Rather than referring to a specific type of technology or device, the Extended Internet of Things (XIoT) is a holistic umbrella term that encompasses all cyber-physical devices connected to the internet. An organization's XIoT can include cyber-physical systems in a variety of contexts, including industrial (OT and ICS devices), healthcare (connected medical devices), and commercial environments (building management systems and enterprise IoT).
In this blog, we'll address some frequently asked questions about the XIoT and the importance of securing it properly.
Diagram visualizing the broad scope of the XIoT umbrella, as well as the benefits of the XIoT for industrial, healthcare, and commercial environments.
To put it simply, digital transformation has intensified so that an incredibly broad range of assets are now interconnected, making it difficult for a solution intended solely for OT, IT, or any other specific use case to cover all the bases. Understanding the need to secure enterprise XIoT environments holistically, Claroty provides comprehensive visibility and security for any and all connected assets in your environment.
Digital transformation has been ongoing and well-documented for more than a decade, but it has been catalyzed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the world of technological innovation, two years is a long time, even under typical circumstances. But as a global health crisis forced enterprises around the world to rely more than ever on digital communication and remote work, it's safe to say that most enterprise networks are far more decentralized and interconnected than ever before.
One of the most critical challenges security teams face is providing secure remote access to their evolving technology environments. Digital transformation has made network boundaries more difficult to define, rendering traditional, perimeter-based approaches to cybersecurity obsolete. Not only are more employees working from home — new types of data are now moving through the cloud, from communications controlling industrial processes to medical images and sensitive patient data. Traditional, IT-centric VPNs were not designed to handle these complex use cases, and security teams need purpose-built technology to protect the complex and diverse set of assets within their organization's XIoT.
As the network perimeter for operational environments such as manufacturing sites and healthcare facilities become increasingly difficult to define, security teams must adopt a zero-trust approach to protect assets through granular least-privilege access enforcement. In doing so, it's crucial to understand that zero trust is not a one-and-done, off-the-shelf solution that can simply be implemented in a "set it and forget it" manner. Rather, zero trust must be seen as a strategic approach leveraging multiple data points that provide context to enable risk-based decisions.
Cybercriminals are well aware of the challenges security teams face in protecting their XIoT — which in addition to remote access, also visibility, threat detection, network segmentation, and vulnerability management. And with the fifth anniversary of the NotPetya ransomware attack coming later this month, it's safe to say it's made a lasting impact on threat actors' shift from opportunistic attacks to a more deliberate, targeted, and strategic approach. Over the past year, we've seen targeted ransomware attacks disrupt operations across a wide range of industries, and the main takeaway for defenders should be the need for a thorough and comprehensive security strategy that covers their entire XIoT.
The intensified digitization and cyber-physical connectivity of the XIoT signifies the many challenges and opportunities presented to enterprises and critical infrastructure operators as we stand at the threshold between Industry 4.0 and 5.0. The escalation of digital transformation provides enormous opportunities to boost operational efficiency and performance, but it also leads to the creation of technology environments that are far more complicated to secure and manage than the primarily IT-centric networks of the 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s.
Year over year, we are seeing an increase in vulnerabilities affecting industrial, healthcare, and commercial environments — and every year, cybercriminals grow increasingly savvy and strategic in their efforts to exploit them through ransomware and other types of cyberattacks. Unless properly secured, the XIoT can be conducive to threat actors compromising and spreading laterally across targeted networks. As a consequence of a targeted attack, organizations may face costly downtime, as well as negative impact on critical outcomes such as patient care and manufacturing process integrity.