Finding solutions to help your company run smoother and faster is what you do as a business owner. Since the Internet of Things (IoT) (aka “smart” devices) assist with efficiency, it’s likely that these devices have a regular role in your business. As of 2016, 65 percent of U.S. businesses use IoT technology — devices that are connected on the same network and embedded with sensors, software and the ability to collect and share data.
Unfortunately, the very reasons that these technological powerhouses improve your processes can also puncture holes in your business’ security. Will this make you think twice about using them?
Before you answer, take a look at the current state of IoT technology. Consider the benefits as well as the ways it can invite danger into your business so that you know what you can do to protect your enterprise and yourself.
More than 20 years after the term “Internet of Things” was coined, these devices have become plentiful and their popularity continues to grow even more rapidly. At least 62 percent of U.S. consumers have a minimum of one IoT device — from Smart TVs to wearable devices that log their every step.
“At first, I thought my fitness tracker was just really cool. Now, I can’t imagine not having it to remind me when I need to walk more.”
On the business side of IoT usage, the appeal goes much deeper to encompass critical efficiencies and owners’ wallets.
Benefits abound in the business world
Given the capabilities of IoT technology, businesses have numerous reasons to implement these devices. At the most basic level, IoT provides connectivity and data collection. Connectivity links multiple business devices (such as video conferencing systems, printers and phones), enabling you to communicate and access information more efficiently and streamline business tasks. Data collection provides information tracking and recording capabilities — like keeping tabs on inventory and habits, for example — to help you make important business decisions.
The practicality doesn’t end there. IoT helps you stay on top of maintenance needs. Then there is energy management that helps reduce energy waste by adjusting your thermostat and turning off lights when not in use.
To further keep you on budget, you can install smart locks and connected cameras that provide real-time monitoring from your phone instead of hiring a security guard.
Speaking of security, for businesses with fleet vehicles, IoT offers devices that track your vehicles’ location. Plus, if you buy cars or trucks with smart features, you can easily account for travel times and fuel consumption. Additionally, if necessary, you can lock down a vehicle’s functions to prevent others from unauthorized use.
As you can see, IoT has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of business and has even been referred to as “the next Industrial Revolution,” according to Business Insider (BI). BI projects that “business investments in the IoT will grow from $215 billion (in 2015) to $832 billion (in 2020).” The majority of small businesses already recognize the impact of IoT with about 57 percent of small businesses expect IoT to have “a significant impact on their bottom line,” according to a 2014 study by the security software company AVG.
Dangers you can’t ignore
Whether you’ve already jumped into the IoT waters or are still thinking about taking a swim, it’s important to look at the whole picture.
Along with IoT’s many advantages, let’s also consider some serious drawbacks.
Most IoT devices can’t be updated by the owner nor can they have updates pushed to them the way a smart phone does. As a result, the owner of IoT devices remain unaware of needed updates. This leads to the next danger: security holes.
Researchers have found that a large number of these devices lack even basic security and contain expired software.
It’s no wonder it only takes a few minutes to exploit many IoT devices. A hacker only needs access to one device to compromise other devices connected to it. Think of it as a small, unsecured window that a criminal manages to slip through. Once a criminal is inside, they are able to unlock all the doors in the building and steal everything from under the roof.
Hackers take advantage of these devices to commit cyberattacks. In Oct. 2016, hackers used IoT botnets to inflict damage on service provider Dyn, which temporarily took down over 85 websites. That same type of attack could be used to take over IP-connected security and HVAC systems. One exploit would then allow physical access to buildings, while the other could enable hackers to remotely overheat computer server rooms.
Smart defenses for your smart devices
When faced with the many potential dangers, what are some things you can do to help protect your SMB?
- Change the default factory passwords that come with your IoT devices to your own unique password.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi to connect to any of your devices.
- Investigate how to update device software and apply security patches before purchasing any IoT technology.
- Store sensitive personal, business and financial data on a network separate from the network your other IoT devices are connected to.
- Be aware of the data being collected about you and your business via IoT devices.
Whether you continue to connect through IoT technology or eventually decide to take advantage of it, you have a lot to consider. Do the benefits outweigh the dangers? Many business owners seem to believe so. According to 451 Research, 63 percent say IoT devices optimize operations, 66 percent value the ability of security-focused devices to reduce risk and 33 percent value smart devices for helping develop new and enhance existing products.
What do you think about the Internet of Things? Does it play a role in your SMB? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
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