Internet-enabled devices are emerging more and more in business and personal environments. Often going unnoticed, they simply appear within network infrastructures, using wired or wireless connections and expanding the enterprise attack surface.

In fact, enterprises nowadays likely have more internet of things (IoT) devices on their networks than traditional endpoints — according to Armis, by the year 2021, over 90 percent of enterprise devices will not be manageable by traditional IT security tools. IBM predicted that we would surpass 25 billion connected devices in 2020, a number that is likely to continue increasing in the future. Across all industries, the IoT is becoming a major security topic.

Threats to IoT devices are hard to detect: Cyberthreats are often the result of IT constraints, such as digitization, as-a-service models or predictive maintenance. The technology is designed to connect easily and to communicate and transmit data, but security is often left behind. Manufacturers implement their IoT solutions in multiple ways, and devices are typically difficult to update and “un-agentable.” Ask yourself how many of these kinds of devices are operating in your offices, included with the facilities you’re using or surrounding you while traveling or working from home?

All of this leads to an unknown attack surface and highlights the need for holistic IoT threat management solutions.

The Risk of Unmanaged IoT Devices

To get a sense of the risk associated with IoT devices, check out this 2018 quote from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): “Cyber actors actively search for and compromise vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices for use as proxies or intermediaries for Internet requests to route malicious traffic for cyber-attacks and computer network exploitation.” Screen the internet and you’ll find comparable statements from multiple sources that emphasize a change in mindset.

From a threat management perspective, there is no logic in securing and monitoring IT equipment while ignoring the IoT devices active in the same environment. Organizations must consider IoT devices as well.

Gain Visibility to Enhance IoT Threat Management

An effective threat management program needs to discover, identify and analyze all types of unmanaged and managed IoT devices linked to enterprise architecture, adjusting the past threat landscape to today’s reality. The first step is to passively detect unknown device types, gathering product information such as type, model, manufacturer, installed operating system and applications.

Second, learn about device connections, normal behaviors and associated risks. Keep in mind that there are different types of IoT infrastructures, from dumb sensors to highly sophisticated solutions. Be prepared to uncover an undiscovered universe along with many unknown vulnerabilities. Here, a risk scorecard can help prioritize any follow-up activities.

Another challenge arises with IoT solution complexity; a detected IoT device may only be the tip of the iceberg. What about manufacturers’ IoT platforms or the intended life cycle of solutions operating in our environments? Have they been designed and implemented securely, and are they operated in a secure manner? Or, think of vulnerabilities discovered during security operations: Can the IoT infrastructure be updated, is there an update available or do we need to continue operating a vulnerable IoT solution just because it hasn’t been depreciated yet? More and more, whether or not IoT solutions and services are certified to be secure by design will no doubt become important purchasing criteria.

IBM Security recently introduced a managed security service that covers IoT threat management. Based on the world’s largest device recognition database, the artificial intelligence (AI)-supported service is able to detect and monitor devices and identify real-time behavioral anomalies.

Learn more about IBM X-Force Threat Management

More from CISO

CEO, CIO or CFO: Who Should Your CISO Report To?

As we move deeper into a digitally dependent future, the growing concern of data breaches and other cyber threats has led to the rise of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This position is essential in almost every company that relies on digital information. They are responsible for developing and implementing strategies to harden the organization's defenses against cyberattacks. However, while many organizations don't question the value of a CISO, there should be more debate over who this important role…

Everyone Wants to Build a Cyber Range: Should You?

In the last few years, IBM X-Force has seen an unprecedented increase in requests to build cyber ranges. By cyber ranges, we mean facilities or online spaces that enable team training and exercises of cyberattack responses. Companies understand the need to drill their plans based on real-world conditions and using real tools, attacks and procedures. What’s driving this increased demand? The increase in remote and hybrid work models emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the priority to collaborate and…

Why Quantum Computing Capabilities Are Creating Security Vulnerabilities Today

Quantum computing capabilities are already impacting your organization. While data encryption and operational disruption have long troubled Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), the threat posed by emerging quantum computing capabilities is far more profound and immediate. Indeed, quantum computing poses an existential risk to the classical encryption protocols that enable virtually all digital transactions. Over the next several years, widespread data encryption mechanisms, such as public-key cryptography (PKC), could become vulnerable. Any classically encrypted communication could be wiretapped and is…

6 Roles That Can Easily Transition to a Cybersecurity Team

With the shortage of qualified tech professionals in the cybersecurity industry and increasing demand for trained experts, it can take time to find the right candidate with the necessary skill set. However, while searching for specific technical skill sets, many professionals in other industries may be an excellent fit for transitioning into a cybersecurity team. In fact, considering their unique, specialized skill sets, some roles are a better match than what is traditionally expected of a cybersecurity professional. This article…