Cybersecurity Awareness Month – If you connect it, protect it.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month – If you connect it, protect it.

By Rich Johanning

VP, Mission Engineering
Advanced Technology Office

If you connect it, protect it!! In the interconnected world, Smart devices are being connected to provide people access to do “smart things” with the convenience of having information at their fingertips. But when does convenience give way to security in the emerging interconnected digital world?

Symantec has stated there will be more than 41 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices by 2027, up from 8 billion is 2019.  That is a lot of devices providing a lot of data ; however, that same data can become dangerous if not protected. We are not talking about misinformation; Instead, we are also concerned about meta-data that is associated with the data providing information about the device’s location and its intended use. For example, there are medical devices that communicate directly with physicians and control systems used in commercial, industrial, and residential areas. The increase in connected devices means we must learn how to protect ourselves and the information those devices convey.

A NETSCOUT Threat Intelligence Report cited 75 percent of infected devices in IoT attacks are home routers. And a recent test completed by Amentum industrial control experts saw connected devices attacked within five minutes and targeted by specific exploits in less than 24 hours This test was run in a lab for two consecutive weeks to determine cost effective ways for protecting Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and IoT devices. We used devices designed for home and industrial use, such as thermostats, water heaters, refrigerators, access control systems, and energy management devices. Our test confirmed what the NETSCOUT Threat Intelligence Report cited. Homeowners, facility maintenance managers, and utility providers must become aware of the vulnerabilities associated with connecting devices to public networks without protecting them. As sensor use (IoT) continues to grow across industry we must keep security in the forefront of design concepts and safeguarding measures in place for the type of data that needs to be protected.

David Fickling of Bloomberg wrote “Cyberattacks make Smart Grids Look Pretty Dumb,” which highlighted how a home thermostat IoT device led to a region-wide power blackout in five South American countries during a June 2019 weekend. Argentina started implementing smart meters like the rest of the world to monitor and control supply and demand in real time. Hackers started researching smart meters years ago and there are several YouTube videos showing how to accomplish the attack with ease, regardless of one’s technical abilities. Amentum works alongside our commercial and federal clients to put the appropriate controls in place to reduce risks associated with IoT devices.
Amentum helps their clients connect and safeguard IoT and IIoT sensors in process automation, sensor fusion, and edge-compute.

Automation trends like Industry 4.0 will rely heavily on remote sensors to communicate with one another ultimately helping to make decisions with and sometimes without human involvement. A combination of cyber-physical systems, IoT, and the internet of systems will make Industry 4.0 possible and the smart warehouse a reality. It is imperative these systems are properly protected. In the context of DoD warehouses being “smart.” Amentum’s subject matter experts in logistics, warehousing, and industrial control systems work together to incorporate the appropriate controls to protect all system components prior to connecting to a production environment.

There are simple ways we can benefit from the convenience of IoT while maintaining safety and security. Some basic recommendations include changing default passwords on your devices, managing how your devices connect, and keeping IoT devices on separate networks. Amentum has developed a framework to protect IoT devices and have evaluated numerous products to help with IIoT and IoT implementation. Stay tuned for more on this topic when we discuss the impact of 5th Generation Wireless and edge compute concerns with respect to IoT. Reach out to us at [email protected] if you are interested in learning more.

Remember, Protect it, if you Connect it!!