From Shadow IT to Shadow IoT: Finding and securing today’s enterprise IoT


5G promises to change the playing field when it comes to mobile apps and communications. In particular, the greater scalability offered by 5G makes it perfect for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Indeed, 5G marks the first time mobile networks have focused not just on handsets but on other wireless devices. However, organisations need to be aware of the potential that businesses may use 5G-deployed applications without engaging IT, resulting in shadow IoT that could create security and performance challenges for businesses, according to ForeScout.

Steve Hunter, director for Asia Pacific & Japan, ForeScout,  said, “The advent of the cloud a decade ago made it possible for employees to implement cloud-based solutions with nothing more than a credit card and an internet connection. This led to the rise of unapproved, unsecured applications being used in enterprises, which is what became known as shadow IT. Just like cloud, 5G will make it easy for businesses to deploy applications more quickly without the perceived friction that the internal IT organisation can introduce.”

“For enterprise IoT, 5G will be the motivator for examining use cases, many of which will be deployable today on existing 4G or even 3G networks. These applications will become an extension of the enterprise network just like cloud has and will need to be secured,” added Hunter.

With only nascent industry standards existing today, businesses are on their own when it comes to securing IoT devices, applications, and networks. With the rise of connected devices in enterprises today, it’s essential to prioritise security tools that offer comprehensive visibility as we prepare for the onslaught of IoT applications that will occur when 5G is widely available.

Hunter continued, “The only way to secure the network is to know exactly what’s connected and how it’s being used. When business units can do this without IT assistance, gaining full visibility becomes complex. We’ve seen this story before with both the BYOD challenge post-iPhone and then the rapid adoption of the cloud. The upcoming rollout of 5G will motivate organisations to explore of the business value of IoT, so it’s essential to shine a light into every dark corner of the network now to prevent visibility gaps in the future.”

The 5G standard isn’t likely to be ratified until 2020, though service providers are testing pre-standard 5G networks today. That being said, many use cases will operate effectively on existing networks, so some businesses are exploring IoT deployments today. Taking a proactive position on IoT deployments can help IT reduce the instances of shadow IoT by avoiding the perception of IT-introduced friction.

Steve Hunter concluded, “It’s important to learn the lessons from IT history. The technology and security functions had to integrate cloud into corporate IT to rein in shadow IT. Similarly, IT should gain control of today’s shadow IoT and by doing so make ready for the future of IoT that’s coming with 5G.”


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