Insights 7th May 2020

Creating a secure IoT backbone for Industry 4.0

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to have a huge impact on global technology usage throughout the coming years.

According to the Ericsson IoT forecast report, it’s predicted there will be around 29 billion connected devices by 2022 – 18 billion of which will be IoT-related.

And, although the technology and adoption itself are still relatively in their infancy, organisations are becoming more acutely aware of the opportunity that IoT presents as enterprises gain a fuller understanding of what may lie ahead for the tech industry – and the variety of use cases that IoT connected devices can positively impact.

Delving further into industry research that is currently supporting evidence around IoT’s early impact, Vodafone’s sixth IoT Barometer document reveals that 34% of businesses surveyed in 2019 were using IoT services. And, 84% of those adopters have increased confidence in the systems compared to 12 months ago, as a result. Perhaps more importantly too, is that 76% of the enterprises surveyed currently utilising IoT believe it is ‘mission-critical’ for their organisations.

Further statistics go a significant distance to back up this tech evolution too, with 74% of organisations believing that the companies unable to become IoT-agile will fall behind their competitors – in only five years’ time.

So, with Industry 4.0 in full throttle, can firms truly afford to ignore IoT’s potential to dominate the tech sector? And do they fully understand exactly what that means?

Firstly, there are a number of elements that need to be addressed, in order for a firm to become IoT ready – and there’s nothing more important than security.

As any industry knows, online protection is of paramount importance and data breaches can seriously damage a business, placing its entire future in doubt. In the case of Industrial IoT, a breach could quite literally cause a national emergency.

Savvy organisations recognise that whilst IoT presents a vast array of opportunities there are also challenges too – if a business isn’t fully prepared. Why? Because simply put, they’re opening up a suite of devices that are all connected to the internet.

So, how do they know that every piece of tech is robust and business-safe from a serious cyber-attack?

A range of security options to consider

There are many ways in which firms can ensure security is at the forefront of their mind – as long as they have key technologies in place. A few recommendations include Message Query Telemetry Transport (MQTT) – which is available in a number of varieties, including open source such as Mosquitto. Additionally, having separate key pairs for each IoT device and a secure boot is vital. They must also ensure compatibility with both Narrow Band IoT and Long-Term Evolution mobile networks.

Enterprises should be perfectly positioned to understand how an IoT device provides a source of continuous telemetry which – depending on the device – can be small and infrequent, to diverse and at a high frequency. Depending on the sensitive nature of this telemetry feed, transmission needs to be secured from the point of transmission to the consumption of the data.

There is a minimum level of security for businesses via TLS’s most recent version too, alongside the use of a certificate authority – whether this is contained within the organisation or by a public issuing body. However, if it requires further secure communication methods, it’s recommended to go with a VPN solution.

Additionally, companies exploring ‘Defence in Depth’ (DiD) security enables them to further safeguard their connected devices, ensuring they’re not vulnerable to IoT attacks. How this works is through a robust approach to cybersecurity in which a series of defensive mechanisms are layered – meaning every phase is protecting valuable data and information.

Is the firm IoT secure and ready?

There are a number of options for organisations to consider – all of which can be explained in detail by a managed services provider should that be the route the business wants to take.

IoT presents many benefits for enterprises – from enhancing productivity to making operations more streamlined. It’s important for entities to assess the range of options available when it comes to ensuring their suite of devices are securely protected and secure from attack.

However, companies should never rest when it comes to safety and must always make sure they’re up to speed with the type of security they need – even when using IoT services on a subscription basis.

If it’s handled correctly, and a firm is robustly protected, organisations can not only be equipped with the correct level of security but also provide further trust and support for the customer they serve. From regularly undertaking the basics – such as relatively simple tasks including resetting passwords, locking smartphones, deploying end-to-end encryption and updating firmware as often as is needed – IoT should be welcomed by modern-day firms for the true benefits it can provide, not feared.

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