Cyberattacks, data breaches and overall business disruption that can be caused by unsecured IoT devices in the workplace and used by third parties are increasing because companies don’t know the depth and breadth of the risk exposures they face when leveraging IoT devices and other emerging technologies.
This is the third-annual study on third party IoT risks sponsored by Shared Assessments and conducted by Ponemon Institute to better understand how organizations are managing the risks created by known and unknown IoT devices.
Responses from 605 individuals who participate in corporate governance and/or risk oversight activities and are familiar with or have responsibilities in managing third party risks associated with the use of IoT devices in their organization are included in this study. Seventy percent of respondents say their position requires them to manage risk oversight activities. All organizations represented in this research have third party risk management program and an enterprise risk management program.
In this study, we define a data breach as a confirmed incident in which sensitive, confidential or otherwise protected data has been accessed and/or disclosed in an unauthorized fashion. Data breaches may involve protected health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets or intellectual property. A cyberattack is an attempt by hackers using malware, ransomware and other techniques to access, damage or destroy a network or system. A successful cyberattack may result in brand damage, business disruption, critical system outages, a data breach, significant financial loses and potential regulatory sanctions.
The following research findings reveal what organizations do not know about the risks caused by IoT devices and applications that are used in the workplace and by third parties.
- The number of cyberattacks, data breaches and service disruptions that have actually occurred
- If their security safeguards and practices are adequate to mitigate IoT risk
- Who is assigned accountability for IoT and how many IoT devices are in the workplace
- IoT risk assessment and control validation techniques are evolving, but very slowly
- How third party IoT risk management practices and policies can be used to mitigate the risk
- Few companies conduct training and awareness programs to minimize risks created by users in the workplace and in their third parties
- Few companies have sufficient in-house expertise to fully understand IoT risks in the workplace and in their third parties
IoT- related security incident
In the context of this research, IoT is defined as the physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect, monitor and exchange data. Examples of IoT devices in the workplace include network-connected printers and building automation solutions.
IoT- related security incidents increase
As shown in Figure 1, there has been a dramatic increase in IoT-related data breaches and cyberattacks since 2017. Respondents who report their organization experienced a data breach specifically because of unsecured IoT devices or applications increased from 15 percent to 26 percent in just three years. Cyberattacks increased from 16 percent to 24 percent of respondents. These percentages may be low because, as shown in the research, organizations are not confident that they are aware of all the unsecured IoT devices and applications in their workplaces and in third parties.
Most salient trends
It’s “not if, but when” organizations will have a security exploit caused by unsecured IoT devices or applications. Eighty-seven percent of respondents believe a cyberattack, such as a distributed denial of service (DDoS), is very likely to occur in the next two years, an increase from 82 percent of respondents in last year’s study. Similarly, 84 percent of respondents say it is very likely their company will have a data breach caused by an IoT device or application.
Third party IoT risk is increasing because of ransomware, the number of third parties and the inability to know if safeguards are sufficient. Fifty-nine percent of respondents say the IoT ecosystem is vulnerable to a ransomware attack. Other reasons for the increase in IoT risks is the inability to determine whether third party safeguards and IoT security policies are sufficient to prevent a data breach (55 percent of respondents) and the difficulty in managing the complexities of IoT platforms because of the number of third parties.
There is a significant gap between the monitoring of IoT devices in the workplace and the IoT of third parties. While just about half of respondents (51 percent) say their organizations are monitoring the devices used in their organizations, less than a third are monitoring their third parties’ use of IoT.
A gap also exists between awareness of IoT risks and the maturity of risk management programs. While 68 percent of respondents say third party risks are increasing because of the rise in IoT, many companies’ risk management practices are not mature. Specifically, only 45 percent of respondents say their risk management process is aligned with its business goals and only 34 percent of respondents say there is an approved risk appetite framework incorporating clearly expressed risk tolerance levels. Moreover, sufficient budget and staffing is not being allocated to manage third party IoT risks.
To read the full study, visit the Shared Assessments website.
The Santa Fe Group, authorities in risk management, is the managing agent of the Shared Assessments Program.