Today is IoT Day, where the tech industry takes stock of the state of the Internet of Things (IoT). However, while the technology is becoming increasingly widespread, making the previously impossible commonplace, it is also ushering in new threats.
Originally founded by global thinktank the IoT Council, IoT Day was created in remembrance of Mark Weisler, the father of so-called ubiquitous computing, which is now becoming a reality as the IoT.
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear,” said Weisler, then chief technologist at Xerox PARC, in a paper published about the concept in the 1990s.
“They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”
While many of us still think of the IoT as something on the horizon, the reality is that Weisler’s vision has and continues to become true.
IoT Day: the IoT explosion is here
With IoT Day upon us, it is worth recognising that the world we live in is already enriched by IoT technology.
“We are in the middle of an IoT explosion,” said Neil Barton, CTO at WhereScape.
“With an expected 20 billion IoT devices by 2020, the resulting volume of data to be generated can be overwhelming to consider, and will be underutilised without the appropriate data infrastructure in place to leverage it.”
“Smart tech is all around us. From watches and homes, to offices and cars, ever-increasing data usage from consumers and businesses the world over continues to drive the upsurge in IoT,” added Eltjo Hofstee, MD at Leaseweb UK.
“By 2020 it is expected to become a $9tn industry.”
Cybersecurity risks: The dark side of the IoT
However, while the technology has significant potential for our lives, many experts have taken IoT Day as an opportunity to highlight the very real threat the technology poses.
“IoT has been beneficial in so many aspects of lives; take for example connected medical devices that enable early diagnosis of illness. But connecting everything has its downsides. Although such technology has almost limitless potential to solve old world problems, extensive propagation of IoT will, and has, brought new risks and poses new challenges,” explained Steve Armstrong, regional director of UK & Ireland at Bitglass.
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“Securing your device used to be simple; ensure anti-malware was installed and the device was patched, and you were in a reasonable position – the challenge now is far more difficult.
“How do you patch or protect an IoT lighting system, microwave or is it even possible to install anti-malware software on your connected fridge? The implications of unsecured systems are not new – today, IoT, means almost all systems are connected in some fashion – the challenge of ensuring device and platform integrity sits both with the consumer and the service provider.”
The way these devices are treated, particularly by organisations, also can contribute to the problem.
“The challenge of securing IoT is complex and extensive due to the fact that IoT devices are deployed over a wide attack surface and contain numerous threat vectors, such as authentication and authorisation, software, device threats, network threats, and OS level vulnerabilities,” said Pramod Borkar, technical marketing lead at Exabeam.
“In addition, despite the initiative in developing and deploying innovative IoT use cases, a general lack of standards remains. Organisations often aren’t implementing needed security governance, policies, and compliance. Compounding the problem, many IoT devices aren’t part of a rigorous patch or upgrade routine, leaving them open to security vulnerabilities.”
The enterprise IoT challenge
While there are security concerns around the IoT, experts are keen to stress that the capabilities to ensure the technology is secure do exist – it just needs to be used effectively.
“Cybersecurity concerns are real when it comes to IoT but by using expert cloud-based management platforms and software-defined perimeter technologies, they can be effectively addressed,” said Todd Kelly, chief security officer at Cradlepoint.
“On IoT Day and every day, it’s important to remember there will always be IoT devices that are compromised and vulnerabilities that are exposed but just as we’ve built these technologies, we’ve also built the safety constructs to protect them.
“If we commit to tried and true security practices while adopting new approaches that leverage wireless, software-defined and cloud technologies we don’t have to let our concerns unduly impact our progress.”