The Internet of Things — Is it a Security Thing?

“There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.”

-General Douglas MacArthur

My dad loved gadgets. I remember my mother’s frustration every time dad brought a new gadget home. “Helen, look what I just bought! I’ll show you what this can do…isn’t that something?” Dad had a true appreciation for innovation and the next new thing to hit the store shelves. He was excited about buying a bright colored Mac, and he couldn’t wait to bring home his first laptop. I also have another vivid memory of my father at the front door talking to some poor soul who was taking a survey or asking him a personal question. I would hear him say countless times, “well, I don’t think that’s any of your business.” Although he loved new things, he highly valued privacy. He refused to get a grocery store rewards card because “they have no business knowing what I’m buying, or when I’m buying it,” he would say.

Dad passed away two years before the release of the first iPhone, before he ever got hacked. Much has transpired since 2005, and I often wonder what he would think today with the evolution of social media, and the creation of many smart devices, the cloud, and widening networks capturing huge amounts of data on our lives, habits, purchases, and companies using that data to market their products to us. Would he still be so excited about the next new thing?

IoT is Cool!

I have had the opportunity to work for two companies that have made great sensor products. Asset tracking sensors helped our military track their assets during wartime, temperature sensors monitored refrigerated transportation to insure freshness of fruits and vegetables, sensor locks on containers strengthened port security, and high value assets like organs for transplant were closely monitored for temperature, movement, humidity and location on its way to the recipient. These products, and many more help people, the larger society, and the world, no question. Consumer products like smart phones, smart watches, smart refrigerators, personal assistants, driverless cars, are exciting, but they also widen the net of potential invasion by nefarious entities at a scale much larger than a personal hack, especially when sensitive data is communicating back and forth.

The NRMA by NRMA CC by 2.0

How secure are we, really?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is certainly innovation, but is security keeping up with its growth? How secure are we, really? Seventy percent of IoT devices contain serious vulnerabilities according to an HP study. Where there are communication networks, there is potential exposure. If security doesn’t lead the way to insure our protection, then we are in deep trouble. Does innovation move faster than sufficient and sophisticated security to protect our privacy? According to Business Insider, there will be 24 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. Although some will be beneficial to government, business, and consumers, will they be hack proof? According to SF Business Times, a cyber security executive doesn’t think it’s being taken serious enough in the industry:

“Shame on a lot of the vendors who released products that are network connected that have the ability to cause catastrophic damage that, in some cases have no security people on their payroll.”

Companies that develop and use smart devices and systems need to be smarter than the smart products and prioritize security, discover weaknesses, and insure that using these products warrants privacy and security. A proactive approach is recommended by Ben Boswell, UK & Ireland director at World Wide Technology:

“Business must turn their attention towards tools which predict areas of weakness, pinpoint risks and identify threats to their entire technology ecosystem. Rather than network manager working harder and harder to create security at each point of connection, these tools can help enterprises to work smarter in the fight against cybercrime.”

Hacker by Blogtrepreneur, CC by 2.0

Get Serious

IoT security is far more important than internet security not only due to the huge volume, but due to the crucial areas of operation such as our national economy, our health care, and our transportation. It is a challenge for the industry, indeed, and a serious opportunity. Developing IoT Standards and regulations will be important in preserving our privacy as well as protecting our national security.

I am a lot like my father, I’ve come to realize. I love the cool new inventions, even the idea of driverless cars sounds amazing to me. I also share his concerns about privacy invasion. I really want to enjoy the Internet of Things, but not at the cost harming our economy, our nation, and the quality of my life.