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Securing IoT Devices to Protect WiFi Network Ecosystems

IoT devices

IoT devices

Solutions Review’s Expert Insights Series is a collection of contributed articles written by industry experts in enterprise software categories. Roger Sands of Wyebot discusses the importance of securing IoT devices in order to protect the WiFi Network ecosystem.

The global IoT market has grown to have a revenue of hundreds of billions of dollars, and it isn’t slowing down. These technologies have transformed how businesses operate, revolutionizing everything from building maintenance to delivery tracking, demand forecasting, and customer service. They are a valuable resource for organizations in all industries, but these devices aren’t risk-free. It is crucial for businesses to take the right steps to ensure IoT devices are secure.

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IoT Devices and Protecting the WiFi Ecosystem

IoT Vulnerabilities

It isn’t uncommon for IoT devices to have different security settings than other WiFi-connected devices. This can result in them having weak default passwords. If those passwords aren’t updated before the devices are connected to a business’s WiFi network, they become an easily exploited target for hackers and other malicious users.

Other issues arise if the IoT technology has outdated firmware or open-source software. As with weak passwords, these vulnerabilities make IoT devices attractive to actors with bad intentions. It isn’t only the information on the device that hackers want. Too often, IoT devices serve as key entry points to the broader network ecosystem. This can result in the theft of personal and proprietary information, denial of service attacks, and other cybersecurity nightmares.

IoT Devices and Network Security

There are a few steps to ensure network security regardless of which devices are connected throughout a workspace.

  1. Know your devices. Work with a device discovery tool so that you always know exactly which devices are connected to your network. At a minimum, you should know basic device capabilities, as well as the current software and firmware versions for each device.
  2. Separate devices with different SSIDs. Not all devices need to be connected to the same SSID. IoT printers, for example, should be kept on a separate network from IoT medical devices. By practicing network segmentation, you separate devices that need access to secure information from devices that do not. This way, if a lower-level device is hacked, there is less chance that that compromise results in someone gaining access to private information.
  3. Create new passwords for each device. Creating a unique password for each IoT device should be standard practice. Passwords should be as complex as possible.
  4. Update devices regularly. Never let outdated firmware be the reason for a security breach. Have a plan in place to periodically review all devices and update them whenever necessary.
  5. Adopt devices as needed. While it can be easy to get swept up by the excitement of new devices, take your time in choosing which ones to adopt. First, identify a pain point that the device will solve. If there isn’t one, move on. If there is one, review the device’s security protocols. Then, review your network and determine how the device’s addition may impact existing performance. In other words, how congested is your network? What are the device’s capabilities? How often will it be used, and by how many people?

Only once you fully understand how the device will impact operations should it be adopted. This is especially important since most companies are adopting devices in bulk, not one by one. The last thing you want is your latest hundred IoT devices ruining network performance for all users.

Simplifying Security with WiFi Automation

Even with the best security practices in the industry, an organization can always use more support monitoring its WiFi network. These networks are the backbone of business continuity and often consist of hundreds or thousands of devices– IoT and otherwise. A WiFi automation solution helps keep IoT technologies and WiFi ecosystems secure by automating the detection, notification, and mitigation of network issues.

Here’s how these solutions help:

  1. Consistently monitor network activity. WiFi networks are impacted by everything from devices connecting and disconnecting, to application updates, and even non-WiFi devices like microwaves and Bluetooth. There is always the potential for an issue to occur at any time, day or night. A WiFi automation solution can analyze all WiFi spectrums and all connected devices 24/7. Whether there’s an issue with a server or a problem with IoT firmware, these solutions can identify issues in real-time and help support long-term network reliability.
  2. Run end-user tests. Are IoT devices performing as expected? The best way to find out is by proactively running end-user network tests. These tests can be run by a solution that connects to the test as a user device and mimics the user experience. With proactive testing, issues can be identified early and resolved quickly.
  3. Provide remote, automated troubleshooting. Many IT professionals are responsible for multiple locations. Even if they are only responsible for one location, if they have to be in the same space as an IoT device to troubleshoot, this causes challenges. Avoid long travel times, interrupting busy offices, and trying to reach out-of-the-way devices with a solution that supports troubleshooting from any location.
  4. Identify real-time behavior and historical performance trends. When it comes to preventing security issues, timing is critical. With up to thousands of devices to monitor, IT professionals need support in identifying problems in real-time. WiFi automation solutions should perform that service and report long-term performance trends. This way, professionals know if any IoT device performance is gradually degrading, even if it meets baseline requirements.

Taking the steps to intentionally and proactively secure your network is always worth the time and effort. IoT devices present new challenges for all industries but benefits as well. Work to keep your risk-benefit ratio low and protect your business with these best practices.

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