Aug 10 2023

Why Network Security Is a First Priority as Organizations Secure IoT Environments

With the rise in persistent cyberattacks, IT leaders are recognizing that as enterprise networks evolve, their security architecture must improve too.

In the cybersecurity landscape, change is a constant. With the persistence of new, sophisticated cyberattack threats, enterprise security must adapt. As IT leaders look to secure their IoT environments, many are considering 5G WAN technology, which creates new opportunities but brings corresponding security challenges.

5G technology delivers faster, more flexible connectivity, allowing enterprises to expand their networks and provide seamless connections in more places across a broader range of devices. However,  more coverage means more vulnerabilities, making a comprehensive, customizable security solution a necessity.

Here’s what IT decision-makers need to know as they look to support their IoT devices and network security:

Why IoT Devices Connected to 5G Can Facilitate More Cyberattacks

As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, the attack surface also expands. MckInsey considers all IoT devices to be potential targets for bad actors. As evidence, there was a 98 percent spike in cyberattacks on IoT devices, according to Tech Monitor, at the end of 2022.

This explains why there is a rise in IoT-based cyberattacks, because these devices are all connected to the 5G network. In fact, Ericsson predicts the number of IoT-connected devices will reach 34.7 billion by 2028, up from 13.2 billion in 2022.

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How to Secure Your IoT Devices Against Hackers

As enterprises work to secure their IoT environments, there are a few important factors worth considering. First, many of today’s network security solutions require an agent on a user device, such as a laptop, phone, tablet or desktop.

However, this model does not apply to IoT devices, most of which have limited processing power to run onboard security. Often, default passwords remain at factory settings, making them easier to hack.

To combat these challenges, enterprises typically take one of two security approaches. The first is to leave security predominantly in the hands of the cellular provider. This essentially means private access point nodes are connected to a secure environment where all the enterprise IoT devices operate.

There are benefits to this approach, because the cellular provider sets up and manages the network; the downside is that organizations have less control over their connectivity.

The second approach involves selecting a virtual private network controlled by the organization’s IT department. However, VPNs allow broad network access, leaving the IT department responsible for restricting access. VPNs also offer hackers the potential for lateral movement once they are in the network, making cyberattacks more likely.

Both options are valid, but neither are robust enough to fully protect enterprises from the intensity of today’s cybersecurity threats. That’s why IT leaders need a new approach in which the network plays an active role in security.

DISCOVER: The seven best practices for your all-Inclusive IoT security plan.

A New Approach to IoT Security: 5G SASE

The best option for today’s enterprises is a converged network and security solution that is optimized for 5G. This solution will include secure access service edge (SASE) design, including SD-WAN. 

To defend against the growing number of hackers within the expanding 5G landscape, Gartner’s SASE framework is an attractive option.

The approach is geared toward protecting users with secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers and remote browser isolation. But most important, SASE operates within a zero-trust network access (ZTNA) framework, which enables the network to protect IoT devices.

This cloud-based, ZTNA security solution also removes the configuration complexities associated with VPNs, restricting access by default and leaving network access decisions solely to the IT department. Public IPs and IoT resources are also automatically hidden from discovery if they are not identified in the network.

Working from this framework, employees can configure the network more easily, identify resources and set up access policies for each device. This is especially important on networks with both IoT devices and individual users because it is much easier to deploy role-based security policies.

READ MORE: What to look for in an SD-WAN solution.

Why SASE with SD-WAN Elevates Network Security

SD-WAN is another critical element of SASE, providing secure connectivity over inexpensive direct internet connections and enabling traffic steering and prioritization.

An SD-WAN solution that is optimized for 5G can be customized for signal strength and data plan requirements. These parameters make it easier for IT decision-makers to switch from one modem to another for greater efficiency.

For example, a first responder racing to an incident can be switched from one carrier to another en route for optimal performance. This 5G SD-WAN network slicing option allows enterprises to have better performance and end-to-end service agreements. 

FIND OUT: How 5G will push forward IoT and data analytics.

The Importance of a Robust Security and Networking Solution

As more businesses move to wireless WANs as part of their infrastructure, it is more important than ever to provide a robust security and networking solution

Overall, 5G SASE takes the basic functionality of SASE (including SD-WAN) to the next level. And companies like Cradlepoint are already experiencing the power of this converged solution that is prepared to truly leverage all the power of 5G technology. 

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