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Internet of Things Security: Should We Trust It?

by David Burkett, Dec 31, 2017

What would you do if your car suddenly started driving away without you? Seems a bit farfetched and you probably haven’t given it much thought. But if IoT companies aren’t vigilant, it could soon become a reality. What is IoT? The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology concept whereby developers seek to expand the network of interconnected internet-enabled devices. These devices are ‘smart’ to the extent that they are able to communicate with each other. 
Given that IoT devices are quite autonomous and can be remotely controlled, there are some security concerns. An example of IoT tech is this concept of controlling your home security through a mobile device. Let’s say this becomes a reality, and I can unlock my house using my phone. What if someone hacks into the IoT application and unlocks my house from thousands of miles away? Suddenly this revolutionary concept becomes a frightening prospect. This prospect instigated a lot of negative press in 2015. Was the negative press justified or was it just uncertainty and doubt? Well, once the Internet of Things security was put under the microscope, cracks started to appear.
Security firm Kaspersky did not shy away from commenting on the security concerns. Their critique titled, ‘Internet of Crappy Things’ highlighted IoT security and the ease in which an employee could hack into his own smart home. Wind River published a white paper on IoT security in January 2015 – titled searching for the silver bullet which seeks to summarise the problem with IoT security. The paper states that security must be the foundational enabler for IoT. Currently, IoT companies have not come up with a general consensus on how to implement security on the IoT device. There is however a general perception that is entirely unreasonable – that we can somehow compress 25 years of security evolution into novel IoT devices. At the end of the day, we should take away one key point, at this point in time there is no silver bullet that can effectively mitigate the threat to IoT.

Hardware Problems

Another concern for the time being is IoT hardware. The small size and limited processing power of many connected devices could inhibit encryption and other robust security measures. See Toptal’s article for more on hardware concerns. U.S. Federal Trade Commission chairwoman, Edith Ramirez urged companies to enhance privacy and build secure IoT devices by adopting a security-focused approach, reducing the amount of data collected by IoT devices, and increasing transparency, providing consumers with a choice to opt-out of data collection.

Overcoming the Security Hurdle

There is some good news; the knowledge and experience dealing with security threats is already here. Our focus should now shift to adapting our expertise to fit the unique constraints of IoT devices. As the IoT market grows, we will see more investment and security will improve. Hardware oriented companies will see IoT security as a market differentiator, where better security may allow them to capture more market share. Security is constantly evolving to meet new challenges, it won’t be long before IoT devices are as safe as me under the high ball.