ever before. Whatever your industry, it’s likely that you’re increasingly having to consider yourself a digital business just to keep up with the market. Numerous studies and reports suggest that data could soon be your biggest asset, surpassing your existing products and services in value. The monetisation of data has huge potential for savvy businesses.
- Increased productivity
Enhanced data analysis will streamline a number of tasks and increase overall productivity, meaning expenditure on staff could ultimately decrease.
- Working remotely
Remote working is a whole lot easier thanks to IoT. With access to multiple devices, many more tasks can be completed remotely. As remote workers are often considered more efficient and cost-effective, hiring them can impact profit margins positively.
- Exceptional access to your customers
Smart devices can monitor how your users consume your products and will provide priceless insights to help you to develop new goods. Eventually, you’ll know with an unparalleled level of surety how successful new products will be before you’ve even created them.
- Less downtime
The data collected from IoT devices could help to predict potential problems before they occur and help to reduce downtime due to unnecessary maintenance.
Will IT security be affected?
While IoT devices can have a hugely positive impact for businesses, there are risks too. Just like with any other internet-enabled device, IoT is prone to hacking and a business must understand the risks in order to protect themselves and their data. By connecting multiple devices to their system, the amount of “attack surfaces” (the number of possible ways an attacker can access the network) is greatly expanded due to the increased number of endpoints. Even if the chance of one device being accessed is small, for every additional device, the risk grows.
The biggest IoT threats to business
Access to sensitive data
One of the main issues with IoT is that devices often record and stream data and much of this is potentially sensitive. Consider that security systems such as cameras, doorbells and alarm systems are often part of the business network. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the potential security issues here, if this part of the network is jeopardised by cybercriminals there could be major implications. And, it’s not just security, even something as seemingly innocuous as a network printer provides a potential access point and could allow a cyber hacker to see everything that is printed or scanned in an office.
A botnet is a group of interconnected computers that are controlled by cybercriminals and used to transmit malware or spam and used to launch attacks. The most common usage is DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Such attacks overwhelm a system with requests from malicious devices in order to crash the system and deny access to legitimate users. You may recall that the Labour party recently claimed to have been subject to one such attack and they’re not the only high-profile victims, in 2016 Twitter and Netflix were both attacked in such a way.
Once a device has been attacked, hackers gain access to its functions. Considering that office systems such as heating and lighting are increasingly part of an organisation’s IOT network, this has the potential to cause huge disruption to the daily running of a business.
How to preserve IoT security
But, it’s not all doom and gloom! There is a multitude of ways that your business can stay safe and ward off such attacks.
Firstly, check the security of your router. Ensure that your router is up to date and has a firewall enabled. A compromised router can potentially leave your entire network vulnerable. Take the time to change your router password to a long and strong one to avoid potentially catastrophic infiltrations.
Use strong passwords
The simplest, most obvious security measure is still one of the most effective: create impenetrable passwords. You no doubt already take these measures on work computers and business phones but having weak or even non-existent passwords on IoT devices will leave you prone to attacks. Worryingly, many IoT devices come with default passwords which are never changed, meaning attackers may know your passwords better than you do.
Strong passwords add a much-needed second line of defence to protect against hackers. Once your router is secure, create complex secondary passwords for each device, this means that while a hacker could access one device, their attempts to access the entire network will be thwarted.
We understand that an internet-enabled kettle might be fun to have but is it truly necessary? Consider which internet-enabled devices are useful in light of potential security breaches. It might mean streamlining your IoT shopping list.
Carry out updates
Many manufacturers of IoT devices will release security updates if vulnerabilities are discovered. Ensure that all devices are kept up to date.
Consider the importance of data destruction
With more and more devices having access to the internet, data destruction is more important than ever. Most are already aware of the need for safe disposal of outmoded computer equipment but thanks to the Internet of Things, safe disposal of all equipment becomes a business-critical issue.
At CDL, we’ll carry out secure data destruction either on your own premises or at our headquarters. All of our destruction and recycling processes are fully compliant with the Data Protection Act so you can feel safe from attacks even on IoT devices that have been retired.
For more of the latest news, guides and features from the CDL team, click here to visit our blog. If you’d like to find out more about our IT disposal solutions, visit our homepage or call our team now on 0333 060 5623.