Using parallel networks reduces risks when deploying enterprise IoT solutions
Enterprise networks often morph into massive labyrinths to meet the demands of growth. Although these networks appear impenetrable based on complexity alone, they’re often highly vulnerable as bad actors initiate attacks in unsuspecting places and move quietly throughout the network’s weak spots until they uncover sensitive data.
When this happens, a company’s profits and reputation can take a significant blow, but deploying air-gapped network solutions can help mitigate the magnitude of potential damages.
Challenges of rapidly increasing IoT for businesses
It’s no secret that in today’s connected world, a single data breach can affect millions of unsuspecting people and lead to hefty legal and regulatory fees owed by the companies who are targeted. Security-related IoT scalability issues are exacerbated when businesses expand at a rapid pace without taking the time to implement enterprise-grade security for IoT devices, vendors, and new users.
In addition to security risks, companies can also face cellular IoT connectivity and bandwidth challenges when deploying new devices quickly. Applications such as video surveillance hog bandwidth and may burden the networks that also support day-to-day operations like warehouse or inventory management.
With so many different connection protocols and minimal standardization of network management, businesses continue to seek flexible, scalable, and secure enterprise IoT solutions.
How air-gapped networks support enterprise IoT
Air-gapped networks, also known as parallel networks, are networks that are physically separate from one another. Air-gapping effectively segments networks in a way that ensures if hackers exploit vulnerable applications in one network, they cannot access vulnerabilities in any air-gapped networks. Even if an unauthorized user were to gain access to one network, they would be unable access data in another because air-gapped networks, like a series of islands, simply are not connected.
Let’s examine the benefits of an air-gapped network through the example of a digital sign in a bank. If a bank wants to add a new digital sign to its location and connect it to the main network, that sign not only becomes a potential entry point for bad actors, but it may also take months to set up as it waits to pass strict compliance testing associated with the main network where financial transactions are processed.
If the sign is instead connected to an air-gapped network and an unauthorized user somehow accesses that network, he or she will not be able to reach other areas of the main enterprise network. By moving the sign off the enterprise network and onto a network dedicated to that specific application, the parallel network becomes its own secure bubble.
Air-gapped networking not only enables organizations with hundreds of distributed locations to enhance security and compliance at the wireless edge, but it is also a solution that allows new, innovative technologies to be deployed quickly. An air-gapped network can typically be up and running on day one and managed centrally though a cloud management solution.
IT managers who are increasingly concerned about their connected devices have turned to air-gapped networks to protect sensitive data and improve operations. We now often see this model implemented in large retailers like Walmart who may have a Fish and Game desk, optometrist, and tax preparation office all running on parallel networks under a single roof.
Kiosk-based businesses also benefit from the quick, secure setup of air-gapped networks. For example, ChargeItSpot provides free, secure phone charging stations in malls, casinos, hospitals, arenas, and retail stores. The stores and venues that host the kiosks enjoy the ability to keep their networks physically separate from ChargeItSpot’s own network.
Addressing perceived challenges of implementing an air-gapped network
It’s easy to agree with the statement that enterprise security is invaluable, but when deciding how to secure IoT devices, the perceived challenges of a parallel network may seem intimidating. Frequently asked questions include:
Will it be harder for me to provide flexible, secure access on an air-gapped network?
No. Strict security protocol and firewall settings can still be applied to air-gapped networks and additional users’ access can be customized through network management software.
Will network segmentation setup take a lot of time and resources?
No. Parallel networks can be deployed within one day and managed from a central location.
If I keep adding new IoT devices on air-gapped networks, won’t that just create a more complex network?
No. Devices and applications can all be managed remotely and in real time through a single pane of glass using a single platform like Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager.
Is an air-gapped network expensive?
Parallel networking solutions are typically low cost, especially when compared to the potential cost of a data breach. Out-of-the-box LTE and 5G parallel network routers are also less expensive compared to the cost of provisioning a wired line.
Additional steps to protecting IoT data on the edge
The establishment of an air-gapped network reduces vulnerabilities for a company’s primary enterprise network, but a physically separate network is not immune to attacks. The constant emails from retailers and software developers announcing a potential data breach are proof that unauthorized users are looking for any possible way into an enterprise network.
While attacks are difficult to stop altogether, there are steps businesses can take to minimize access and the damage that would occur if a breach does take place:
- Actively monitor data use and activity through a single network management program when possible.
- Maintain an accurate inventory of assets, their current software and firmware versions, and security compliance.
- Change default passwords regularly.
- Implement threat detection and threat management software across all networks.