IoT Success Story: How One Integrator Leveraged Security to Drive IoT Profits
Over lunch one day in the fall of 2017, Brad Miller, CEO of Orbis Solutions, asked an executive from Lincoln, Neb.-based security vendor Infogressive Inc. about protecting Internet of Things devices. The response: Use the same Infogressive-managed security incident and event management (SIEM) solution you already use for conventional IT systems for IoT solutions too.
That’s all Miller needed to hear. Within weeks, Orbis started offering IoT security to its customers. Three months later, the new service already made up 15 percent of the company’s business. Orbis found a path into the fast-accelerating IoT market by securing network-attached devices that traditionally were managed outside IP networks.
“You’ve got all these devices out there, whether in a business or a home, and the question becomes, ‘How do you manage them? How do we secure all these little devices over here that could be hacked?’” Miller asks. “We can’t install any management client software on IoT devices. Our best option is to monitor all the traffic they generate.” SIEM solutions from Infogressive and others perform that function, sending alerts when they spot questionable behavior.
IoT security concerns are well-founded: Recent history has shown IoT-enabled devices can be hijacked to carry out massive cyberattacks. It’s no wonder IoT security is emerging as an attractive growth opportunity for MSPs.
“Most MSPs are boosting their security expertise, and with IoT adoption escalating, those practices are likely to grow,” says Sheila Phillips, managing director of IoTSSA Inc., a services association that links service providers with industry experts.
Opportunity Begins at Home
Orbis opened in 2004 in Aurora, Ill., as a network consulting business, and quickly embraced the then-nascent IT managed services model. At the same time, Miller recalls, the housing market was booming and creating another growth opportunity—home automation services.
It’s no wonder IoT security is emerging as an attractive growth opportunity for MSPs.
So Orbis started installing “smart” systems to control residential lighting, irrigation, security, sound, and climate systems. Home automation is separate from Orbis’ IT business services, but Miller says the two fields are converging, because IoT devices in the home are increasingly connected to IP networks, making them subject to ransomware, DDoS attacks, and other cyber abuses that afflict businesses.
That’s what was in the back of his mind when he inquired about IoT cyber protection with the Infogressive executive. As a master managed security services provider (MSSP), Infogressive uses a partner network of MSPs and smaller MSSPs to deliver its security services.
Monitoring IoT Traffic
MSPs typically leverage remote monitoring and management (RMM) platforms to administer their clients’ IT environments. Remote software agents feed data back to a management console, delivering insight into IT systems including servers, workstations, and mobile devices.
IoT-enabled devices are, for the most part, black boxes. While some of them, such as webcams, often come with their own monitoring systems, most are managed independently. Integration with RMM platforms isn’t widely available yet.
“The problem is that those devices are still on the network and need to be secured. If it isn’t managed holistically, it could become a liability, or an entry point for a breach,” notes Amy Luby, Infogressive’s vice president of channel sales. “A SIEM solution intelligently pulls the data apart and pushes those needles in a haystack up so you can very quickly identify threats.”
The Infogressive system Miller uses executes around, instead of inside, IoT devices. “The agent that sits on the network is capable of pulling [Simple Network Management Protocol] information from the devices,” Miller says. “It’s really monitoring the devices by looking at the network traffic around them. If there’s an issue, you can shut down the device.”
More to Come
Miller believes his IoT security business is on a fast growth path for the foreseeable future. After all, it took only a few months for it to make up 15 percent of company revenue. “It’s a growth opportunity and we’re going to push that side of the business more,” he says.
The market is wide and diverse. For instance, one of Orbis’ clients is a bakery with dozens of sensors on baking machines. Because the machines run on the IP network, they have to be secured. It’s a preview of what’s to come. “Every device is becoming an IoT device. It’s all connected and it’s all IP now,” Miller says.
Orbis’ foray into IoT security proves that where there’s a tech challenge, there is opportunity for MSPs. IoT security, notes Phillips, allows MSPs to fight margin erosion on the traditional side of their business by seizing new and profitable opportunities.
Pedro Pereira is a Massachusetts-based writer who has covered technology and the IT channel for two decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.