Setting up an Internet of Things (IoT) network for your business, large or small, is crucial to staying relevant in today’s market. Whether you want to track inventory or stay on top of security, an IoT network will keep you ahead of the curve. Faster than manually checking on systems, the IoT watches everything via sensors and comparisons of past data.
Today, consumers have more than 26 billion connected devices, a number expected to hit 75 billion by 2025. Unfortunately, however, the IoT can be a double-edged sword. While you have the convenience of automation and instant information, everything about your business — from employees’ private information to customer’s card numbers — is handled through your network. Therefore, it’s a treasure trove for thieves.
Just like locking up merchandise, you’ll need to secure IoT network information.
How to Protect Your IoT Network
The Internet of Things is a collection of information from connected devices. This data is uncategorized and usually jumbled into separate parts. As a result, taking information and putting it into categories is what makes IoT networks useful. A streamlined system allows devices to communicate with each other and run complete automation.
Unfortunately, having so much detailed data in one place makes the IoT a tricky business. Learn how you can protect your network and slingshot toward success.
1. Use Guest Networks
The Wi-Fi account that houses your IoT network should be as private as possible, only allowing people to access it on an as-needed basis. To start, set up a guest network or separate access for visitors, customers and employees. The last thing you want is to leave the front door open for hackers.
One common way to steal information is to attach a device to an unprotected, open Wi-Fi connection, especially in public places. Here, hackers can go to other devices, peruse cloud storage and steal information. Even keeping the door locked will deter potential thieves.
2. Add Strong Encryption
Your Wi-Fi account should already be password protected. To go a step further, use encryption methods to keep communications secure. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is a security protocol created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks. In short, this software encrypts passwords to make it harder for hackers to gain access. The different versions include WPA, WPA2 and WPA3.
If you set up your network with WPA2, you must choose between two encryption methods:
- Advanced Encryption Standard: This method, called AES, is an algorithm capable of protecting sensitive information.
- Temporal Key Integrity Protocol: Experts designed this technique, referred to as TKIP, to provide more secure encryption to Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).
3. Get a New Router
Most of the time, people use the router provided by their internet service provider (ISP), a box that allows traffic to flow to and from the internet. The devices provided by your ISP are usually cheap and have the same security protocols as all others, making them vulnerable. Getting a new, more secure router can make a significant difference.
For example, store-bought routers tend to have better guest network tools, something you’ll need to keep your business data secure. A guest network won’t allow users to see what’s attached to the rest of the system, including other devices. Plus, a non-ISP router will have better bandwidth prioritization. Quality of Service (QoS) allows you to choose which apps or software get priority, allowing you to customize how it treats different types of traffic.
4. Change Default Settings
Be sure to change automatic settings on your devices, including modems, routers, tablets, and computers. These settings are the same on each device, and hackers know how to get around them. For example, don’t keep the password your router comes with. Instead, go into the settings and come up with custom code.
You can also use parental settings to block access to specific websites. Use the monitoring service to see which sites employees and visitors access most. Before you leave the page, set up a custom PIN. No one will be able to alter the settings or remove blocks without this number.
5. Disable Unneeded Features
When you get a new device, consider every program that could be detrimental to your security. You should also look for and disable apps you won’t use. For example, many devices have Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) set up to connect to networks easily. The UPnP is a door for hackers and should be disabled to bolster security.
Talk to employees about connecting smart devices, like cellphones, to the Wi-Fi. Some apps, like Facebook, Amazon, and Instagram, automatically collect data associated with the network, leading to potential vulnerabilities.
6. Stay Up-to-Date
The best piece of advice that many users don’t take seriously enough is to keep all of your hardware and software up-to-date. You should always have the latest versions downloaded. These upgrades pinpoint vulnerabilities and plug them. They also look at current software issues and develop convenient fixes. If you run an older version of any software, you’re leaving yourself open to attack.
As with any update, be sure to back-up your computer and file system beforehand. It’s not uncommon for a download to crash computers or lockout users. A few days of waiting should work out the kinks. Otherwise, you may need to contact a repair professional immediately.
Did You Set Up a Business IoT Network? Keep Your Information Safe
If a hacker gets into your IoT network, it could mean the end of your business. Sometimes, fraudsters steal information and hold it ransom. Other times, they collect the credit card information from all of your customers.
No matter the reason a hacker targets your business, it rarely ends on a positive note. Deter them by setting up a guest network, investing in a high-quality router and updating your software.
Don’t let con artists deter you from the benefits of the IoT. These networks are instrumental and can propel your business to new heights. As long as you keep data secure, the IoT will boost your company above the best.
Caleb Danziger is a tech blogger and freelance writer. He co-owns thebytebeat.com with his friend Jenna, where they write about all things tech and science.