How IoT Drives the Convergence of Cyber and Physical Security

By Kait Hobson
August 30, 2018

Incorporating the internet into the physical world began as a slow shift, at its advent, but gained an unprecedented momentum with the emergence of smart devices. Multiple tools with computing capabilities have become smaller and cheaper, resulting in availability for wider use. If it required a large budget for an industry to computerize a process, just a decade ago, it takes less money and time today; moreover, it’s substantially easier for individuals to perform a majority of the daily tasks on the web. All it requires is a smartphone app and users can control home appliances or set office temperature.

Caption: All it takes to control an IoT device is to log in to a smartphone.

Another factor that plays a major role in the convergence of the physical and the digital world is sophisticated sensors. New sensor technologies, such as proximity, infrared, image, optical, temperature, smoke, and pressure sensors have surfaced and facilitated the automation of numerous processes.

Agile software development brought together the devices, the sensors, and the web into a wider ecosystem, which includes more vulnerable access points. In terms of security, the line between the physical and the cyber world is getting thinner.

Who Needs to Pay Attention to This Phenomenon and Why?

Responsible IT personnel are justifiably concerned about new security challenges developing in the interconnected grid of physical devices. Multiple IT roles play a part in addressing the weaknesses, as hackers have more ways than ever to locate vulnerabilities in IoT devices.

A strong emphasis on cybersecurity expertise arose, in recent years, due to a massive proliferation of enterprise applications and cloud-based tools. Their practical application blurs the line between what’s required, security-wise, from a CIO, an internal IT security manager, a cybersecurity expert, a cloud service vendor or an IoT developer.

While traditional roles may become clearer and new security roles may develop as a result of device implementation in the IoT, as a general rule, everyone included in the process must bear a certain portion of the security load. Physical and cyber security are integral and inseparable parts of corporate security policies.

How is IoT a Security Challenge?

Smart devices offer ample opportunities to simplify business processes, but also expose new weaknesses. If an intruder has more touchpoints to access a security ecosystem, including those in the physical world and those from a web-based application, the risk not only doubles—it grows exponentially as the number of connected devices, apps, and sensors increases—resulting in more complex interconnected systems. If you think of the IoT as one big distributed system, where thousands of intersections are formed as new devices, users and apps are added, it’s not difficult to imagine the implications from a single security failure, such as a DDOS attack.

Strengthening Security with IoT

If used in an efficient way, multiple vulnerability points can be a source of strength. Security participants in the IoT ecosystem can play a role by using these connectivity points to solve the real-world problems of members who communicate over the network. In this way, the IoT is creating growth opportunities. The main task confronting responsible IT security people is to create barriers between the newly created convergence cybersecurity and physical access points. Thanks to electronic access control, for office security and physical security, these tasks are much easier. You can now find many providers of combined security solutions that pay attention to both aspects.

While there’s a lot more work to be done, many successful examples of the IoT convergence have already occurred.

Caption: IoT is an excellent way to reduce business operational costs.

The logistics industry is smart-tracking the logistics management lifecycle to cut down on costs. Automotive industries have improved engines and other vehicle parts and accessories by tracking their performance in the overall system. Real estate and facility management companies have automated building management and reduced maintenance and operational costs by implementing IoT sensors. Drones are used to improve citizen safety by accessing dangerous areas. Smartphone-controlled access creates safe and secure shared offices and remote workspaces.

These are just a few examples of how the IoT can be used to overcome current enterprise problems. Since we’re not moving back in time to isolated security environments, we must look strategically into a future of making IoT work for enterprise growth, rather than against it.

Kait Hobson

Workplace Innovation

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