The Internet of Things (IoT) offers the promise of a more connected and efficient military, but Defense Department IT professionals are having a hard time turning that promise into reality. They’re deterred by the increasing demands and security vulnerabilities of more connected devices.


That hasn’t stopped defense agencies from exploring and investing in mobility and next-generation technology, including IoT devices. One of the points in the Defense Information Systems Agency’s 2015 – 2020 Strategic Plan specifically calls out the agency’s desire to “enable warfighter capabilities from a sovereign cyberspace domain, focused on speed, agility, and access.” The plan also notes “mobile devices…continue to transform our operational landscape and enable greater mission effectiveness through improved communication, access, information sharing, data analytics – resulting in more rapid response times.”


It’s a good thing the groundwork for IoT was laid a few years ago, when administrators were working on plans to fortify their networks against an onslaught of mobile devices. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, they had already begun implementing and solidifying strategies that can now serve as a good foundation for managing IoT’s unique set of challenges.


Tiny devices, big problems


The biggest challenge is the sheer number of devices that need to be considered. It’s not just a few smart phones; with IoT, there is literally an explosion of potentially thousands of tiny devices with different operating systems, all pumping vast amounts of data through already overloaded networks.

Many of these technological wonders were developed primarily for convenience, with security as an afterthought. There’s also the not insignificant matter of managing bandwidth and latency issues that the plethora of IoT devices will no doubt introduce.


Making the IoT dream an automated reality


These issues can be addressed through strategies revolving around monitoring user devices, managing logs and events, and using encrypted channels – the things that administrators hopefully began implementing in earnest when the first iPhones began hitting their networks.


Administrators will need to accelerate their device tracking efforts to new levels. Device tracking will help identify users and devices and create watch lists, and the challenge will be the number of new devices. And while log and event management software will still provide valuable data about potential attacks, the attack surface and potential vulnerabilities will increase exponentially with the introduction of a greater number of devices and network access points.


More than ever, managers will want to complement these efforts with network automation solutions, which can correct issues as they arise. This creates a much more streamlined atmosphere for administrators to manage, making it easier for them to get a handle on everything that touches the network.


A reluctance to automate will not work in a world where everything, from the tablets at central command to the uniforms on soldiers’ bodies, will someday soon be connected. It’s now time for federal IT administrators to build off their BYOD strategies to help the Defense Department realize DISA’s desire for a highly connected and mobilized military.


  Find the full article on Defense Systems.