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Security Firm's Study Finds Thousands of IoT Devices on Company Networks

The growing number of Wi-Fi-connected shadow devices, both those provided by an employer and personal devices carried by workers, are raising threats for cyber-attacks, the report indicates.
By Claire Swedberg

That represents a security concern, Tierney says, since hackers can use connected devices to infiltrate a network. Once they've accessed the network, cybercriminals can utilize a command and control (C&C) server to accomplish domain name system (DNS) tunnelling. This involves inserting malware or sharing stolen information with DNS queries, thereby creating a covert communication channel that bypasses firewalls.

The study drew data from two surveys conducted during March and April of this year. One, carried out by Censuswide, included 300 IT directors each in the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, as well as 100 in the United Arab Emirates. The other surveyed 500 employees between the ages of 20 and 65 in the United States and 500 in the United Kingdom; this survey was conducted by online survey application CitizenMe.

By sampling the two groups (management and employees), Tierney says, "We were able to understand the company expectations, as well as the employee point of view." The study found that in the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, 35 percent of companies had more than 5,000 personal devices connecting to their network daily, averaging 10 to 20 per employee.

U.S. and U.K. employees reported using devices on their company network to access social media (39 percent), and to download apps, games and films (24 percent in the United States, 13 percent in the United Kingdom and 7 percent in Germany). The United Arab Emirates proved an exception, however, with just 16 percent having more than 500 personal devices connecting to their networks.

Nearly half of employees using IoT devices reported utilizing fitness trackers, such as like FitBit or Gear Fit, on their employers' network. What's more, there are other devices in use at company facilities, including digital assistants, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home; smart TVs; smart kitchen devices, such as connected kettles or microwaves; and games consoles, such as Xbox or PlayStation.

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