Cisco pushing for major network changes in light of the IoT
The rapidly growing market of Internet of Things technologies is creating a situation in which many businesses are beginning to experiment with IoT systems before they are ready for the big time. In many cases, IoT projects offer considerable potential and opportunities to solve longstanding operational problems in a wide range of industries. However, device limitations and unevenness in product quality are contributing to major management, security, maintenance, and networking challenges. Cisco has been at the center of these developments as it was one of the early players in the IoT game, and the tech giant is recommending that businesses resolve IoT challenges by redesigning their networks based on the demands created by the technology.
Using the network to improve IoT projects
According to a report from The Register, research from Cisco indicates that businesses can improve their IoT projects not by connected device innovation, but by upgrading the network those endpoints depend on. Speaking at the Cisco IoT World Forum, Cisco chief executive Chuck Robbins told audiences that organizations have run into a situation where they are struggling to get leaders to embrace IoT initiatives. This issue combines with device-level limitations to lead to a situation in which just 26 percent of IoT projects end up being viewed as completely successful.
“We need to build IoT architecture that allows you to go beyond that 26 percent,” said Robbins, according to The Register. “People are saying: I no longer want to be in the systems integration business, I need integrated stuff that just works. I need to get to the outcomes faster, I want to buy it as a service that is what is driving this.”
This increased dependence on IoT services is creating an operational framework in which organizations often struggle to secure and monitor devices. In response, Cisco has created a purpose-built IoT threat defense solutions aimed at using architectural improvements to the network to safeguard data and prevent IoT devices from becoming threats. These issues highlight the importance of changing the way we think about connectivity in light of the IoT, and Robbins isn’t the only leader at Cisco talking about the need for significant changes.
Kevin Bloch, CTO for Cisco ANZ, told ZDNet that the internet that we know is not adequate for the demands set forth by the IoT. In many cases, the network industry is moving ahead to more robust mobile networks using 4G, 4.5G and 5G spectrums. The problem is that these solutions provide the same core functionality – they offer connectivity on high-frequency bands. This innovation is ill-suited for the IoT as the wide range of connected devices on the network require innovation in an entirely different direction.
“When you’re looking at the Internet of Things, you’re actually doing the reverse of [handling more data at faster speeds]: In many cases, you’ve got no power, you can’t charge batteries for 10 years; in many cases, you’re far away from the transmitter-receiver, like on a farm, so you need to think lower frequencies, not higher frequencies,” Bloch told ZDNet. “So when we start talking about the internet gen-one being not fit for purpose, that’s what we’re talking about. There’s a need to rethink the engineering end to end of the internet in order to support things.”
Essentially, energy requirements make high-frequency wireless networks problematic for the IoT. This lack of a natural fit makes current network architectures fairly limited and problematic for the IoT, something that becomes particularly difficult to deal with when it comes to security. Protecting devices on the edge of the network is challenging in an ideal world, doing so in a situation where connectivity limitations make it difficult to get processing resources near endpoints becomes seemingly impossible. Cisco’s IoT security ecosystem aims to restructure how networks operate and are designed to maximize security and connectivity controls within the network architecture, eliminating the need to be heavily reliant on IoT device security.
What is Cisco doing to secure IoT systems?
While Cisco is among the leaders in driving IoT use, they are also taking charge of ensuring organizations can adequately control and secure their IoT configurations. This includes embedding security functionality into connectivity architectures and providing physical access control systems – such as surveillance cameras and physical access management solutions – designed to prevent any sort of tampering with devices. All of this comes together in a centralized model to align cybersecurity across information technology, operations technology, and physical systems. To achieve this, Cisco has highlighted a few key requirements that are becoming essential in the IoT sector. These include:
- Aligning security strategies in IT and OT environments. For a long time, these segments have been segregated within enterprise networks, but organizations are increasingly dependent on aligning operations to bring data innovation across the entire business. Applying intrusion prevention functionality to IoT.
- Intelligently establish security policies relative to the environment. While applying common security principles across lines of the business can create a foundation for IoT success, it is also vital to establish security policies that are specific to the type of traffic moving through the network. This layer of intelligence can allow the firewalls and IPS to identify where data is headed and provide the level of analysis necessary to preserve security. A database for reporting and a robot that will alter its behavior on data need very different types of data protection, after all.
- Ensure cybersecurity and physical security systems aren’t siloed. IoT technology allows for a great deal of alignment across longstanding divides within a business. Physical and cybersecurity are among these areas of division. Cisco recommends organizations take advantage of machine-to-machine communications and similar capabilities to allow physical security and cybersecurity platforms to communicate with one another and respond to threats with greater speed and precision.
Cisco is leading the charge toward IoT innovation, and the company is doing so by rethinking how networks operate. In particular, the technology giant is focused on reconfiguring how network security functions work to keep endpoints as safe as possible.