You have heard of the Internet of Things, but do you really know what it means for your small business? Will you become more of a hacking target like, say, Target? The Internet of Things IS the future, not just in business, but in everyday life as well. But many people and companies still don’t fully understand what the Internet of Things really is and how it will greatly impact how we live, work, and interact, especially for small businesses. This two part series will discuss first, how to protect your business once everything is connected, and second, how to capitalize on what this new level of connectivity can provide.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is a concept that fully embodies connectivity on all levels, with anything connectable. In layman’s terms, it’s the connection of any one thing to the Internet. Not just your cell phones, tablets, or iPods — but everything from wearable technology, to office supplies, to household appliances, like your coffee machine, refrigerator, even your heating and cooling system.
What Does this Mean for the Future?
As Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan says, the motto for the future will be, “Anything that can be connected will be.” This sounds grand and nearly unattainable that anything with the technology to be connected to the Internet will be connected. But in perspective, we are already there. We have Fit Bits, Smart TVs, wireless key locators, automobile safety monitors like On Star, and even smart thermostats like the Nest Thermostat. Everything that can be connected is being connected. This isn’t just a concept for the future, this is happening now—all around us, every day.
Does All This Connectivity Mean More Risk?
For the answer to that question we need to look no further than the Target hack. It’s system intrusion was ultimately traced back to the HVAC which, like an industrial version of Nest, was connected to the network and not behind a firewall. It’s legitimate function was apparently to monitor conditions in stores and alert managers if temperatures fluctuated outside of a comfortable range for shoppers. Although in hindsight the payment data should have been properly segregated, once behind the firewall hackers can worm their way through the network until they find a vulnerability to exploit. The result for Target was the theft of over 40 million credit cards and the personal data of over 70 million customers, leading to extensive brand damage, loss of revenue, lost jobs and a class action lawsuit.
Ironically, Target apparently had recently installed software that would have prevented the intrusion but did not have the necessary features turned on. Sadly, part of the breakdown that led to the breach was processes and people.
Does This Risk Impact Small Business?
Small business can be used as the gateway to the breach of a larger enterprise, as was the case with the Target HVAC provider. Fraudulent credit cards are also typically used at smaller merchants who lack the level of security of larger companies. Hackers are also highly interested in online transactions where chip and pin protection isn’t feasible.
Small business is also not typically aware of the value of the information they hold, including on employees, clients and vendors, across all of their systems. If you have devices online, you are a target for crime. With the proliferation of online devices this risk continues to escalate.
And hacking doesn’t end with system data. Small business is also the target of phone network hackers who can run up extraordinary phone bills by routing long distance calls. This type of fraud cost victims $4.7 billion last year, up 5 times from the previous year.
What Steps Can A Small Business Do To Protect Itself?
While it may be tempting to cut corners, there are ways to save your business money that do not increase risk, and it is worthwhile to work with experienced telecom and IT experts to design your phone and computer networks for resiliency.
1. Implement a firewall and anti-virus software.
2. Create procedures to follow when an alert is identified by the software and train staff.
3. Treat any device attached to your internet as a potential point of vulnerability and work with experts to implement security protocols. This includes desktops, laptops, mobile devices, phones, thermostats, copiers, POS devices and anything else the IoT has to offer.
The Internet of Things presents tremendous opportunities for business but it forces us to expand our viewpoint of internet security.
If you’re ready for your business to capitalize on the Internet of Things by optimizing technology and connectivity, contact nQuery Telecom today. We can help your business become more connected—and thus more efficient—through a stronger telecom system that allows for business connectivity in any situation.
For a free consultation at your business location, call (305) 760-8491 or email firstname.lastname@example.org