New approaches needed to address cybersecurity challenges for the IoT

The traditional approach to cybersecurity is to assume trust and then take steps to manage what isn’t trusted. But as the concept of an industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gains momentum, one of the primary challenges facing businesses is safeguarding connections between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

With this in mind, a US company has developed an innovative system that improves IT security by securing OT endpoints. Working in a way that that is completely opposite to the way that traditional cybersecurity works, the system assumes that there is zero trust, and uses a physical and virtual appliance to enable only communications that are whitelisted.

The company, Tempered Networks, prides itself on taking “a different approach,” and last year this approach was recognized in the form of two prestigious awards for entrepreneurship and innovation. One was Frost & Sullivan’s 2014 North American Entrepreneurial Company of the Year award, and the other, SC Magazine’s 2014 Security Innovator award.

The company provides built-for-purpose, military-grade security appliances that are designed to “cloak” the network’s critical infrastructure using cryptographic identities to hide communications between trusted devices. Ultimately this enables all types of businesses to take advantage of machine-to-machine (M2M) and IIoT connectivity that is secure and efficient, and it reduces operating costs significantly to boot.

The appliance Tempered Networks has designed is an HIPswitch that is positioned right in front of the computer or any other IP-connected device. Since there are multiple computers in every business, all the HIPswitches are managed via a central HIPswitch conductor. Then administrators within the company are able to configure private overlay networks between the server and various items of equipment (the OT devices), so that only specific data is visible. If there is no “peer HIPswitch identity,” communications from any other part of the network will be ignored, because it is assumed to be “untrusted.” This, in turn, will protect the device from infection by any malicious form of traffic.

IoT expert, Zeus Kerravala applauds the new technology and its very different approach.

Kerravala has been addressing some of the challenges businesses today face with the IoT in talks he’s been presenting at IT Roadmap events.

Founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, which identifies short term trends that demand tactical shifts that fit long-term strategies, Kerravala calls the IoT the “next technology mega-trend” that all sized businesses must be aware of. One of the greatest challenges, he says, is bringing IT and OT together, especially since many IT people are not familiar with OT, which is responsible for all the various technologies businesses need to operate and generate revenue, from trucks to medical equipment.

Even though IT and OT are separate, “In an IoT world, everything gets connected to a common network,” he points out in a recent article. Further, IoT brings them together quickly, “as the data these devices generate provides valuable insight into the revenue-generating components of the enterprise.”

Even though OT devices may exist on networks right now, a major challenge is securing OT devices that are mostly closed, not located in a secure data center, and don’t have the level of instrumentation required to manage and secure themselves. While IT operates are already battling to secure corporate networks, now they have to add OT to the network and maintain the same, or preferably and even higher level of security, he says. It sounds impossible, but, as he points out, Tempered Networks has addressed this very problem.

IT Roadmap New York

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Kerravala is in the lineup of speakers who will be sharing information and views in New York on July 29. His topic, Connecting the Future: Trends in the Internet of Things, will explore the huge potential the IoT has in terms of creating new business opportunities as well as new streams of revenue. Convinced like many others that the IoT can change the way we live, learn and work more radically than others realize, he will present some of the latest trends relating to the IoT together with real world examples that show how it adds value to enterprises. Since this is done, in part, by connecting devices that weren’t traditionally connected, the challenges themselves offer opportunities to innovative, entrepreneurial businesses like Tempered Networks.