It is near impossible to read or have a conversation about IoT, without security becoming a major topic. For IT professionals involved with IoT projects, security needs to be a major consideration, starting with planning and design, and continuing all the way through to deployment, implementation, and maintenance. Security is not just essential to protect the integrity of systems, but also to safeguard corporate and personal data and privacy. In many cases, the viability and acceptance of emerging IoT technologies will be largely dependent on how innovators are able to gain confidence from potential users, which means that security and privacy must be as much of a priority as innovation and functionality.
The Complex Nature of IoT
The Internet of Things is often described in simple terms, with simple networks, and logical infrastructure. In the real world, this is not always the case. Consider a smart city where traffic management uses aggregate data from a number of sensors and devices, to help track and manage traffic flow. This example could include parking sensors, vehicle counters on roads and highways, traffic cameras, and even license plate scanners. Potentially, all of these devices would use different technologies, they would collect different types of data, and most importantly, they would all connect through varying types of network infrastructure. Some systems could be wireless, while others might piggyback off of existing networks. Some state of the art networks that were implemented at the time that sensors were installed, while some could run on legacy solutions. The point is that for one main function – collecting aggregate data – there would be numerous networks, devices, sensors, and even network protocols, all in use at the same time. Implementing security on such a system means that not only must the individual devices be secure, but the networks, interconnecting devices, and servers, all need to be secured as well.
Without developing networks that are secure by design, the vulnerabilities in such a system would be too numerous and too complex to identify and patch, without significant investment in time and expertise.
Secure by Design – The Most Efficient Philosophy
Every individual device and sensor is vulnerable to attack. This is something that must be assumed from the beginning of any IoT project. Security analysts must look at each individual device, every piece of running software, every network element, all network protocols, and the servers that collect and manage data, and only then is it possible to determine the potential vulnerabilities, and the best strategy for securing the entire network. Some devices will have embedded security, whereas others might have none at all. Network architects and security professionals will need to make important decisions, such as whether they will use public or private infrastructure, which type of encryption they will apply to data streams, and they will even have to determine who has access to data, where that data is stored, and where it can be accessed from. Most systems will eventually interface with public networks, especially if those systems are consumer facing, and this means that design needs to take into account the increased vulnerability that exists when third party networks and hardware are introduced into the equation.
To put it quite simply, ensuring security by design will be a significant challenge, even on smaller projects. However, when security is done right, the rewards will be significant.
Security Benefits IoT Growth and Adoption Rates
A recent Gigya survey revealed that consumers want more robust authentication options when using sensitive software and services. When it comes to IoT, or any large interconnected network, users want the confidence that their data is secure, and without that confidence, there will be no buy-in for new technologies.
Technology companies already recognize the challenge and importance of security in the digital age, but with IoT, connected networks are being built outside of traditional industries. Healthcare, production, retail, and even entertainment, are all industries that are incorporating elements of the Internet of Things, into their operations and offerings. Companies in these industries will face technological hurdles that they’ve never had to deal with before, which is why architects, developers, and security professionals, are all going to be in high demand in the coming years.
The winning companies will be those that are able to recognize the challenges of incorporating IoT into their business models, and then proactively seek the leading talent that will help them to achieve their goals.
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