Enterprise users appear ready to take the leap into the Internet of Things, looking to mine the growing trend toward hyperconnected devices for improvements in the way they control systems and develop products and services.
Unfortunately, the networks are woefully inadequate to handle the increased traffic and heightened security concerns all of those connected devices will unleash on existing systems.
A new study out this week from network controls maker Infoblox Inc. found 46 percent of the 400 IT pros it polled say they expect looming demands from IoT implementations will be piled on to their existing corporate networks. Fifty seven percent say those networks are already at capacity.
“It’s encouraging that the majority of IT professionals recognize the demands the Internet of Things will make on their networks,” said Infoblox CIO Cricket Liu. “Network administrators have struggled in recent years to stay on top of the BYOD trend, and IoT will create an increase in end points that is an order of magnitude greater.
“At the same time, many networks teams will have to respond to the IoT without significant increases in budgets or head count,” he said.
More concerning, 63 percent of those surveyed said IoT poses a threat to the security of their systems.
“With so many objects and IP addresses being added, it’s important for network teams to keep track of what’s on their network at any given point, and also to bear in mind all these objects and IP addresses are potential weak links in an organization’s IT infrastructure,” said Liu.
Security has become a top-of-mind issues for potential users and partners interested in the vast IoT opportunity: Internet-connected machines are expected to number some 200 billion by 2020, according to IDC Corp. At that rate, automated machine-to-machine (M2M) transactions will vastly outnumber traditional human-to-computer transactions. Cisco Systems claims the market for these hyper-connected devices will top $19 trillion in the next eight years, but those figures could be at risk if security gets short shrift and the devices become unpatched, unmonitored badlands for hackers and cybercriminals.
A recent survey by SSH Communications Security and Forrester Consulting found the rise of M2M connections in data centers across most industries has far outstripped the ability of organizations to secure them. The resulting misalignment of security and compliance priorities places these organizations at risk, the survey found.
“Misunderstanding how best to secure M2M transactions — and whose responsibility it is to do so — has placed organizations under significant risk of data breach,” said Tatu Ylonen, CEO of Helsinki-based SHH Communications Security and the inventor of the eponymous protocol that has become the de facto standard for data-in-transit security. “As organizations across all sectors embrace the concept of the Internet of Things, enabling more objects and sensors to communicate to support new business models the need to automate M2M connections is increasingly critical.”
According to the SSH and Forrester findings, M2M processes are in use to some degree in just about every business organization, and 62 percent of those polled say they plan to increase M2M use over the next year. Half are using M2M for logistics management and customer service, and fully half of the financial institutions polled say they use M2M connections for billing. But while 68 percent say IT data security is a critical priority, only 25 percent feel the same way about M2M systems, even those tasked with carrying high-value payloads.
These are issues that will need to be sorted out soon if IoT is ever to realize its potential. They are also issues in which the channel might gain a foothold in this emerging space and take advantage of the opportunities.
“With billions of objects networked all over the world, many of which will reside in insecure locations, security is arguably more important for IoT than it has been for any other technology in history,” said Cisco’s IoT evangelist Jeff Aboud said recently.
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