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The Internet of Things is changing the world, heralded as one of the most pivotal technology trends of the modern era. We are getting ready to enter a time where everything, quite literally, is connected to the Internet.

For the industrial sector, this is a new area of exploration. Factories have smart infrastructures that use sensors to relay data about machine performance. Cities have smart grids that monitor everything from traffic to the energy used by streetlights. Hospitals can monitor the health of high-risk, at-home patients.

In other words, we are entering a hacker's dream world.

Recent attacks, like the Christmas 2015 attack on the Ukraine power grid, have shown that the Internet of Things possesses severe vulnerabilities. These weak points can be everything from back doors that allow a hacker access to a system to lack of proper use by untrained workers. If your business uses IoT devices, there’s a good chance they are not secure.

Why are so many systems left vulnerable? Weaknesses often come from the same set of five drivers:

 

Source: Allerin

Whether your company is struggling because your devices were deployed too quickly or operational costs constraints got in the way, your team must take measures to fix security risks. Here are four security flaws:

1. Lack of Encryption

Any device that is connected to the Internet to relay data needs encryption. When communication between devices and facility machines are now encrypted, it provides a doorway for hackers to send malicious updates, steal data, and even take control of the system. 

In 2014, an Israeli security firm took control of cars using a specific connected telematics device that failed to use proper encryption.

2. Failing to Install Updates

Once you have a machine-to-machine communication​ system working properly, it can be easy to forget to install the necessary updates to keep the network secure. 

Yet, hackers are constantly updating their strategies and tactics. Failing to install updates and patches leaves your system vulnerable. 

Even if you’re worried about breaking integrations between systems, you should at the least install every security update released by the vendor. These updates are specifically designed to address vulnerabilities discovered in your devices. After all, if your vendor releases a security update, it’s because they found a problem.

You also should know that updates and patches are not always the final solution to security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, many manufacturers are not able or willing to provide the necessary support to continue updating their devices. 

To avoid this risk, shop carefully for systems that provide updates and are backed by a trusted company.

3. Poorly Built Networks

The modern industrial network is designed to get tasks done. If the design focuses too much on completing that task, it will leave weak points in security. Things that are obvious when building IT networks are sometimes less obvious when creating industrial DNP3 and other network architecture.

The solution to this risk is fairly simple. Those tasked with building industrial networks need to ensure they are partnering with IT professionals to build networks that are safer from attacks. Security features, like deep packet inspection and network segmentation, should be in place from the beginning.

4. Sensors Outside of the Company's Control

Most of the sensors and other connected pieces that make up a network are controlled by the company. But for some companies, that is not the case. For example, power companies have sensors in their customer's homes. 

Sensors outside of the company's immediate control are hard to secure, which gives hackers access. Currently, cloud-based security using public key services to authenticate devices may be the best solution to this problem.

Don't Take The Risk

Industrial security breaches can cause devastating consequences.​ Therefore, the above risks need to be addressed.

As more industrial facilities rely on the Internet of Things, it's important for company teams to be aware of the potential vulnerabilities. Take security into full consideration.

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Shayla Price creates and promotes content. She lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology, and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter: @shaylaprice

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